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HotelTonight bets on iPad to drive mobile bookings

Mobile-only hotel booking company HotelTonight is segmenting tablet users in a move to capture last-minute sales by optimizing its application for iPad devices.

The HotelTonight iOS app has been updated with tablet-specific features including high resolution photos to match the new iPad’s retina display. The company also has apps for Android, iPhone and iPod touch devices.

“We wanted to scale the experience for the resolution of the iPad while also maintaining the ability to book in under ten seconds with just three taps and a swipe,” said Sam Shank, cofounder/CEO of HotelTonight, San Francisco.

“The iPad provides a way for people to experience the beauty and coolness of the hotels we work with on a high-resolution screen,” he said.

HotelTonight is a flash sales mobile app that lets users find and book last-minute sales in more than 30 destinations.

Tab into sales
In addition to high-resolution photos, the HotelTonight iPad app has been updated to include a new user interface that lets consumers slide across a hotel’s profile page to view expandable photos and information.

The maps feature has also been updated to fit the size of the tablet screen with Google Maps, helping users find hotels while on the go.

In order to book a hotel, users must either create a HotelTonight account or log-in using their Facebook account. Users can then enter any promo codes for a discount.

Users can then finish the booking process by entering their credit card information and can manage their account on the home screen of the app.

The point of the app is to create a different, lean-back experience compared to the company’s iPhone and iPod touch apps. The updated iPad app is still geared at on-the-go users, but caters to consumers who want a richer, visually-driven experience.

Last-minute bookings
By optimizing the app for iPads specifically, HotelTonight is smart to realize that the device has different features and needs to be treated differently than smartphone mobile initiatives.

In particular, tablet marketing efforts are generally tailored to users who are more likely to spend time interacting with a piece of content, especially shopping-related content.

For example, a recent study from Localeze and 15miles found that mobile searches made from tablets are likely to result in sales, showing the opportunities available to travel and accommodation companies (see story).

Last year, HotelTonight also rolled out a mobile deals section to let hotels push out specific messages to guests (see story).

“I believe mobile will continue to grow market share in 2012 and will become a significant tool that every traveler will use because of the ease and utility,” Mr. Shank said.

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