If travelers are hoping for a seamless mobile experience when booking a trip, they still have a ways to go. In fact, as you'll see below users interact with over 400 digital touch points when booking a trip. But progress is being made in the space as a variety of factors make progress, including better app design, simple interface, easy and secure mobile payments (Apple/Android Pay, Square), and more seamless connectivity between mobile experiences that foster purchase intent for bookings— and the companies that fulfill that intent.

Still, a Fragmented World

A family road trip through the U.S. A getaway to the Caribbean. A hike up Machu Picchu. Backpacking through the Amazon. All of these trips are wildly different in their overall experience, yet when you look at the digital journey of booking the actual pieces— flights, hotels, car rentals, excursions— they all look the same: requiring hundreds of digital touchpoints to simply book one trip.

In one study, Google looked at the consumer journey of just one person over two months during the holiday season in 2014. Amy was planning a trip to Disney World for her family, and in a quest to plan this trip, Amy had over 400 digital moments in just two months. Specifically, she made 34 searches, watched five videos, and made 380 web page visits. What gives?

Does Mobile Matter?

While Amy had over 400 digital moments when planning her trip, the one consistency was that 87% of this happened on mobile. Airlines, OTAs, travel content, and everyone else providing travel services and resources has progressed extensively to support mobile's smaller screen sizes and short attention spans. However, they're all still disconnected in the overall journey. And according to Comscore, while people spend 66% of their time on mobile, they only purchase 19% of the time there, creating a gap of 47%. Google found roughly the same thing when it comes to booking travel specifically, finding that 46% made their final booking decision on mobile yet moved to another device to complete. This shows that travel companies are missing out on the opportunity to convert users in the moments when their intent is primed to purchase— as the age old saying goes— they've got to do better at fishing where the fish are.

For companies that are looking to drive revenue from the travel purchase intent they foster, whether they're metasearch companies and online travel agencies that want to drive better conversion flows to bookings or digital media companies that are looking to monetize evergreen travel content with booking options— the mobile landscape demands companies take a more transactional approach to making money. We're seeing that the reliance on media- and ads-based models are causing revenues to hemorrhage, efficacy to dwindle, and as seen by the 83% of people that prefer to have ad blockers— the experiences making people mad!

That all said, there is an alternative.

So, not only are these companies missing out on valuable dollars left on the table, but they're also overwhelming travelers with a less-than-ideal experience.

Travel's Evolution in Mobile Monetization

Travel brands are increasingly moving beyond their traditional approaches to monetizing and acquiring new users, and moving into more creative methods.

Look at TripAdvisor, one of the world's largest destinations for travelers. They have slowly rolled out Instant Bookings, directly connecting the traveler's research phase to the actual booking phase. It's a win-win: partners increase bookings, consumers have a more connected experience, and TripAdvisor takes a cut. And while the return has been slow as the rollout continues, executives know the partnership platform will continue to be an operating priority and will focus on the long-term of this "multi-, multi-billion dollar opportunity."

Additionally, Hotels.com, one of the leading global accommodation booking engines, has also taken steps to close the gap on a consumer's digital booking journey. On one end of the Button Marketplace, they've integrated an Uber Button into their app across 60 countries and in 30 languages, allowing consumers to seamlessly book a ride to their hotel straight from the Hotels.com app. Uber gets high-value consumers and Hotels.com creates a more engaging app (in fact, integrating an Uber Button increases the host app's engagement by 11%).

And most recently, they joined the Button Marketplace as a Commerce Partner, making it possible for like-minded brands to integrate a Hotels.com Button into their existing app or mobile web experience. For instance, Button partner and leading digital publication Cond√© Nast Traveler now features Hotels.com and Uber alongside relevant content within their mobile web, making it possible for readers to book a hotel or get a ride simply with the touch of a Button. Not only are readers receiving a much better experience, but Hotels.com, Uber and Cond√© Nast all benefit— Hotels.com and Uber drive additional revenue through increased bookings and rides, respectively, and acquire long-term value users, and Cond√© Nast pulls in a piece of the pie as well.

As Gina Lee, Condé Nast's Director of Product Management says: "Incorporating Buttons allows us to connect the dots for readers, providing them an easy way to go beyond inspiration and into action."

What's Next?

This week, our team is attending the Phocuswright conference out in Los Angeles, diving into the latest and greatest in travel trends. We'll be giving a workshop presentation today at 1:30pm PT, breaking down mobile monetization when it comes travel and giving a sneak peak about our latest project with Hotels.com. If you're attending, come join us!

James O'Brien puts it best in Skift Magazine: Issue Three: "On-demand technology is changing passenger and guest expectations around service and responsiveness… Bringing on partner-level on-demand suppliers stands to eliminate expenses and create a percentage-based revenue stream."

Highlighting the "megatrend" of on-demand partnerships for 2016, O'Brien correctly predicts that people would expect immediacy with all aspects of their trip planning— whether that's an Uber from the airport, to booking an OpenTable at a recommended restaurant near their hotel.

Button will continue to work closely with the travel sector to enable these experiences and more going into next year. You can also learn more about our work in the travel industry and further connecting the overall digital journey for today's globetrotters— bringing their initial inspiration closer to the action of (finally!) booking their trip.