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HotelTonight checks in new booking features alongside enhanced in-app chat

HotelTonight is kicking off the year’s first quarter with a strong focus on commerce, allowing users to book accommodations on behalf of others and take advantage of augmented in-application chat support options.

The third-party booking service is attempting to steer off fierce competition in the travel and hospitality sector by rolling out a series of new app updates centered on making the customer experience even more streamlined. Consumers are now able to book hotels on behalf of family, friends and coworkers, thanks to a new guest profile tool.

“It was one of our most requested features,” said Graciela Kincaid, product manager at HotelTonight. “For example, a couple would want to book a room where the other partner would need to be on the reservation for check-in.

“Another example is an admin needing to book hotels for a group of people in their office.”

Fluffing up mobile
HotelTonight has introduced a slew of new app updates to make the browsing and purchasing experience even slicker and swifter. As more consumers leverage their smartphones as ultimate travel companions, offering streamlined checkout and customer service options on mobile is imperative for any hospitality marketer.

HotelTonight users are now able to book last-minute accommodations on behalf of someone else, a tool that could set the brand apart from its competitors. This feature comes in handy for any individuals reserving a room for a group of people, perhaps work colleagues, or their families.

For example, if a customer is booking a hotel room but knows she will be arriving separately from her spouse, she may set up a guest profile for him or her and ensure that her partner is able to check-in smoothly upon arrival.

Additionally, HotelTonight has augmented its in-app chat options, so that consumers will be able to easily communicate with a representative in case of any inquiries or concerns.

“Chat is available in more places as a support channel,” Ms. Kincaid said. “Our customers prefer messenger-based support over email and phone – it’s a mobile native experience that just feels right and is very efficient and fast.

“We’ve also included wait times for various ways of reaching us via support.”

It is paramount for travel brands to offer these types of features, particularly for first-time customers or mobile novices.

Consumers are increasingly looking to recommendations and assistance options within mobile apps during shopping processes, proving their reluctance to resolve issues over the phone or email. This has prompted a plethora of marketers to roll out messaging app-based customer service options.

However, HotelTonight is well-poised to attract more new users with its own branded in-app chat solution. If a customer becomes frustrated or confused during the booking experience, firing off a quick message to a waiting representative could be the very move that prevents the company from losing a sale.

“When you are booking a hotel room, you want to get it done then and there,” said Aurelie Guerrieri, vice president of global marketing solutions at Cheetah Mobile. “If a customer is confused or has questions, being able to quickly solve the problem within the app enhances the full user experience.

“Having an in-app chat service is the best approach to customer service for travel apps, enabling them to secure more bookings and more dollars from their users,” she said. “You don’t want users leaving your app to dial a customer service phone number or fill out an email form, potentially losing that business.

“It is a trend we are going to see a lot more of as customer demand for real-time feedback and gratification could determine the success or failure of a service like a travel app.”

Building on the past
The recent app updates come on the heels of a fruitful year for HotelTonight, which saw the brand introduce several new features centered on personalization.

Last summer, it led the charge for third-party booking marketers trying to personalize their apps by piloting a concierge feature that enables users to request information about their final destinations and ask for hotel amenities from the front desk (see story).

Tapping into mobile search also continues to be a sought-after strategy for the company, although it has been seeing a spike in sales due to consumers’ personal recommendations.

A HotelTonight executive at the Mobile Marketing Association’s SM2 Innovation Summit 2015 claimed that mobile search is imperative for the hospitality brand, and will continue its upward trajectory as paid search, application store optimization and app indexing take off (see story).

“We continue to grow primarily through word-of-mouth,” HotelTonight’s Ms. Kincaid said. “We have the best hotels at the best rates and the easiest last-minute booking experience.

“Beyond that, we are discussing partnerships and scaling mobile distribution networks.”