This question refers to a similar article published by our esteemed contributor Paul Rouke last year.

In his article asking whether Booking.com is the most persuasive website in the world Paul discovered that over the years Booking.com has continually evolved and refined its online experience, adding the fundamentals of persuasive design in order to gain a competitive advantage.

By using visual appeal and retaining the user's attention through clarity, strong visual hierarchy and utilising one primary action per screen, Booking.com provides a compelling user experience.

However in light of new research looking at top mobile travel sites, I’m going to investigate whether this persuasiveness translates to the mobile experience.

Travel sites on mobile

Researching travel and holiday information on a mobile is rapidly becoming the norm

Whether sat at your office desk, furtively scrolling through dream holidays on your mobile while a spreadsheet pitilessly glares out of your monitor, or pressed up against strangers on your commute home, thumb hovering over the checkout button on Booking.com’s app, it seems like the small screen is a perfect place to escape.

One third of mobile consumers have used their mobile device in the past to make a travel related purchase, including flights, holidays and hotel reservations.

This is a purchase, just to be clear, not merely browsing. In fact there has been a 50% increase in mobile use across business and leisure travellers, and it seems that mobile really will be a driving force in the travel industry beyond 2015.

The travel industry’s ability to cope with this demand has been impressive, maybe more so than in any other industry. eDigitalResearch has just published a multichannel benchmark (registration required) for the travel sector, revealing that generally the top travel sites are providing equally good desktop and mobile experiences.

Coming out at the top is Booking.com.

As mentioned above Booking.com is the most persuasive website in the world, but does the mobile site match this experience?

Booking.com on mobile

According to the research Booking.com offers the following across all of its channels:

  • Consistent professional design across all three channels
  • Well optimised and scalable across mobile devices
  • Main pages kept clean with options to tap through to further detail
  • Star ratings and customer reviews for user confidence
  • Speedy search with good range of filters with list and map view options
  • Easy to add options for upgrading you room throughout the straightforward booking steps
  • Brief dynamic pop- up messaging with latest price trends and booking info
  • Good quality images and detailed information about each hotel 

When looking at mobile it’s difficult to argue with any of these points. Let's start with the positives...

The positives

The homepage is simple, offering you with absolutely clarity the most important search functions that users require.

The calendar tool is easy to operate and uses a neat piece of micro UX to hide it away once the dates have been selected.

Options appear in a large scrollable menu with clear text. Calls-to-action are obvious and the same colour as other smaller clickable lines of text.

There are many large images uploaded for each hotel to swipe through and customer reviews are easily accessible 

Social proof is integral to the Booking.com experience. The community of users providing star ratings and reviews is huge, and this only helps bolster customer confidence and encourages them to return to the site.

The reviews are again easy to access and scores are handily broken down by category.

So if you don't care about clean bedsheets but are desperate for WiFi, you should be able to find the perfect place.

There is strong use of scarcity marketing here too, with many messages popping up throughout the experience telling you how many people are looking at the hotel right now.

There are also many red text warnings to add a sense of urgency if rooms are running low.

Booking.com’s strongest area in mobile is its checkout. It’s always nice to see that you’re already halfway through the process without even realising it.

All the necessary information is here and clearly laid-out as well as navigation options to change your booking. 

All your personal details are entered on a single page to save on loading times, the text entry fields are large and autofill has been enabled.

This really is a checkout that fulfils its 'two-minute' promise.

Looking at the fundamentals of persuasive design, this ticks all the right boxes and is almost faultless. Almost.

Let’s take a look at where I feel Booking.com’s mobile site can improve.

The negative

The research above suggests that the “brief dynamic pop-up messaging with latest price trends and booking info” were a positive, and the rules of scarcity marketing would suggest that this might be a highly persuasive practice.

Frankly I don't think they are, the messages are just annoying.

I understand the need for urgency and that it's a classic sales technique, but at every stage of research these messages appeared and just caused needless stress.

Every time I tapped on a new page, a new pop-up would slide into view.

These are fine on a desktop where there is room for them, but on a mobile where users are probably already in a rush and using a limited window of opportunity the messages are just too obtrusive.

As far as I'm concerned, these pop-ups put me off using the site.

In every other way Booking.com has built a brilliant, easy-to-use and yes, highly persuasive mobile experience, however with these messages I feel like they've forgotten the focus on customer experience.

For more guidance on mobile travel sites here are 10 essential features they all should have.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 23 April, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (4)

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for the mention of my original article Christopher, much appreciated and I'm glad it provided some context to this excellent article.

Just add in another key positive, persuasive element that Booking.com have got right on their mobile experience - on their homepage under the primary search function, they have ensured that primary value proposition messages around convenience, flexibility, choice and worldwide scale are all given primary positioning on the mobile viewport.

The lesson for other brands here is this:

visitors still need to be persuaded to act on mobile, so don't think smaller screen = simplify the content = remove some of the non action driven elements of the page.

over 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Paul - thanks so much for commenting. Good addition.

over 2 years ago

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Steph Potter, Digital Marketing Manager at The Prince's Trust

Love booking.com! They nail it.

over 2 years ago

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Steph Potter, Digital Marketing Manager at The Prince's Trust

Love booking.com. They nail it!

over 2 years ago

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