It's no longer enough for a travel brand to have an app and hope that convenience alone will lead to a booking. By not needing to input a credit card number to make a transaction, the freedom to make that last-minute booking just got expanded.
When Apple announced several months ago that Apple Pay would soon expedite how consumers made payments online and in stores, travel brands from ride-sharing companies to booking sites began integrating the near field communications technology.
With its roll out of Apple Pay last week, Priceline.com didn’t become the first booking site to integrate Apple Pay into a mobile app as HotelTonight did so in October. Priceline is certainly the biggest booking site to integrate the technology, though, and its marriage with Apple Pay signals a new era of on-the-go bookings leading to an even faster checkout process.
“Sixty-five percent of our customers are booking less than 24 hours in advance,” said John Caine, Priceline.com’s chief product officer. “They’re likely already in the city where they’re staying. One of the biggest hurdles is figuring out that credit card.”
Priceline.com is using Apple Pay for customers seeking to book an Express Deal, where you know the hotel rate but not the hotel’s identity up-front “with a single touch via Touch ID on their iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3,” Priceline.com states. “The new app will allow Handoff from mobile device and desktop to facilitate multi-screen engagement.”
On Priceline.com, customers can book an Express Deal via Apple Pay navigating through three screens instead of five, Priceline.com states.
An obvious obstacle to on-the-go booking is a guest not having his or her preferred credit handy or the awkwardness in filling in credit card card information on a small-screen device to complete a purchase. With Apple Pay, this obstacle is removed, and the transaction is fast-tracked, skipping verification steps taking precious seconds many travelers don’t have.
In stores this streamlined process can take place using NFC-enabled devices at checkout that users tap with their phones. Online, Apple Pay involves adding a credit card to the Apple Pay system. The actual card number is not stored on the device nor on Apple servers. Instead, a unique device account number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the secure element on a device. Each transaction is authorized with a one-time unique security code, instead of using the security code from the back of a card.
“Our mobile users are twice as likely to try a payment method other than credit card compared to our desktop users and we saw our iPhone customers as being a great target,” said Caine.
Priceline.com’s updated iOS 8 app is also available for iPad users, though Caine said smartphones yield more bookings for the site.
“On the iPad, we see the tale of two searchers,” said Caine. “We see a lot of short-term purchases, but then we also see a lot of searches that are a lot further in the future, often 30 days out. We would like to offer a complete experience regardless of what platform they’re coming to us on. For us it wasn’t a question of ‘Do we need to roll this out across other platforms’? It was really a question of where we will start.”
Apple Pay may be the new shiny toy merchants want at their checkout registers and on apps, but it’s not the only NFC tech available to consumers. Priceline.com also uses Google Wallet and is “thrilled” so far with the success it’s seen from Android customers using it.
“Our customers who use Google Wallet are converting to purchases 64% more than those not signed in as a guests using a Google user name,” said Caine. “This shows that our customers validate it. We’re able to take a very complex process able to make it much simpler. Priceline is happy to support technology that’s more secure.”
OpenTable, acquired by the Priceline Group earlier this year, also has Apple Pay integrated into its app, and Caine couldn’t comment on other brands under the company’s umbrella making plans to launch Apple Pay.
“With OpenTable, paying at a restaurant is one of the most awkward concepts and Apple Pay makes that a lot easier,” said Caine. “I do believe that we are now at a point where we’re going ahead of credit cards, mobile-enabled payments are the absolute future.”
Other brands with Apple Pay on their apps include Airbnb, Groupon, Walt Disney World, Uber and Lyft. Stayful plans to launch it this week.
Photo credit: Someone using NFC-based Apple Pay make a transaction. Apple