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What works: Expedia or Travelocity’s mobile booking strategyBy
Online travel is one of the industries that mobile has shaken up most by flipping companies’ dot-com roots into a mobile-first mentality.
Ultimately, the goal of all online travel agents is to drive bookings and reservations. Here is a look inside two of the biggest companies in online travel — Travelocity and Expedia — when it comes to the brands’ iPhone apps and mobile sites.
“We see the importance of both our mobile site and our app. A big difference, though, is that we like to take into account the capabilities of the device for app development,” said Jeremy Xavier, director of marketing for mobile products at Expedia, Bellevue, WA.
“We can use features like GPS and push notifications and create a more rich experience in the app,” he said. “We try to delight the customer more with the app experience.”
“For mobile Web, we focus a bit more on a streamlined process to make sure people get a hotel room quickly and efficiently.”
Expedia’s mobile site automatically redirects at http://www.expedia.com/.
Expedia’s emphasis on its app is clearly visible on the site and is prominently promoted at the top of the page.
Below, the site is set up into four tabs with all of Expedia’s services — hotels, flights, cars and travel packages.
If a consumer searches for a hotel room, the device’s built-in GPS is used to automatically filter results by location.
To entice users to book on the spot, hotels that are nearly full are marked with the number of rooms that are available at the moment.
To complete a booking, consumers can either log-in with a Travelocity account or check-out as a guest.
The slickness of making a booking depends on what a consumer wants to make a reservation for on Expedia’s mobile site.
For instance, booking a car as a guest is simple and only includes a few pieces of information such as name, phone number and email address. However, other areas such as hotels require that guests fill out a more detailed list of criteria including payment, which takes a longer time for consumers who in a pinch for time to fill out.
Expedia has two iPhone apps — the TripAssist app and the Expedia Hotel app. The TripAssist primarily lets users track their trips and boots consumers to the mobile site to make a reservation.
The Expedia Hotel app takes advantage of fun, interactive elements. For example, when consumers open the app, the screen turns into a door knocker that can be swung and played with until the app finds local hotel results.
The app automatically uses the current date to let users find hotels that are available in real time. Consumers can also toggle the number of guests to slim down search results.
Similarly to the mobile site, deals are flagged with a red banner and users can check-out with either a Expedia account or as a guest.
For guests, credit card information slides out of the screen, which makes the screen less cluttered and overwhelming to fill out. Besides credit card information, booking only requires a name, phone number and email address.
By solely focusing on hotel bookings in the app, Expedia is clearly seeing a need from consumers to make reservations immediately from their current location and most likely for shorter periods of time.
However, consumers also want to book a complete trip from one place on mobile, meaning that Expedia could benefit from adding flights, cars and travel package options to its app.
“We’re always looking to make the booking process simple and elegant and will continue to refine that,” Mr. Xavier said.
“We also think that, as people get more comfortable booking further out, they will look to mobile to start to dream about travel, and our apps will help people think about new and amazing trips when they are out and about,” he said.
“If someone is thinking about a dream trip to Venice, Italy, for example, we hope that they can start to investigate that trip while on the train home from work.”
The bottom line: Although the iPhone app does include a few interactive elements, the overarching theme of Expedia’s mobile services is to keep the booking experience quick and straight-forward.
Mobile site and iPhone app
Travelocity has developed a mobile site and iPad app with a similar design and user experience.
“While we want our mobile products to have lives of their own based on platform, we also want a look and feel that will be familiar to users no matter where they reach us,” said Jason Fulmines, director of mobile at Travelocity Global, Southlake, TX.
“Our mobile site and iPhone app have similar elements and both allow users to book air, hotel and rental cars in one experience,” he said.
Travelocity’s mobile site is accessible at http://www.travelocity.com/ and the iPhone app is available for free download from Apple’s App Store.
The homepage of the site and app features 12 circles that consumers tap on to begin their travel reservation.
A call-to-action to download the company’s iPhone app on the mobile site is not prominent, but the button does automatically redirect to Apple’s App Store.
Instead of promoting an app, the iPhone app features a feedback button.
Travelocity has positioned both its iPhone app and mobile site as a central hub for all parts of a consumer’s trip.
For instance, in addition to hotel, flight and car booking, consumers can also find nearby attractions and gas.
With a Travelocity account, users can store and manage their travel plans.
Consumers can also view track flight information through both the mobile site and app.
When it comes to booking, price and deals play a major role in how Travelocity helps consumers find information.
For instance, when consumers make a hotel search, Travelocity’s top secret hotels is features at the top of the page, where users browse discounted hotel rates to book a room. Once the room is booked, the hotel’s name and details are revealed.
Additionally, price is prominently promoted in hotel listings and airlines are filtered with the lowest price at the top.
In the hotel section, the app and site automatically fill in certain pieces of information, such as check-in date, which helps cut down booking time.
Individual pages for hotels also include click-to-call features and a rate check option that lets users check prices at different rooms. Click-to-call is an especially strong feature since consumers are likely to have questions while booking.
In order to make a reservation, consumers fill out a form with contact and payment information.
The bottom line: By developing a similar product for its iPhone app and mobile site, Travelocity wants to give consumers a consistent experience across multiple platforms. Additionally, Travelocity has placed a strong emphasis on price, showing that the company’s prime consumers are concerned about finding the best deal possible.
“Providing users with the ability to book air, hotel and rental car in one place is essential for us. Furthermore, being smart about using location to reduce friction in the small screen context is important as well,” Mr. Fulmines said.
“We are constantly looking at emerging technology and solutions that can enhance and make our experiences more streamlined – back-end and front-end alike,” he said. “The future of our products will combine needs of our customers and the applicable technologies to get us there.”
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York
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