Skift Take

Millennials are interested in a more spontaneous and explorative style of planning, are the travel brands ready for it?

Editor’s note: We’re starting a new quarterly travel analysis column from GfK, one of the largest global market research organizations. This is the first one, from Laurens van den Oever, the Global Director of Travel for GfK.

We don’t have to tell you that the Internet has revolutionized the travel industry, with online research, planning and bookings rendering printed brochures and traditional travel agency formats all but obsolete.

But the biggest twist in the online revolution is the phone in your hand.

First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due: research shows that the home computer is used by over 90% of people making travel plans online, particularly those who are 55 years old and over. But there’s a new demographic that’s changing everything for online searches, planning and bookings, and they’re proving to be avid travelers, too. The millennials, tech-savvy men and women aged 25-34, are flocking to travel websites, peer-review platforms and social media in unprecedented numbers —and they’re doing it on their smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

In fact, recent data captures show that nearly a third of this millennial segment used their smartphones for travel-related purposes in March of this year, a figure that may logically increase as the summer holiday season approaches. It’s worth noting that this group seems to be even more dependent on their smartphones than their non-traveling peers; young people using travel apps and mobile sites typically spend more than 50% longer browsing the internet on their phones each month than others in the same age group, and visit nearly a third more sites. That’s good news for travel companies who see it as the golden opportunity it is—and construct targeted messaging and structure relevant offerings that grab their attention and capture their spending.

Here’s what’s really interesting: mobile travel planners are different from their home computer-loyal counterparts. For example, PCs see different types of travel sites visited on different days – on Thursday people visit review and information sites like Trip Advisor, on Friday airline and hotel websites experience their highest usage and price comparison sites like are used primarily over the weekend. Travel activity on a home computer appears to involve mid to long-term planning as consumers make considered decisions on where to go and who to book with.

Mobile usage, on the other hand, is a completely different story. All three site types peak on the same day, Saturday, and users are likely to switch between a mix of travel sites over the course of the day. This implies a more spontaneous and explorative style of planning where consumers are discovering useful information and acting on it there and then.

What does that mean for travel companies? They need to ensure that both their desktop and mobile offerings reflect how consumers actually use them, providing depth of detail and breadth of information for home computers users and quick, task-oriented functionality for who prefer mobile devices.

The bottom line? The travel industry is in an enviable position—and those companies willing and able to embrace the mobile revolution with device-friendly apps, sites and offers can go a very, very long way.

Laurens van den Oever is on Twitter

Market research agency GfK is the trusted source of relevant market and consumer information that enables its clients to make smarter decisions. More than 13,000 market research experts combine their passion with GfK’s 80 years of data science experience. GfK turns big data into smart data, enabling its clients to improve their competitive edge and enrich consumers’ experiences and choices.

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Photo credit: Typical millennial. Getty Images