Booking.com flies in wearables commerce with Apple Watch booking app
Booking.com is rolling out the first travel application with booking capabilities for the Apple Watch, enabling consumers to select and book hotel accommodations directly from their wrists while also supplementing the commerce potential of wearables for the travel and hospitality industry.
The Booking Now app offers hotels from Booking.com’s selection of more than 625,000 properties worldwide, and is the first travel booking app optimized for the Apple Watch. Apple’s pressure-sensitive force technology allows booking to be completed in one simple touch, and will likely aid in driving impulse purchases from travel enthusiasts.
“The Apple Watch represents a new entry point to talking to consumers,” said Scott Michaels, executive vice president at Atimi, Vancouver, Canada. “With the devices getting larger and being in the man-bag, purse, or simply not in your pocket the watch is the place to send the start of ‘anything’.
“Be that the start of the sales cycle with a push – the sale on the item you favorited starts now – or notifications on the status of your travel. Now, in this case Booking.com is looking to do more of the transaction from the watch and to complete the entire transaction,” he said.
“This is obviously trying to do as much as can be done in the limited functionality that can be achieved on the watch, and while great for marketing, it makes more sense to complete the transaction on the phone than to make that decision all from the limited experience on the watch itself. We will have to wait for the release to see when they drew the line and landed you back in the app resident on the phone.”
Easy reservation management
Apple Watch consumers will be able to enjoy streamlined management of their hotel reservations, thanks to the wearable’s “glances” feature, which will enable users to view key aspects with a simple swipe. Travelers can also save the location of their selected property, and tap turn-by-turn navigation if they are in need of directions to the hotel.
The Watch will also save guests’ hotel room numbers for the duration of their stay, a feature which may come in handy if customers do not want to dig out their wallet or room key to remind themselves which room they are staying in.
The ability for customers to easily rate their check-in experience is also a plus for hotel marketers, as the sheer convenience of doing so will likely yield more reviews for them.
The Booking Now app will be available for download on April 24, and comes in 15 language options.
“This kind of experience from a wearable is going to be the new norm, as people look for the watch component of apps for retailers, ecommerce plays, and connected devices,” Mr. Michaels said. “The new question will soon be ‘what’ is the watch experience that makes sense as the companion to the app not ‘should we’ create the watch extension.”
Greater mcommerce potential
The company claims that the wearable-friendly app was created to meet consumers’ expectations for on-demand and instantaneous travel, as 96 percent of worldwide travelers agree that technology has made booking much easier. Offering consumers the ability to book accommodations on their wrists provides a new level of convenience that has not been seen before.
The brand also revealed that 67 percent of travelers wish to reduce their time spent online during vacations or business travel, which may work in favor of wearables, as customers will still be able to complete necessary tasks without the distraction of scrolling or reading through articles or advertisements.
Booking.com’s Apple Watch app points to the suggestion that as the number of last-minute booking applications grows, travel marketers will need to adopt newer technologies such as Apple Pay and Touch ID to offer streamlined in-app payment options and remain competitive (see story). Developing options for Apple Watch is another optimal strategy.
More travel and hospitality marketers, such as conglomerates including Expedia and Travelocity, as well as airlines, would be well-poised to consider similar strategies for wearables. Although the app works in tandem with its iOS counterpart, users may soon clamor for more booking options for travel and hotels on smartwatch devices.
If more airports begin to roll out beacon technology, they could also raise mcommerce by sending consumers push notifications on wearables for in-terminal restaurant and shopping deals.
“In its most simple form, being able to either start a transaction flow (kick off the top of the browse/buy funnel and spawn phone app when engaged) or to use the watch to complete it (Buy Now), are real strengths of the Apple Watch,” Mr. Michaels said. “No wearables are yet in place to be the place where you browse or compare in terms of the shopping experience.
“It’s these very targeted actions that are going to increase those all important conversion metrics for retailers.”
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York