Dwellable is quietly emerging as a leader in the consumer-focused vacation rental space and currently drives more than 70% of their business via mobile devices. So it stands to reason they might know a few things about the rise of mobile adoption by travelers researching and booking vacation rentals. To dig deeper, they recently surveyed their property managers about their own adoption of mobile in their business practices. CEO Kirby Winfield presented the findings at the VRMA European Seminar, and recently published a white paper detailing the major takeaways. We’re glad to publish it in full here below.
Vacation Rental Survey: Does Mobile Matter?
By Kirby Winfield, CEO Dwellable
Last year, we surveyed travelers who had used Dwellable, and asked them about their mobile vacation rental habits. 75% said they researched vacation rentals via smartphones or tablets, and 35% inquired or booked via mobile.
This got us thinking: Are vacation rental managers on the same page as their customers when it comes to mobile?
So, this is an analysis of the impact on vacation rental management companies (VRMCs) of the ongoing traveler shift to mobile for research and booking. Or put another way, we threw some questions up on SurveyMonkey and asked property managers to answer them. We found out some pretty crazy stuff.
Introduction and methodology
Since the emergence of internet media as a dominant source of potential new business for VRMCs and owners, the proprietors of vacation rental homes globally have slowly moved their businesses online. The advent of listings sites like HomeAway and FlipKey, the emergence of Airbnb, 9flats and Wimdu, and the $530M invested in online VR solutions since 2011 are a testament to the power of the online media channel, yet less than 3 out of 10 dollars spent in the global VR industry today is spent on the web.
It’s still very early days for the vacation rental industry.
It is fair to say that the majority of VR inventory suppliers are well behind their hotelier counterparts in adopting PC-based online models (SaaS, SEM/SEO, OTA). Some of this lag is endemic to the fragmented and unbranded nature of VR inventory; nonetheless, even the industry leaders are catching their collective breaths from years of turmoil, including loss of control to aggregators, the unfulfilled promise of a collectively-owned VRMA “switch”, and the move from print brochures to web sites and listings as core marketing materials.
And now, the landscape is undergoing yet another tectonic shift. PCs are being left behind by smartphones and tablets as the world continues to conduct more of its media activity via mobile devices than any other medium save television. By 2017, smartphones and tablets will outnumber PC’s by nearly 4-1. But are VRMC’s prepared? How will they adapt?
Dwellable conducted a study of vacation rental marketers to discover attitudes and behaviors associated with mobile device usage in the context of vacation rental discovery and booking. This post presents the study’s key findings.
Dwellable completed a survey of 100 vacation rental executives whose primary form of acquiring new customers was via vacation rental listings websites – the belief being that these executives represent the vanguard of new media adoption in the VR space.
Dwellable asked these property managers 10 questions meant to explore their awareness of mobile as an opportunity and their current attitudes towards and actions regarding reaching mobile travelers.
Property Managers See the Mobile Tidal Wave Approaching
It’s clear that VRMCs are anticipating the shift to mobile. Having been blindsided by the web 20 years ago, proprietors of vacation rental businesses are aware of the upheaval new technology can bring.
Additionally, many VRMCs are now operated by “digital natives”, for whom blogging, social media, and technology are second nature. Mobile is not catching many VRMCs by surprise.
Mobile Is the Next Big Thing for VRMC Growth Strategy
Not only are they anticipating the shift of media consumption to mobile devices; VRMCs are strategically embracing the channel.
The mobile channel is seen as a “very important” growth opportunity more frequently than any other aspect of vacation rentals – including the PC web, listings quality, and even the number of properties under management.
In fact, VRMC’s put mobile up there in importance with overall lead gen as priorities for their marketing partners like HomeAway and TripAdvisor.
Vacation Rental Managers Haven’t Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is…
Given the explicit agreement on the part of respondents that mobile is the biggest thing to hit vacation rentals since the web, it was somewhat surprising to see the responses to the questions about what VRMCs are actually doing about this major opportunity. A solid majority do not offer users any experience tailored to mobile devices.
There seems to be a laissez faire attitude towards mobile which belies the urgency the numbers suggest should be present.
61% of respondents say, “We don’t do anything special for mobile, people can just see our regular website on any device.” This is a major misconception, given that 57% of travelers say they will not recommend a lodging option if it has a bad mobile site (Source: Buteeq, 2013).
…But That’s Changing Rapidly
Almost a quarter of respondents use responsive design, which allows for content to dynamically adjust to each possible mobile device’s screen resolution and size, and another 16% offer a custom mobile site or app.
And we should see the mobile website number move close to 50% in 2014, based on the stated plans of respondents.
VRMC’s are very price sensitive around mobile. We believe solutions that are free or freemium will continue to emerge to capture this sector of demand.
Vacation Rental Managers Are Prepared to Execute in Mobile
There’s no fear in the VRMC camp when it comes to mobile. Whether it’s the educational work the VRMA is doing, the expansion of PMS offerings to mobile platforms, or simple confidence gained in managing their businesses through the shift to digital, vacation rental managers clearly feel up to the task of tackling smartphone and tablet usage.
We believe this confidence is good news for vendors who offer straightforward mobile solutions – you don’t have to convince VRMC’s that mobile matters, just show them how your solution helps them maintain and grow their business.
Dwellable’s mission is to present vacation homes beautifully to everyone, everywhere. We are turning the traveler experience of vacation rental search on its head with big, high-resolution photography, elegant mobile apps, accurate listings, and zero clutter. With more than 100,000 vacation rentals in North America, Dwellable is the top vacation rental app on all major mobile platforms, and has been featured by Apple, Amazon, CNN, Forbes, and Google Play.