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Keynote Index Shows Flaws in Mobile Travel Sites

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 6:51am
Andrew Berg

While you might not feel like the airlines are the fastest and most reliable industry in the world while you're waiting for your plane to arrive at the gate, they do have some of the fastest and most reliable mobile websites from those travel sites surveyed in Keynote Systems' latest Travel and Hospitality Index.

According to Keynote, the airlines scored an average page load time of 7.75 seconds, with 99.42 percent reliability. On average, the airlines were more than three seconds faster than Hotels and Online Travel Agency (OTAs). Airlines also maintained the lowest number of kilobytes downloaded and the lowest objects on the home page.

And yet, the best performer overall in the mobile Travel and Hospitality Index goes to the Hotel category for The Fairmont, which had both the speediest mobile web page and highest reliability. The Hotel industry actually boasts both the fastest and slowest page load times across the index. The lowest reliability goes to the OTA industry, with 90.57 percent reliability.

“Typically, a supplier site, like a Hyatt or American Airlines, will have better performance than the OTA’s because these sites pull from a much deeper database to return information to the consumer, particularly in the search function,” says Ken Harker, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote Systems. “However, the home pages for each of these categories should be able to compete head to head, as there is typically no back-end processing on a mobile homepage.”

Keynote contends that there is no inherent reason that an OTA shouldn’t do better than a supplier site.

"If you're an OTA, you must optimize your mobile homepage as much as possible to compete with the inherent speed of the supplier sites, understanding that when your site slows down, mobile users may have more patience with the site after getting past the homepage quickly," Harker said.

Stats from Google show that the number of mobile bookings in the travel space has accelerated from $20 million in 2008 to over $200 million in 2010 and projects that by 2012, fully 8 percent of mobile users will be booking travel from their smartphones.

"It is clear by the measurements taken in the April index that object number and size play a factor in site performance differences for the OTA’s," Harker said. 

Keynote suggests that if OTAs want to stay competitive as demand for mobile travel booking and research options gain traction, they will need to revisit their mobile website strategy to optimize both speed and reliability and see where they can simplify.

Keynote repeatedly tests the sites in the index hourly and around the clock from four locations over the four largest U.S. wireless networks, emulating the browsers of four different devices, including the iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC EVO (Android) on Sprint, the Motorola Droid X (Android) on Verizon Wireless and the BlackBerry Curve on T-Mobile USA. Data is collected from San Francisco, New York, Dallas and Chicago and then aggregated to provide an overall monthly average in terms of both speed and reliability.

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