In online travel booking, mobile isn't all mobileNewsBy Viewpoints | March 27, 2013Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a guest article by Kurt Heinemann, chief marketing officer at Monetate.Consumers use smartphones and tablets in markedly different ways when researching and booking travel. So, therefore, separate strategies are needed to play to the distinct usages of each device.It’s no secret that booking via smartphone and tablets is increasing every quarter. In a survey by eMarketer in 2012, 62% of consumers who booked travel online made at least one purchase via smartphone or tablet.However, it’s important to make the point that smartphone and tablet should not be grouped together as "mobile". The two devices have different use profiles and should be approached with distinct strategies.When it comes to travel, pull smartphones in case of emergencyLet’s look at the smartphone usage. The smartphone is the mobile-in-the-world, last-minute device. Recent research suggests that customers are less likely to complete a transaction on a smartphone than on a PC or tablet.However, when travelers do book with a smartphone, it’s overwhelmingly for a last-minute hotel booking.Therefore the smartphone is largely transactional, and a great tool for booking when the traveler is already on the road, needs connectivity, and wants to, for example, extend a stay or change hotels.Tablets are a replacement for the desktop/laptopTablets are different when it comes to travel research and booking. A mobile-in-the-home device (think couchsurfing), the tablet is great for browsing and research.While smartphones are impulse, emergency or on-a-whim devices, travelers tend to use the tablet similar to the way they use the PC or desktop ‑ for research, trip planning and booking ahead.And given that 70% of casual travel purchases start with a search, travel sites need to display a form factor that allows the user to easily research, book on and interact with the site using a tablet.Align your strategy to play to a device's primary usageNow that we’ve established the clear difference between tablet and smartphone usage and intent when it comes to online travel booking, what can hospitality sites take from these behavior trends?It’s important to understand the traveler’s intent and allow design to follow function.Key considerations for smartphone and tablet strategies:1. Smartphone sites should be simple and transaction-friendlyTravel brands should adapt the smartphone experience for the traveler who is on the road, making the site transaction-friendly with easy access to reservation information.Whether you decide on a mobile site or responsive design strategy, take into account that the smartphone travel user needs information quickly.Resist the urge to crowd the homepage with extraneous information better suited to the tablet and PC experience.2. Focus tablet strategy on formattingWhile the smartphone is used for on-the-fly booking, the increasingly popular tablet is both a research and booking device, essentially used as a portable (not "mobile") desktop/laptop.Your tablet strategy site therefore should make it easy to research and book, with formatting as a priority. Consider the touchscreen nature, and make buttons bigger and navigation swipe friendly.While the smartphone strategy should be simple and transactional, the tablet site is a place to provide additional information on trip upgrades and add-ons.On a sidenote: travel brands should take advantage of the "second screen" nature of the iPad and other tablets by closely aligning television advertising and the online channel.It’s easier than ever for a potential traveler to respond immediately to a broadcast ad, turning a research event into an immediate purchase event.3. Web first, apps secondWhether booking from smartphones or tablets, business or pleasure, hotel reservations or plane tickets, travelers across the spectrum prefer to book via a web browser rather than an app according Google's annual Traveler's Road to Decision study.While apps can be great for a brand’s most loyal members, travel brands should play to the universal access of the web and focus on site usability first, apps second.4. No matter the device - make the experience relevant and contextualWhile the aforementioned usability trends should help you understand the different uses for tablets and smartphones when booking travel, it’s critically important that you get to know your customer and create a real-time, relevant experience. Are they business or leisure travelers?Do they use tablets or mini-tablets? Use the data you collect to tailor the site experience for your customers’ preferences, and you’ll develop a more loyal customer base that interacts with your brands consistently and across all channels and devices.NB: This is a guest article by Kurt Heinemann, chief marketing officer at Monetate.NB2: Disclosure ‑ Tnooz CEO and co-founder Gene Quinn is a member of Monetate's advisory board.NB3: Tablet beach image via Shutterstock.