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Priceline exec: 60pc of mobile users book a hotel within 20 miles

During the “Priceline: How Mobile Has Completely Upended Travel” session, the executive spoke about how smartphones and tablets have shifted  the company’s offerings. The session also presented some data about Priceline’s mobile users.

“Why would we ever build a mobile product that caters to those same needs of the desktop user?” said John Caine, chief product officer at Priceline, Norwalk, CT.

“We took that last-minute, local, late-night profile, and we’ve really positioned our whole mobile product offering to support that use case,” he said.

“So we know who you are, let’s give you an option to find a hotel that is very nearby. We know that you’re planning less, let’s give you last-minute discounts, so you can get a great deal at the very last minute.”

The Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2013 conference was organized by Mobile Commerce Daily.

Book on mobile
Since mobile often does not have a consumer’s full attention, marketers need to develop products that are streamlined and simple.

Priceline is increasingly thinking with a mobile-first mentality.

Mobile-first originally began as a theory and has evolved to a tangible set of tactics that can be used to influence a desktop strategy, per Mr. Caine.

For example, the company’s old desktop homepage design was not tablet-friendly.

Now, Priceline is testing new touch-friendly Web designs that are catered to tablet users.

Additionally, homepages are also being tested to target device-specific tablets.

Mr. Caine also revealed findings about Priceline’s mobile users.

Seventy percent of Priceline’s mobile hotel bookings are made for same-day or day-before arrival, according to Mr. Caine.

Mobile bookings also see a spike in weekend bookings and during the evening. Mobile travelers book most often after 5 p.m.

“These are people who are actively getting to their destination who suddenly say, ‘Oh shoot, I need a hotel,’” Mr. Caine said.

When it comes to platforms, desktop users plan more and tablet users research more for higher-end properties with longer stay times.

Smartphone users are split evenly across the major platforms and on mobile Web. The difference though is that app users repeat bookings and usage, and the mobile Web bookers are less common travelers.

Mobile bookers skew towards younger demographics. The average Priceline mobile booker is 32-years old, and the average desktop user is 38-years old.

Additionally, 43 percent of Priceline’s Tonight-only Deal users make their reservation while driving.

Streamlined payments
When it comes to driving mobile bookings, it is critical to have a streamlined check-out process.

When Priceline began offering mobile bookings in 2009, the company used a desktop check-out feature.

In 2010, Priceline streamlined the process to a native, three-step feature. As a result, mobile check-out improved by 4x.

The check-out process was again changed in 2012 to include one long check-out form to balance keeping the process simple and fast.

Even though the new process was lengthier, conversions did not change because consumers were more comfortable booking on their mobile devices in 2012 than they were in 2010.

Priceline has also tested an in-app feature that uses a device’s built-in camera to snap a picture of a credit card to let users store their cards.

However, Mr. Caine said that in testing, only 4 percent of consumers engaged with the app feature, and only 2 percent successfully completed check-outs with the feature.

Mobile is also increasingly playing a role in the company’s marketing.

Priceline is known for its spokesman – William Shatner.

However, the brand’s latest campaign features Kaley Cuoco, who is meant to show the United States that Priceline is tech-savvy by promoting the company’s mobile services, per Mr. Caine.

“What you’ll see is every touch point that we have with a customer, we are going to weave in — and have woven in — the mobile emphasis,” Mr. Caine said.

“So a lot of mobile devices will be shown in our offline advertising,” he said.

“Online we are aggressively playing in desktop search as well as mobile search. And we believe one of the best things we can do to market ourselves is producing amazing mobile products, so we’ve invested in our user experience and mobile feature set to continue to track that growing group.”

Final Take
John Caine is chief product officer at Priceline, Norwalk, CT