The M Moment: Best Practices for Online Travel Marketing in a Mobile-Centric World

Director of Research and Online Marketing
Published 10/14/14
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For many destinations and hotels the ”M Moment” is here—or nearly here. The M Moment is the point in time when more than half of your website users are consistently on mobile devices (smartphones or tablets). The M Moment reflects mobile moving out of the mainstream to dominance.

The M Moment is also the first point in the Internet's history when we have seen this sort of shift—a permanent transition on the dominant device type with which most users will interact with our online content- from desktop to a huge range of mobile device types such as smartphones, notes, tablets and more.

With increasingly ubiquitous connectivity, the age of the “Internet of Things” is also arriving, with mobile web browsing on watches, in cars, via household appliances and more. For Miles clients, the M Moment has arrived or nearly arrived over recent months. Here is just a selection of destinations with whom we work who are now consistently tracking above 50% for their percentage of website users who are on mobile devices:

  • Albuquerque Convention & Visitors BureauCO responsive
  • Visit Baltimore
  • Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority Colorado Tourism Office
  • Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau
  • Louisiana Office of Tourism
  • Memphis Convention & Visitor Bureau
  • North Dakota Department of Commerce & Tourism Division
  • Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Sonoma County Tourism Bureau 
  • Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (visitPA)
  • Visit Philadelphia
  • Visit West Hollywood

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In fact, the majority of all our DMO clients have now passed the M Moment. Destinations or hotels not yet at the M Moment will almost certainly see this transition in the next 6-12 months or so. The M Moment is also an opportunity to review your strategies for online marketing in this mobile-centric world. Review the check list below for your priorities:

1. Mobile-Centric Content

Is your content strategy and plan mobile centric? Are you continually investing in content that mobile users are seeking? This includes images (stored in different sizes), online video (in YouTube or another mobile-friendly platform), all content tagged with GPS data, interactive mapping solutions, listings with clear click-to-call options, deep social media integration and more. Do you create, curate, manage and distribute content for a mobile-centric world?

 2. Responsive Site a Must

Building a responsive website that adapts and responds to the myriad device type and screen size is a must in a mobile-centric world. However, only a minority of tourism marketers have made this investment. In a June 2014 study by Ryerson University's Ted Roger's School of Hospitality, sponsored by Miles, of 236 DMOs from around the world and 160 independent hotels/resorts only 37% and 39% of organizations respectively had responsive websites. While over three quarters had a mobile website of some description, a mobile website must now be considered only an interim, stop-gap measure. If your organization is not yet responsive, having an aggressive plan for launching a responsive site needs to be a top priority.

3. Mobile Design

Whether a mobile-specific site or responsive, presenting content in clear and compelling ways for mobile devices is critical. Three examples include content that is prioritized and edited to a clear hierarchy, with the most important content for mobile users first; with a touch interface that is easy and intuitive to use including easy-to-use buttons and tiles; and continuous scroll as an intuitive way to review lots of detailed content.

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4. Mobile-Enabled Campaigns. Mobile advertising is rapidly growing and still finding its feet in some travel segments, but it can offer compelling CPC rates and opportunities for immediate engagement and personalized offers. Make sure your mobile campaigns are mobile ready, starting with creative that is developed and tested for the mobile environment and campaign landing pages that are mobile specific or responsive. Monitor and refine based on your analytics. It is still surprising how many tourism marketers are spending money on mobile without getting these fundamentals in place.

5. Empower Locals and Visitors. Finally—and arguably most important—the M Moment is a chance to review the extent to which you can connect with and empower locals and visitors to tell the story of your destination or hotel. Any visitor or local with a mobile device is a roaming ambassador for your city, state, region, province or hotel.

This type of user-generated content is typically far more authentic and compelling than anything you can produce. Look to encourage and facilitate this with free WiFi hot spots (particularly important for international travelers who can't afford high roaming rates), rich media contributions through platforms such as Instagram, input and answers on Twitter or other social media platforms responding to visitor questions (eg: Twisitor or Virtual Visitor Centers) and competitions and contests that ask for spontaneous, immediate content to be generated including favorite lists, event reports, comments or suggestions.