Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

Orbitz revamps iPhone app with focus on streamlined booking, deals

The new Orbitz iPhone app

Online travel agency Orbitz has relaunched its iPhone booking application in a move to make it easier for consumers to book flights, hotels and car rentals via their handsets.

Mobile is playing a big role for Orbitz with nine percent of the company’s hotel bookings and two percent of sales from travel packages coming from handsets in the first quarter of 2012. The updated app is available for download in Apple’s App Store.

“Mobile is taking the business from being high growth to being material, but there is still a ton of way to go,” said Chris Brown, vice president of product at Orbitz, Chicago.

“It is not just about the ability to book travel – now we are seeing transactions,” he said.

Fly on mobile
The Orbitz app has been updated with faster speeds so that users with an Orbitz account can book a flight, hotel or rental car in one tap.

Orbitz claims that the company sees 60 – 65 percent of mobile bookings being made for same-day reservations, and the new app is aimed at making it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for.

For example, a map feature has been added to the app to show nearby hotels that offer discounted rates.

Additionally, two filtering options have been added to the bottom of the app that let users search by price, distance or ratings.

The app also uses a consumer’s browsing history to help consumers find what they are looking for quickly.

Besides speed, the new iPhone app has been updated to let Orbitz users view their itinerary and add an event to the device’s calendar.

Going forward, Orbitz is looking to integrate similar functions into its Android app. The company’s iPad app is currently only available to book hotels, so adding additional features to it is also in the pipeline, per Mr. Brown.

Additionally, finding ways to integrate a consumer’s experience across the desktop and mobile platform is key. For example, Orbitz could better target content based on a user’s history with recommendations.

Quick bookings
In conjunction with the new app, Orbitz also commissioned a study with Atmosphere Research Group and C+R Research to test how fast its search functionality was compared to competitor sites including Kayak, Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity.

Twenty-five participants were asked to book a trip to Hilton Head, SC including a round-trip airplane ticket, a hotel reservation and car rental in seven minutes. One hundred percent of consumers were able to book the trip on Orbitz compared to 40 percent on the competitors’ mobile experiences.

“What I got most of the study was although a lot of people are getting interested in the booking part on mobile, the bigger surprise is how much the travel industry has to do to keep up with other industries,” said Jeffrey Breen, cofounder of Atmosphere Research Group, Cambridge, MA.

“I think the experience of trying to make it seamless is key, especially with mobile,” he said.

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