It was one of those days: I had to book a flight to Florida, but work got so busy I didn’t find a spare ten minutes to do it.

When I rushed into a restaurant that night to meet my husband for dinner, the first question he asked was whether I had booked my trip. I hadn’t, of course, so I pulled out my iPhone. Might as well buy the ticket then, right? After all, I had done all the research and the only thing left to do was go online and buy the ticket.

What I thought was going to be a simple process, though, ended up frustrating me at every turn.

I’m not alone in my frustration. A recent survey of UK-based smartphone owners found that nearly nine out of 10 used their phones to research and plan their vacations, yet the majority of transactions were made on a desktop or laptop. And Nucleus study from October 2013 found that more than one in three visits to the 11 travel websites they researched were from mobile devices.

The opportunity seems obvious: make sure customers can use mobile devices from research to purchase and everywhere in between, and they will buy more tickets and not tie up your customer service lines.

So, I sat down with Eric Miller, Monetate’s Enterprise Account Director, to talk about some tips on how travel sites can, and should, improve the mobile experience, beyond the standard responsive and UX related fixes:

1. Be consistent

A lot of attention is paid to getting customers to your website, but they’re often left hanging once they get there, Miller said. A customer that comes to you through paid search, email, social media, or any other channel needs to be drawn into your website—not just left on the landing page. Maintaining the “scent trail” of your messaging throughout the visit is key if you want higher booking rates and revenue, Miller said.

Also, Miller said, customers are opening upwards of 65% of emails on mobile devices. That means recognizing mobile campaign-driven traffic is equally important.

2. Geo-target your marketing

Knowing where your customer is and where they are going is a boon to any travel website.

Travel brands that market to their customers based on their current location or destination see significant gains in bookings, market share, and brand loyalty, Miller said.

Browser-side tools can allow you to easily change your website content based on each visitor’s location, creating a relevant customer experience without requiring a website redesign or a duplicate version of your entire site. For example, travel sites can include distance to the closest airport or car rental or hotel location to move customers from research to booking just by using real-time location data that is readily available.

Miller said this can be uniquely powerful for flash-like sales when the local cruise ship, or hotel have available inventory for those that are in-market and in their market.

3. Pay attention to the weather

There is no doubt: weather changes buying behavior, especially in the travel industry.

With weather-targeting, you can promote relevant deals based on the real-time weather conditions of the person browsing your site. Consider this example from Miller: During winter months, customers visiting your site from a location where the temperature is below zero can be shown messaging that conjures images of beach vacations.

Another example would be when a visitor checks into their flight a day before departure. At that time, you can highlight possible flight delays due to weather and provide alternative travel options or other tips.

4. Make membership rewarding

Most travel sites just show the customer their membership points total, which gives them no incentive to take advantage of an upgrade or an opportunity to use those points. But Miller suggested adding a real-time calculator showing customers how close they were to a free trip or the next status level. Might that customer spend more money? Probably.

In addition, make sure to show recommendations throughout the path to purchase on how your customers can spend their points once they reach elite status.

5. Focus on the destination

Don’t give every customer the same experience.

Once a customer tells you where they are headed, customize messaging relevant to their destination, said Miller. Be sure to use prominent real estate to promote special savings on tours, recreational activities, dining, and other opportunities to enhance their vacation and their brand loyalty.

As smartphones continue to become the go-to for travel research, the need for a more personalized mobile experience will only intensify.

Pay attention to search data, where your customers are going, their departure and return dates, and even third-party browsing and purchase behavior. Identify the right pieces of data so you can provide a more personalized experience than your competitors do. And respect your customers’ time. Most travel sites take infinitely longer than necessary for customers to find what they are looking for. Saving customers time through creating a relevant and seamless experience will earn you more in sales, conversions, and customer loyalty.

photo credit: LucasTheExperience via photopin cc