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HotelTonight drives last-minute hotel bookings via mobile

DealBase Corp.’s HotelTonight is offering users of Apple’s iPhone, iPod touch and iPad last-minute, mobile-exclusive deals at various hotels to drive bookings.

Available on the App Store, travelers can use the application to book a hotel room using their mobile devices as late as 2 a.m. The application saves users’ credit card information to enable in-application reservations.

“We have been in the hotel deal space for years, having started the successful travel deal search engine,” said Sam Shank, cofounder/CEO of DealBase Corp., San Francisco. “Mobile became a platform shift too big to ignore, so we started thinking about the ultimate tool to find hotel deals on a mobile device.

“By focusing on what mobile does better than a PC—booking in the moment—we solidified a product vision around helping people book same-day deals on-the-go,” he said. “We were emboldened when we looked at the market-leading hotel booking apps, mostly produced by large online travel companies, which we feel are deficient in many ways.

“By building our product from the ground up, specifically for mobile, with no legacy systems or cumbersome business models, we are excited to bring the category-defining product to the market.”

HotelTonight was founded by Mr. Shank, an entrepreneur who launched online travel startups and, and Jared Simon, a founding team member of Orbitz’ hotel category. They felt there was an opportunity to focus on what mobile could do better than any travel Web site – book a last-minute hotel room on the go.

Mobile deals drive commerce
HotelTonight is working with more than 70 hotel partners to offer last-minute deals targeting business and leisure travelers, and locals.

The application’s target market is consumers ages 25-40, urban, tech-savvy early-adopters who have discriminating, up-market tastes, but appreciate a good value.

Hotel partners include The Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, Hotel Vitale in San Francisco, Dream New York, dana Hotel and Spa in Chicago, Donovan House in Washington and the Copley Square Hotel in Boston.

Every day at noon local time, HotelTonight releases three featured hotel deals for that night – one hip, one elegant and one basic – in each of the six cities it currently supports: Chicago, Boston, Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Users can then book a room using the HotelTonight application on their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.

Each hotel profile includes facts and photos that help customers decide if the hotel is a good fit.

HotelTonight features mobile-optimized photos of the hotel bar, lobby, guest rooms and inside the mini bar.

In addition, the application lists details such as what kind of crowd tends to frequent the hotel bar; location details and public transportation routes, late-night food and drink options and whether or not there is free Wi-Fi, gym access or complimentary breakfast in the morning.

When DealBase started developing HotelTonight last September, Mr. Shank challenged his team to deliver the easiest, fastest way to book a hotel in the world.

“Working backwards from this goal, we quickly realized that linking to individual hotel websites wasn’t going to result in the high quality customer experience we wanted to bring to the market,” Mr. Shank said.

“Not only would a link-out strategy require a customer to re-enter information for each booking, but many hotel Web sites simply are not usable on smartphones,” he said.

“Having an in-app payment option that securely charges a customer’s credit card enables us to deliver the fastest way to book a hotel in the world – our record time is under 10 seconds.”

When the application is first downloaded, users automatically get $25 in credit towards their first hotel booking, and they can earn an additional $25 in credit for each friend they refer to HotelTonight.

In addition to generating word-of-mouth viral spread, DealBase is working with a number of mobile ad networks to drive awareness and downloads, as well as using some offline marketing tactics.

“We are experimenting like mad with some emerging, innovative mobile marketing channels and, as a small company, have the nimbleness to double-down on whatever yields positive results,” Mr. Shank said.

Final Take