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Hotwire’s new branding strategy reflects in revamped mobile apps

As part of a new branding strategy launched this month, Hotwire is supporting mobile users’  last-minute booking needs and desire for discounts in the latest update of its mobile applications.

The redesigned mobile suite now highlights the percent saved on each booking, and also include images of the hotel booked once confirmed. More than one third of Hotwire’s bookings occur via mobile and a large percentage is same-day.

“In general, it seems that travelers today feel more comfortable booking both on-the-go and at the last minute,” said a Hotwire exec.

“In fact, we’ve experienced a 60 percent year over year increase in mobile reservations. Plus, 70 percent of people who are using our mobile app to make their hotel reservation are doing so for same day arrivals.”

“In order to keep these customers happy, we’ve created an easy-to-use app that offers the speed they need to easily book—in as fast as 30 seconds— and complete access to our entire hotel inventory from virtually anywhere in the world.”

Enabling discovery
The new branding campaign, created with agency Tiny Rebellion, includes a new tagline, “Hotels. Deals. Happiness.”
The strategy also features two new TV ads.

The discount travel Web site spoke with Hotwire and non-Hotwire travelers to find out what is most important to them and learned it all comes back to the deal.

As such, Hotwire refreshed its iOS and Android apps to align with a new brand campaign launched on Tuesday, June 2, centered on the power of the deal. With that refresh comes a quicker, much sleeker and sophisticated experience for travelers with new app features including: maps on details and confirmation, photos on confirmation, deal messaging on details and confirmation, and a new home page.

The app enables logged-in users to book a room from the home screen within minimal physical output.

Similar to Priceline’s Express deals, Hotwire also shows discounted rates up-front in a specified city without revealing the identity of the hotel until after booking is completed. Moreover, users may search for a hotel and then view geo-localized rates by neighborhood instead of reading fluffy verbiage about given location rates.

The new visualization features requires only a tap on a chosen section for the user to be navigated to more details, exclusive of hotel name, such as the rate, the section of the city, whether it has free Wi-Fi or parking and the discount off published rates.

Tap again and users navigate to a “Book now” button, and they can enter their details or sign in to streamline the booking process.

Competing strategies
Rival Priceline also wants a bigger role throughout the travel experience and is building on its initial success in mobile with more contextually-relevant features, though its initiatives are increasingly moving away from viewing mobile solely for last-minute to everyday transactions (see story).

Building mobile services to support consumer search and discovery have proven effective for Priceline when intersecting maps and traditional list displays often found on desktop.

Although mobile is a highly last-minute platform, Priceline recognized that inventory for same-day bookings is constrained and instead of being a mobile-first company is instead adapting its business strategy around multiple channels or multiple engagement platforms. Because while it has strong engagement in procrastinated travel, a high percentage of people search and book from desktops.

Potential profit loss
Last-minute mobile deals have undoubtedly become a new distribution channel for hotels, with numerous startups prowling to capitalize on the trend.

While established players like HotelTonight are well-funded and constantly expanding, the market for same-day bookings is a niche market and not profitable or sufficient standalone.

Those who build last-minute capabilities upon an established system such as Hotwire will retain a better infrastructure, as many solo players aren’t ranked high in the app store.

“We’ve seen tremendous mobile growth and only expect this number to increase as more people adapt to using their mobile device,” a Hotwire exec said.

“Mobile is easy to use and with the wealth of apps out there, travelers can simply manage all aspects of their trip from the palm of their hand.”

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York