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Every travel brand engaged in mobile — and that should be all of them — should read about Booking.com’s big-picture vision for mobile. Hipmunk and Expedia are also going down this road, albeit to a lesser degree.
That’s the word from Darren Huston, the CEO of the Priceline Group who moonlights as CEO of its largest brand, Booking.com, as well.
Huston states that travel brands have to be relevant in mobile transactions, but he waxes poetic on how mobile bookings are not the most important piece of mobile for Booking.com.
“Much more importantly than a source of transactions, mobile is a chance to plumb the end-to-end user experience,” Huston says.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Internet conference June 3, Huston said of mobile: “In a way it increases the digital palette that we are painting against and it only increases the dimensions of opportunity for the relationship.”
What is Huston talking about? He’s arguing that mobile isn’t just about transactions, but is a way to win a direct customer and to engage them fully in a multi-device world.
And, this isn’t merely some grand vision, but it is something Booking.com is doing today.
Here’s Huston describing it all:
“Say you are looking for an accommodation on an iPad but then you book on a PC. But, then you show up at the hotel with your iPhone. All of that is plumbed to an account [a Booking.com user profile].
“That has dramatically increased account usage on our site, which makes our customers more direct. It has also increased the value proposition and the exchange we have with the customer.
“If you show up at the train station in Brussels, you pull up your electronic booking, you punch the map. It says here’s how you walk to your hotel, or do you want to drive or do you want to take public transit?
“Once you get to the hotel, now there are new features that automatically connect you to the Wi-Fi and allow you in your room to get concierge service.
“So I think of mobile in the short term as a positive to drive some bookings, but really in the longer term it is increasing our value to the customer that would be very difficult for an independent hotel to do.”
Huston says Booking.com has had the most success in mobile with its mobile sites, although he notes that its iTunes app has a 5-star rating.
He says Booking.com doesn’t chase app downloads. “The critical things with apps is are people actrually using your apps.”
On mobile transactions, Huston doesn’t see anything holy about them. He doesn’t believe in pushing users to book in any particular channel.
The vision is bigger than that.
Says Huston: “Let people book where they book and wire up those experiences.”