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Expedia boosts mobile momentum with new booking options

Expedia is boosting its mobile momentum with a series of new application features, including the ability to book rental cars, a “Book Now, Pay Later” functionality and a redesigned launch screen.

The updates were designed in response to recent Expedia research on mobile travel behaviors, which are catching fire among consumers who prefer to book last-minute deals on smartphones and tablets. Users of the app will now be able to peruse a wider variety of booking options and treat Expedia as a one-stop shop for all of their travel needs, ranging from flights, accommodations and activities.

“Travelers these days increasingly expect on-demand mobile access to services that give them more flexibility to make last-minute decisions or adapt quickly when plans change during a trip,” said Tarran Street, technology senior public relations manager at Expedia, Inc., Bellevue, WA.

“We’ve seen trends with last-minute hotel bookings increase over the years, and have heard from customers that rental car and local activity bookings are another priority for them so we packed a bunch of the Expedia functionalities our customers know and love on desktop into our Expedia app to provide a more complete, one-stop mobile travel solution to help people find and book everything from hotels, flights and now rental cars and local activities while on-the-go,” she said.

“By bringing new travel services and functionality to the Expedia app, we’re giving travelers a more fully comprehensive experience with tools designed to help them before, during and after their journey through features such as live itinerary updates, instant alerts and notifications, and the ability to book more elements of their trip whenever and wherever they’d like.”

Enhanced booking options
One feature that may set Expedia apart from other third-party competitors is the “Book Now, Pay Later” function, which aims to offer guests more choice when making hotel purchases. Users may reserve a room at participating properties, and do not need to complete payment until check-in.

For consumers who are prone to last-minute trips or do not have the time to fuss with payment options prior to departure, this feature could bump up Expedia on their lists of go-to booking apps.

The travel brand also found its users were clamoring for in-app car rental bookings, prompting Expedia to include that in the update as well.

Customers who enjoy pre-booking local activities will also be able to purchase tickets to shows or excursions in select top national destinations. The local activities tool, as well as car rental bookings, is currently only available for users in the United States, but is planning to reach British and Canadian mobile consumers in the coming months.

The Expedia app now offers a vacation package savings option, which provides travelers with up to 55 percent off accommodations when booking a participating flight in-app and purchasing a qualifying hotel stay within the next 10 days.

For tablet users, the marketer has unveiled new travel collections. United States-based customers will spot the “Fun for all ages” collection, while international consumers can browse the “Global National Parks” collection.

“Sometimes travelers need a little inspiration when starting to plan a trip and we know customers tend to spend more time dreaming and browsing destinations on tablet devices, so we’re regularly updating the Expedia app for iPad and Android tablets with fresh new content and collections that feature an array of hand-picked destinations based on the latest trends and seasonal interests,” Ms. Street said.

Data findings
Expedia’s recent research corroborates the importance of mobile in the booking sector and cements it as one of the brand’s most important – and lucrative – channels.

More than one in five hotel and flight searches originated from mobile devices in 2014, while the “Trips” page in the app sees approximately 250,000 daily views on average. Expedia believes this demonstrates mobile consumers’ reliance on the customized itinerary tool to guide their travel adventures.

Last year, more than 1.6 million Expedia users who booked travel plans via desktops used the branded app to view trip itineraries, a number more than 50 percent up from the previous year.

Meanwhile, consumers have been shown to appreciate the app’s real-time travel notifications, with approximately five million gate change alerts and 12 million flight check-in reminders delivered since 2013.

The sheer convenience of reaching hurried travelers on mobile leaves the door wide open for Expedia’s extensive mobile offerings. The brand is currently attempting to expand its consumer outreach by tapping non-English-speaking markets.

Several weeks ago, Expedia extended its reach by unveiling a Spanish language site for mobile and desktop users equipped with the same features as its point-of-sale English site, proving that third-party travel marketers must ensure their services reach any interested consumer and transcend language barriers (see story).

Users worldwide will also experience the redesigned launch screen, which features large travel imagery and colorful tiles, proving that the homepage of any app must be eye-catching and user-friendly.

“We see the new Expedia app launch screen as an important evolution to help improve the mobile travel experience for our millions of customers around the world,” Ms. Street said. “The new design still features bold, beautiful travel imagery and colorful tiles, but we wanted to make it more dynamic and flexible in order to bring additional content to travelers in the future.

“The simple interface is easy to navigate and requires just a few finger taps to select a flight, reserve a room and includes various other intuitive features and time saving functionality based on the requests most important to our mobile customers.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York