By John Kim and Aman Bhutani
The status quo of searching for travel products is unnatural. And it’s getting harder. Today, with the release of our new Expedia App for iPad and Android tablets, we’re changing the way people will discover, plan and book trips on tablet devices.
Here at Expedia, we study the travel planning process carefully. To start, potential travelers search four to five different destinations in a given session. They’ll then search for photos and possible activities. After they’ve settled on a destination, they’ll search for flights and hotels and possibly car and ground transportation. This process is cumbersome because each phase requires so many steps. Looking for flights alone can take up to 48 searches before consumers find one they’re happy with.
As we started thinking about the new tablet experience, we wanted to build a product that complemented how users engaged with tablets and set out to make our app the starting point for travel inspiration. We wanted to build an experience that was aligned with how users think about their trips holistically while giving them the power tools (like filters) that they’ve come to grow and love on desktop.
Despite technological advances, travel planning has become increasingly difficult. Customers are conducting more searches across more devices and not getting to their destination (or booking) any faster. Rather than force users down a specific path to look at hotels or flights separately, we wanted to provide them with a more holistic way of planning their trip.
We believe that people are ready to discover and experience travel in a more connected way. Let’s take a closer look at the two big bets we’ve made in creating an easier — and better — way to explore and book travel.
The tablet is inherently a browsing device. It is as much about entertainment as it is about utility. With that in mind, we wanted to build an experience that allows users to begin exploring as quickly as possible.
Most travel sites and apps today, however, require a lot of information before a search can even be processed. Where do you want to go? When do you want to go? Are others traveling with you? Do you want to look at just flights, just hotels or both hotels and flights?
For the mindset of a person on the couch, this barrage of questions is intimidating. Our solution to this problem? A single search box.
Upon first interaction with our app, the experience should be super easy, starting with our launch screen. To optimize for mobile exploration, we removed all the upfront questions that users typically need to answer. By limiting the questions to just one, we believe it is easier to jump right in so they can quickly begin browsing.
For those who want more inspiration, we also feature travel collections with a wide variety of recommendations based on different interests and seasonality.
Nearly every single travel site today forces users down a linear path to purchase individual components of a trip. With federated search, we’re aiming to bring users back to one focal point — the trip, not its parts.
The process of shopping for flights and hotels is the most time consuming and least fun part of planning a vacation. Consumers want to be inspired and engaged, not forced to fill out a questionnaire and be subsequently overwhelmed by endless pages of results.
As most customers on tablets are in the research phase of their trip planning, the ability to see flights and hotels side by side is more conducive to exploring options. While some locations may boast cheap hotels, flying there may be costly or vice versa.
By displaying these results together, we’re helping travelers realize unexpected information to aid them in choosing where they go. The ability to see prices across destinations is a prime example of why combined flight and hotel search is helpful, particularly in a tablet experience.
This type of experience is not ready for desktop. Because hotel search results generate more quickly, consumers would notice a delay in flight results on desktop when done side by side. However, because the tablet app is built on a different layer of software than websites, we can make the wait time feel minimal. With tablet, we have the opportunity to attack problems that we can’t on desktop sites.
Our Vision: Make It Simple
Regardless of whether you’re exploring or booking, we hope you enjoy your experience with our new app. We’ve made a concerted effort in bringing a trip back together in a more natural and beautiful way.
By implementing features that no one else in the industry is yet doing, our hope is that our app is something you’ll want to invest your time in beyond just making flight and hotel reservations.
We’re on a mission to transform Expedia, whether it’s on our site or with our apps, into a place where users can start their travel planning or discover the trip they want to take. Tablet is our first step forward in achieving this goal.