American Marketer


Priceline study reveals changes in travel booking

September 8, 2010

Priceline's study shows that travel booking is changing.


Smartphone users are upscale when it comes to booking travel, according to a Priceline study.

Priceline sampled its Hotel and Rental Car Negotiator iPhone, iPad and iPod touch application activity over two weeks. According to the study, mobile consumers will wait until the last minute to book, often until once they arrived at their destination.

“Smartphone users are an upscale bunch,” said John Caine, senior vice president of Priceline, Norwalk, CT. “Our research shows that today's smartphone customers book more upscale hotels than Web customers.

“However, as smartphone growth continues to surge, this mix will change over time,” he said.

“What does that mean to a mobile marketer? Today's customer mix will undoubtedly change—and so the best mobile marketing strategy is to listen to your customers.”

The Priceline Group of Companies claims to be the global leader in online hotel bookings, with 61 million rooms reserved last year.

The company services 99 countries in 38 languages across North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Its affiliates include,, and TravelJigsaw.

Smart deals
Priceline’s findings validate an implication made by Jeffery H. Boyd, president of Priceline made last year, where he suggested that mobile devices may change the way consumers book their travel.

Mr. Caine’s advice to travel companies is to create new offerings or to adjust their technologies to address the changing needs of its community and to focus on the right-now and the nearby.

The Priceline study revealed several findings about mobile travel bookings.

“Ask yourself, ‘What does this customer need right now?’” he said. “In our business, that means offering the customer a great deal on a last-minute hotel just down the street.”

Travel companies need to be smart about location, according to Priceline.

“You never have to ask a mobile customer, ‘Where are you?’” Mr. Caine said. “Instead, start the conversation with ‘I see you are in New York City, here are some nearby hotels.’”

Suite finds
Priceline found that 82 percent of its consumers will book rooms within a day of arrival, in comparison to the 45 percent using the PC Web site Name Your Own Price.

Fifty-eight percent of mobile device consumers were within 20 miles of their hotel when booking and 35 percent were within one mile, meaning that they had likely arrived at their destination when booking arrangements.

Seventy-nine percent of mobile consumers made booked rooms for only one night, in comparison to the 62 percent of PC Web users.

Eighty-two percent of these consumers stayed in three star or higher hotels, while only 75 percent of non-mobile consumers stayed in hotels that are three stars or higher.

The study also revealed that marketers need to be selective about what they create and how they promote.

“Mobile users are often in motion and multitasking and doing it all on a tiny screen,” Mr. Caine said.

“The Priceline Web site offers dozens of filters to find the perfect hotel,” he said. “On the iPhone, however, we use only the two most common: popularity and star rating.”

Final Take
Kaitlyn Bonneville, editorial assistant at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York