Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Thu November 12 2015

Who Is Winning Hotel Booking Battle Between Smartphone Browsers and Apps?

Travel Technology | Gabe Zaldivar | November 12, 2015

Who Is Winning Hotel Booking Battle Between Smartphone Browsers and Apps?

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There is a turf war for your time taking place within your phone at the moment, placing browsers against mobile apps. And to the victor go the spoils, which means a brand from various industries can win the hearts and the money of consumers who are eager to streamline their habits.

Millward Brown Digital investigated how consumers book various services, including hotels, finding that it’s not those newfangled apps that are winning the day but the mobile browsers.

Now perhaps a war between the technologies isn’t an apropos analogy, because we found that brands would do well to encourage and innovate along both fronts.

What we found in poring over a captivating study and speaking with SVP, Client Services Insights and Operations, Lincoln Merrihew is that consumers are complex creatures. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t glean something from the current habits of various demographics.

Millward Brown Digital’s recent study found that 59.2 percent of respondents represented the “total unique visitors to the top 30 mobile brands visited via browser.” For apps, the number was 60.3 percent, hardly a dramatic margin.  

However, there is an apparent real winner when it comes to a task such as hotel booking:

Image via Millward Brown Digital

Merrihew spoke to the discrepancy in numbers, asking, “How many people install apps? How many people use apps? And how many people openly delete them? I think if you added up everyone who has shown interest in an app and downloaded one it’s a big number.”

However, there is something rather obvious about our tendencies that you may not have considered: “When you start looking at the number of apps that are actually used, about a third of smartphone users have over 30 apps installed, but they are only using four a day.”

Sure, we may fill our drive with as many apps as it can carry, but we are creatures of habit. For those apps that hardly make our lives easier, they are left to collect dust in forgotten spaces on our phone.

Merrihew compared it to another tech entity: “In some ways this is like Facebook likes, meaning I can like a brand on Facebook but I may not engage with it every single day. It’s sort of a one-time, moment in time expression of interest. In some ways apps are like that as well in the travel industry as well as a lot of (other) industries.”

And older demographics continue to be tech savvy consumers who are prone to nabbing that great deal by smartphone:

Image via Millward Brown Digital

Now there are some conclusions we can take away from this. Merrihew opines, “Younger people are probably booking travel less than older people. They’re just taking fewer trips.”

The truly intriguing aspect is one that you probably already know but hardly consider. We get pretty stuck in our ways as we get older.

Downloading apps seems to be a sign of brand loyalty, and the older crowd is the one to download and use specific app brands.

Merrihew breaks it all down: “One of the things we found is that in travel, and in general, app install and usage is one measure of loyalty or brand engagement. You’ve (essentially) committed to the brand.”

Merrihew continues on the more app-friendly demographic: “In general, older consumers tend to be more brand-committed than younger ones. The younger ones are trying all sorts of new things, the latest things that come around. So if you have an older consumer, they’re more likely to be affiliated with a specific brand. Therefore, because people who are more loyal to a brand are more likely to have apps, older people are more likely to have and use apps as well.”

If you are interested in the report, you can download a copy at Millward Brown Digital’s website.

It was a thoroughly interesting conversation that opened our eyes to consumer habits on an increasingly powerful booking tool: the smartphone.

What we found is that the in-phone browser is not more advantageous necessarily than the app, nor is the app more useful.

It seems more likely that each can work wonders as a tech tandem, solving the usual misery of items like hotel booking by making the task fun, engaging and useful.


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