Expedia reveals travel data platform ambition with revamped tablet app
The Expedia brand has teased a new tablet app for Android and iOS, revealing a strategic move towards a more cohesive tablet experience that is at once more browsable as well as more bookable than anything prior.
In the press event announcing the fall app release, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi outlined lofty ambitions for this new product in a multi-device world.
Expedia is moving from being a website to a travel data platform for the user wherever they are.
So you tell me what you’re interested in, and we’re going to tell you about your areas of interest: if prices change, if something sells out, etcetera. We’ll tell you every single time so that you don’t have to do all the work.
This move towards a travel data platform starts with the shift towards a tablet experience that offers flexibility and visual interest in the planning process.
The forthcoming Expedia app will allow travelers to compare pricing for flights and hotels directly, using the swipe gestures to mix and match options to test variables. The desire is to facilitate the perfect trip by adding some visual punch to the standard shopping experience, as Khosrowshahi emphasizes:
Travel is a sensual product, and yet travel shopping is about as industrial as you can get. So we want to create an experience that suits travel.
A three-column interface allows for this engaging and immersive experience, providing a much more robust set of variables at a user’s fingertips. The experience is heightened with smart interface additions such as the flight length represented by spacing between the airport codes (see middle column below; here’s how the app looks currently).
The killer feature here is simply that users can click to book after spending the time to mix-and-match the right itinerary together.
Another promising feature is Collections, a series of curated selections that users can shop and browse through in a more customized manner. Currently, these are the expected destination-based selections. However, the promise here is that Collections could be curated by brands, celebrities, and social media, offering a real-time view of how different communities are shopping or curating potential vacations.
This creates long-term engagement opportunities that will allow a deeper integration with curated content that drives not only conversions but repeated engagement with the app. Users could foreseeably log into the app regularly to see updated versions of their favorite Collections, and to engage with travel in a fairly novel way – for example, shared Scratchpads for group/couples trip planning.
The company’s overall direction is on pace for a significant strategic shift , as last year’s rollout of Scratchpad has allowed this sort of active management of specific cross-device travel searches.
After logging in, a user can save searches, hotels, and specific dates to the Scratchpad, and then opt-in to ongoing alerts relating to the saved search. This syncs across devices, allowing for stolen-moment searches to be brought back home for a more leisurely browsing experience.
Khosrowshahi sees the cross-device shopping experience as a new necessity for the industry.
Around 50% of our users are shopping across devices. With Scratchpad, there is an instantaneous transfer across devices. It’s a tipping point, and two years from now it’s a necessity; everyone will have to operate like this. It will be an expectation.
The tipping point we’re seeing is the move from a single device, pull experience – for example, searching for New York hotels on a PC and pulling the results down – to a cross-device reality. Mobile isn’t new but consumers expect a consistent experience across devices.
With the advent of push notifications, we’re seeing the potential to push relevant data and information to the consumer. We’re going from single device pull to cross-device push – and Expedia is making a big bet on this shift. We’re changing how we architect our services, and things like our tablet experience.
The new direction shares some similarities with sister brand Egencia, showing how the Expedia companies are able to deploy resources and share best practices across the corporate ecosystem. When asked by this reporter about comparisons between the new apps for both brands, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that these sorts of collaborations are important for the overall user experience:
[The brands] compare notes. The origin is quite similar, so with the Egencia and Expedia teams, they work together all the time. There’s also a little bit of a sibling rivalry.
One of the differences in the Egencia app is, because the customer is a frequent business traveler, they will start fairly early to log and show your travel tendencies. For example, if they see you picked a direct flight, they’ll have a direct flight button based on your behavior – a feature that’s unique to business travelers, whereas Collections is much more appropriate for leisure travelers.
It’s when inter-brand collaborations improve the overall user experience that everyone stands to benefit. Expedia’s newly positioned value proposition as a travel data platform offers plenty of opportunities to improve a traveler’s experience – and sell more travel – and this new tablet app certainly changes the narrative on how this company plans to deliver this increased value over the coming quarters.
NB: Author was a guest of Expedia at the San Francisco launch event.
NB2: Unlock data tablet image courtesy Shutterstock.
Nick Vivion is a writer and strategist. He was a Tnooz reporter and global events lead between August 2012 and July 2015. He was the launch co-founder of Booty's, a global street food restaurant in New Orleans and was recently AVP Operations, North America, at Zomato.