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April 27, 2012

The Priceline hotel and car negotiator iPhone app

A new study from finds that not only are consumers booking upcoming travels on their handsets, they are also using mobile to primarily find last-minute hotels.

Priceline recently surveyed usage of its Hotel & Rental Car Negotiator application over a two-week period to see how and why consumers are choosing mobile as the primary way to book trips. The study specifically looked at iOS devices.

“We were struck by two trends — one it appears that rental car consumers with mobile are equally as last-minute-minded as hotel customers, and perhaps even more so when you see the large percentage that booked within two hours of picking their cars up,” said Brian Ek, a spokesman for, Amsterdam.

“And two, as the penetration of mobile devices goes more mainstream, the choices of hotels is starting to mirror desktop users,” he said.

Mobile stays
Priceline is known for its Name Your Own Price Program that lets users pick a price for a trip, meaning that they are looking for bargains.

Compared to iOS bookings, only 45 percent of non-mobile Name Your Own Price users made bookings within 24 hours of their stay.

Thirty-five percent of mobile-equipped consumer reservations were made within one mile of the hotel. This shows that consumers are not only waiting until the last minute to book a hotel, they also bank on their devices to help them find a hotel. Fifty-eight percent of mobile users were within 20 miles of the hotel.

Priceline found that 79 percent of mobile users in the study booked hotels for only one night. To compare, 62 percent of non-mobile Name Your Own Prices users booked a one-night stay. This could suggest that more long-term bookings are made via desktops.

Earning their stars
Not only are consumers booking hotels on their devices, they are also choosing high-quality hotels.

Mobile early adopters are stereotypically affluent consumers and are likely to book luxury hotels. However, 82 percent of mobile users in the study picked a three-star or higher hotel.

This shows that although consumers are booking at the last minute, they are not necessarily using their devices to book the closest and cheapest hotel. Consumers expect more and trust that their handsets can help them find the best hotel.

Mobile bookings are a hot trend for the online travel industry with companies rolling out time-sensitive tools meant to hone in on same-day bookings.

Priceline’s recently rolled out an iPhone app that only includes hotels that are available the same day (see story).

Additionally, hotel brands are also benefiting from mobile bookings. Recently, an executive from Marriott revealed that 50 percent of smartphone bookings are made for same-day reservations (see story).

“There are a number of factors [that explain the shift from desktop to mobile usage] — the growing base of mobile-enabled consumers, the fact that travel in the form of mapping and checking reviews was one of the first really popular apps, and we have found that there is a segment of the traveling population that prefers to wait until they arrive in a city and check it out before booking their accommodations,” Mr. Ek said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York 

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