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Five Tips for a Superior Mobile Website

While the concept of mobile commerce has been around for almost a decade, it has only been the last few years that hotels have implemented mobile Web strategies. The emergence and rapid adoption of smart phones has been a major factor, with leisure and business travelers alike being drawn to the absolute need to be connected along with improved speeds, interfaces and the overall experience. Providing hotel guests with a successful mobile experience will not only generate significant revenue — just as providing a secure and easy-to-use option for customers to book online was 15 years ago — but it has become a requisite customer service channel.
During these challenging times, many hotels are seeking strategies that provide a tangible ROI. Not only is the development of a mobile site a relatively modest cost, but many brands and independent hotels could see a return on their investment within a couple of months.
Here are some tips hoteliers can follow when developing their mobile strategy and building an optimized mobile site:
If you build it, they will come
Customers are finding mobile sites even without investing in significant advertising and promotion. Hotels can automatically redirect customers accessing their Internet site through a mobile device to an optimized view based on the type of the device the customer is using.
One of the biggest drivers of adoption has been the convenience factor.  Business travelers, for example, book or revise reservations based on changes in travel plans due to things like flight delays or bad weather.
Omni Hotels' mobile site traffic has grown 85 percent in the last six months, and the company is seeing a conversation rate of 25 percent, meaning one in four people who visit the mobile site end up booking a room. This rate far exceeds the industry standard online conversion rate of 3.5 to 7 percent.
Not all mobile devices are created equal
By the end of 2008, there were more than 5,000 different models of Web-enabled mobile phones globally, and this number is growing every day.  Each model requires a unique interface. It's important to keep up with the technology changes in order to provide the best user interface, whether the customer is using a traditional flip phone or the latest model of smart phone.  Omni uses a technology provider, Usablenet to tackle these issues, and in doing so, has removed the IT headache.

Keep it simple
One of the most important aspects to remember when creating a mobile website is to keep the needs of your customers in mind.  They are not accessing the site to find out about the thread count of the sheets. They want quick answers and the ability to transact business, so the interface should be easy and intuitive whether they are booking a room center or accessing directions to the hotel.
A fully integrated mobile experience
A customer's mobile experience does not stop after they book a room.  Hotels should consider additional mobile functionality including check-in and check-out, room service, maps and suggestions on what customers can do for entertainment near the hotel.
Hotels can also experiment with quick promotional offers during a guests stay such as golf or spa services delivered via text message.  Just be sure that guests have opted-in.
More advanced functionality
In addition to the mobile site, hoteliers can consider building various applications for devices like the Apple iPhone, so that your most frequent and loyal customers can quickly access information from their personal account, by clicking a hotel-branded icon right from their device.

As corporate director of e-commerce for Omni Hotels, Kerry Kennedy sets the strategy and oversees the execution for Omni Hotels' brand presence in the digital environment. Kerry oversees the user path experience, loyalty and reservations functionality in all e-commerce channels including the website, brand retail websites, and third-party websites. He is responsible for the development and delivery of Omni's mobile applications, as well as the strategy of all brand social community sites.
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