by Jennifer Knodler
It’s been a few years now, but I recall distinctly when the transition to mobile in the travel industry happened. I was in the midst of traveling often for business and I said to Sidra Michon, Product Usability Manager at KAYAK, that I felt like I needed to sort hotels by “Free access to print your boarding pass”. She chuckled at how real my problem was. A few months later, Brian Sullivan, then at Sabre, suggested to me that I wouldn’t need anything but my phone (my shiny new iPhone, that was) in the coming months.
Then, it was a domino effect. I could book my flight, complete a purchase for my luggage, use my phone as a boarding pass, book a hotel, check in, aggregate my travel itinerary, order takeout to my hotel room, hail a cab, use Wi-Fi on the flight and in the airport, map my route, even if walking in NYC. I could dictate emails while in transit, listen to webinars via conferencing software, check the CRM system for updates, get notified about travel changes and delays. The single most powerful tool that I had available was my smartphone. I didn’t need a wallet, a computer or a pen.
Today’s travelers are exactly as Moxie describes: “Tethered, Tolerant and Talking vs. Mobile, Multitasking and Messaging”. They need to be reached in different ways. Dana Bishop, primary report analyst and Director of Quantitative Research, was awed by the mad scramble of traditional travel companies to throw their hat in the “last minute arena”, as she puts it. It seemed that this Mobile, Multitasking and Messaging culture wants instant, satisfying and simple, too.
As a result, the Competitive Report Division of KLI, run by Bishop, recently announced a new report in our Competitive Index portfolio that focuses on overall functionality and experiences offered by today’s last minute hotel booking apps. Titled Last-Minute Hotel Booking Mobile Competitive Index Report, KLI reviews sixteen (16) apps including those designed specifically for booking last-minute travel as well as the top OTAs in the U.S.
This is more than an industry standard travel technology survey. KLI asks users traditional questions about their current behavior to understand trends, but they push to learn about the innovation that consumers are buzzing about, what they expect to see next, what barriers to a perfect experience exist.
“With many players in direct competition to secure a place to rest your head while traveling, the indecision about which booking agent or OTA to use can be paralyzing to the user.” says Phillip McGuinness, report contributor. “As with all of our reports, we survey the target audience to see what they need and want in terms of features and capabilities first. Then, we take those desires into consideration when comparing and ranking the apps, giving more weight to consumer’s top priorities.”
Apps in this assessment include: Airbnb, BookingNow, Expedia, Hipmunk, HotelPlanner.com, Hotels.com, HotelTonight, Hotwire, Jetsetter, Last Minute Travel Deals, Orbitz, Priceline, Room 77, Stayful, Travelocity and TripAdvisor.
The review examines their iPhone and Android apps (where applicable) and ultimately ranks the apps, awarding top rank to those who most effectively meet the consumer’s self-defined need.
Buyers receive a detailed report that identifies the survey results and the associated ranking of the 16 apps. They also benefit from detailed best-in-class features including screen prints and expert analysis. Opportunities for improvement are discussed as well as a new trends and innovation section where new concepts such as the use of an app to open hotel room doors or a mobile chat feature to communicate with hotel staff are highlighted.
“Differentiation such as the ability to set style preferences, access customer reviews, set filters, as well as view saved search history and favorites become apparent. Better, the impact that these features have on the user experience or the ability to meet user preferences is identified.” states Bishop. “Organizations crave both a way keep pace with what consumers want as they build their roadmap while also tracking and scoring themselves against the competition; to have a baseline that they want to beat as they continue to evolve. This offers them just that.”