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September 24, 2012

The Priceline hotel and car negotiator iPhone app

Online travel agent is aiming to boost its mobile revenue with two new tools that help users book travel plans via their handsets.

Priceline has rolled out its Express Deals feature to some of its apps and its mobile site to speed up the booking process. Additionally, the company’s Tonight-Only feature has been expanded to new markets.

“Mobile users tend to like to book their travel at the last minute, and both of these services help them do just that, so they are natural fits,” said Brian Ek, spokesman for Priceline, New York.

Priceline sells online travel services including airline tickets, vacation packages, hotel rooms, rental cars and cruises.

Mobile bids
Priceline has updated its Hotel & Car Negotiator application to include Express Deals – which is the company’s no-bid hotel booking option. The updates are available on the iPhone, iPod touch and Android versions of the app as well as on the company’s mobile site.

The feature is geared towards families and lets consumers make reservations on hotels with specific needs, such as certain bed size. In order to make a reservation, consumers first view a page that features such as neighborhoods and amenities. The name of the hotel is revealed once a user makes a reservation.

Previously, Express Deals was only available to desktop users.

In addition to Express Deals, has also made its Tonight-Only feature available to 150 more locations. The Tonight-Only feature lets users pick from a list of mobile-only deals on same-day hotel reservations.

Consumers can book via Tonight-Only for stays up until four days. Priceline claims that these deals are 40 percent off of the company’s regular prices.

Each day, Priceline releases Tonight-Only reservations at 11 a.m. The prices are available through 11 p.m. or until it sells out.

Flash sales
Using mobile to push special prices and offers is a tactic that many online travel agents, hotel brands and airlines are using to lure consumers.

Consumers are increasingly relying on their mobile devices to make travel plans, often for same-day reservations.

Earlier this year, conducted a study of both its iOS app users and desktop consumers who booked through the company’s Name Your Own Price feature. The company found that 82 percent of consumers who book a hotel do so the same day of the stay. Forty-five percent of desktop users do the same (see story).

Additionally, the company rolled out an app for this year. The company launched the app after seeing more than $1 million mobile transactions in 2011 (see story).

The flash sale business model can be particularly effective for consumers scouting for the best deals on travel plans. Big-ticket items such as airline tickets and hotel reservations are quickly becoming impulse buys for consumers.

“Bidding is a bit more difficult to do on the smaller screen – no bid is much quicker and easier,” Mr. Ek said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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