Smartphones are well on their way to ubiquity. According to a forthcoming report from travel industry research authority PhoCusWright – PhoCusWright's European Consumer Travel Report Third Edition – 69% of U.K. and French travWelers with mobile phones, followed by 57% in Germany, accessed the mobile web in the past year – about a 10% increase across markets from the prior year. Travelers are connecting more frequently as well. Just about half in France and the U.K., and over one third in Germany now log on at least daily. But when it boils down to mobile web activity specifically related to travel, growth is nowhere near as robust. In fact, in Germany, despite the increased appetite for smartphones, the percentage of mobile web users who engage in several travel-related activities, such as mobile check-ins and mobile booking, fell substantially.
The two trends seem contradictory. The answer to this puzzle lies in the shifting mobile audience in Europe. Consider the first consumers to purchase an iPhone immediately after it hit the shelves. They were a tech-savvy, affluent group, willing to pay top-dollar for the latest technology, and eager to try every possible mobile capability available to them. As a result, this initial wave of consumers often engaged in a broad range of mobile activities, including travel-related functions. Now, however, smartphones are conventional technology, increasingly in the hands of a mainstream audience with less inclination to explore complex mobile functions. Compared to the early adopters, consumers who have waited this long to connect are nowhere near as eager to transform their smartphone into a boarding pass, or book a nearby hotel on the spot, for example. As more of these mainstream consumers swell the population of smartphone owners, they greatly reduce the relative proportion of cutting-edge users.
"Among the three markets we researched in Europe, the contrast in mobile behavior between the early mobile adopters and the mainstream users was most prominent in Germany. Nevertheless, this recent influx of smartphone owners is not entirely unengaged. Location-centric mobile Web activities, such as viewing maps or looking up nearby activities, have surged over the last year in Germany," says Carroll Rheem, senior director, research, at PhoCusWright. "This latest wave of European smartphone owners need a little more time before they graduate to more advanced tasks, such as booking. However, just because some consumers are a bit slower to adopt doesn't mean that travel companies can afford to rest on their laurels. Percentages may have slipped, but the absolute number of travelers engaging in sophisticated activities is indeed climbing."
PhoCusWright's European Consumer Travel Report Third Edition explores consumer travel trends in three major European markets: France, Germany and the U.K. The study outlines year-over-year changes across a comprehensive range of travel metrics, including leisure travel incidence, trip frequency and duration, travel expenditure, international travel and travel product purchases. Analysis covers the use of online and offline channels during three isolated stages of the travel planning process – destination selection, shopping and booking – and provides an in-depth look at travel-related engagement via the mobile web and social networks.
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