Nov 14, 2013

It’s not a secret anymore that the vacation rental market has been growing at an amazing pace despite the economic downturn. And nothing suggests that it will slow down in the future. Various trend reports indicate that an increasing number of travelers are preferring to stay at vacation rentals rather than hotels – and with major vacation rental online portals bringing new renters into the market the industry is set for some major growth over the next few years.

At the same time, the Internet has given travelers more information and new ways to buy. And mobile devices have given them more flexibility in when and where to research or book their vacation. According to eMarketer, nearly 50 million US consumers will research travel on their smartphones and tablets in 2013, accounting for approximately 40% of all digital travel researchers.

What does that mean for vacation rental owners? Well, due to this ‘mobile wave’, traveler expectations have changed dramatically. A Google survey of mobile users in 2012 found that 75 percent of mobile users say it’s important to them that websites are mobile-friendly. Travelers today expect user-friendly mobile experiences, whichever way they interact with your business. They surf, chat and buy from smartphones and tablet PCs - and they expect the experience to be seamless, because if it’s not, they’ll go elsewhere.

So you, as a vacation rental owner or property manager, need to sensibly adapt in terms of customer interaction and showcasing your properties online. It’s a great opportunity for you as quite certainly the majority of your competitors do not have a mobile-friendly website yet. So stay one step ahead of them. It’s really simple to create a mobile-friendly website, and there are few things you should consider before doing so:

Responsive design

There are several affordable solutions available, such as Lodgify, which offer mobile friendly, or so-called "responsive" website templates and allow you to customize the layout. "Responsive" means that your website will automatically adjust to the screen or device that is being used to access your website, rearranging content and images. Try it out yourself! Go to http://tideway.lodgify.com on your PC first. And then access the same link via your smartphone. Or simply scale down the size of your browser window for the same effect. See the difference?

You can try it out with your own website too. If you have had the same website for a few years, your website will not be responsive and you won’t see a difference - only that it’s quite difficult to navigate through your website the smaller the screen size gets. So switch to a responsive website template now. Your visitors will appreciate the fact that the information on your website is well-designed and structured, enabling them to quickly and seamlessly browse through your website.

Relevant content and high-res images

When displaying information on a mobile-friendly website the most important of all is to be concise and to keep it simple. Mobile users want to be able to easily navigate through a website and find what is most relevant to them - information that helps them to decide whether to book your vacation rental or not. Get your visitors to the relevant information with minimum “taps” and “swipes”. Take your time when creating your content and think it through smartly. Think about what your visitors need to know about your vacation rental, or what they will be looking out for, and highlight the main points that make your vacation rental stand out from others. You may also want to consider the support of a copywriter (I can recommend Christine Anderson, www.sterlingwriter.com - she’s an experienced travel copywriter).

What’s also really important is to upload beautiful and high-resolution images of your vacation rental. It’s often worth investing in professional quality photographs and hiring a local photographer as they know exactly what perspective and light to use. There is a huge difference between how your property is portrayed on your own snapshots or through professional photographs. And it will definitely have a greater impression on your mobile visitors, who nowadays access images via their high definition retina displays. Also, uploading high-resolution images will ensure that the images are displayed correctly and in excellent quality on any screen or device.

Mobile conversion

Convert your mobile visitors to actual bookings by facilitating them to interact with you, send an inquiry or immediately book the vacation rental. Make sure you use a website template which clearly displays all relevant contact information on one page (i.e. telephone number, Skype ID, email address, call-back form) and makes it possible for mobile users to get in touch with just a tap on their screen. If you engage in social media, include a link to your Facebook page, Twitter feed, or similar - mobile users can easily access those links via their apps which they have downloaded on their smartphone or tablet PC. And it increases your credibility if they are able to read more about you and your vacation rental from a social perspective.

Finally, an increasing number of travelers are confident enough to book their vacation rental directly from their mobile device, so having a “book now” function in place that assures a safe and secure transaction is a real asset.

If you set up your own mobile-friendly website and follow these simple guidelines, you can ensure that your visitors have a great website experience. And I’m confident this will consequently increase your bookings. What is your opinion on this? Looking forward to your comments, and maybe you have an extra piece of advice which I’ve missed.

This guest post was brought to you by Naveen Sharma, marketing expert at Lodgify.com. Lodgify is an all-in-one solution that allows vacation rental operators to build their own mobile-friendly and customizable website with a “Book Now” function, manage reservations and availabilities efficiently, and automatically synchronize property information with listings on multiple external vacation rental portals.

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