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Last-minute hotel apps? personalization rings true for mobile users: report

A report from Key Lime Interactive reveals that travel and hospitality marketers with mobile applications must offer a personalized experience, loyalty program integration and last-minute deals to ensure a streamlined shopping process and maintain coveted space on consumers? smartphones as competition grows.

According to Key Lime Interactive?s in-progress Competitive Index report for last-minute hotel apps, mobile booking has gained significant traction among travelers, most notably in the last two years. Key Lime?s study is focusing on common trends and differences found within 16 top last-minute travel apps, such as Booking.com and HotelTonight, and has pinpointed the requisite tools needed for marketers to attract more customers.

?[Two necessary features are] how quickly it happens and how personalized the experience is,? said Dana Bishop, director of quantitative research at Key Lime Interactive, Doral, FL. ?Also, serving up results that are very targeted and give you some options in how to sort them and make it easy to identify something that?s going to meet your needs.

?There is a mindset that if you do anything last-minute, it?s going to cost you an arm and a leg,? she said. ?In our current culture of impulsivity, people don?t want to be penalized for that.

?Mobile-only last-minute deals have become more prominent. Transparency to users is definitely important in that area.?

Catering to user preferences
Key Lime?s study, which collects data from a variety of mobile apps as well as smartphone owners, asks participants about app usage as well as specific capabilities and features they consider most useful when booking a hotel. After apps? individual differences and functions are reviewed, the information is then analyzed alongside consumer preferences.

One commonality that Key Lime discovered was that several booking apps had an automatic default to last-minute options, even if users did not ask for it.

?Many of the apps, if not all, default when searching from a mobile device to ?nearby? and ?tonight,? which is an interesting trend,? Ms. Bishop said. ?It?s making the assumption that you?re going to be looking for a hotel tonight, and nearby.?

Several marketers were tapped as frontrunners in the industry in terms of easy-to-use mobile interfaces and features. HotelTonight offers useful, summarized information to consumers, while Booking.com brings customers through three different screens when setting up personal preferences.

The first screen asks for ideal price range, followed by number of guests and must-have room amenities. It also enables users to set up their credit card information up front, so that even the first booking is one-step process.

Meanwhile, Last Minute Travel Deals is unique in the sense that it aggregates user-generated reviews and photos from TripAdvisor.

Another app, Room 77, allows users to input their loyalty program memberships into their personal profile so that the information will affect which hotels it offers in the search results. This may be a feature that other third-party hotel marketers should keep track of, as customers may be more likely to book with a hotel chain with which they can receive additional rewards points.

Hotels? mobile futures
As more hotel brands roll out applications for the Apple Watch and other smartwatches, the wearables market continues to be an evolving space to watch, especially as features such as keyless room entry and mobile check-in gain traction with consumers.

?We?re very interested in watching wearables,? Ms. Bishop said.

Additionally, as the number of last-minute booking applications grows, travel marketers may need to adopt newer technologies such as Apple Pay and Touch ID to offer streamlined in-app payment options and remain competitive (see story).

?I think that?s an obvious next step and is something that is going to get incorporated more,? Ms. Bishop said. ?I?m not sure that we?re there yet, but I think it?s the next obvious, logical step.

?Most apps are focused on entering credit card information and saving it as the time-saver. Obviously, that mobile payments aspect is on the horizon.?

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