This morning HotelTonight released a major update to its Apple and Android apps for last-minute hotel bookings, adding new tools to personalise the experience with Netflix-style recommendations.
The update finally reveals -- and makes use of -- the user ratings of hotels that the San Francisco startup has been collecting for many months.
Personalized hotel suggestions
Over 18 months, HotelTonight has received a lot of ratings of the hotels it lists for 50 cities, and the company is now capitalising on that information by delivering recommendations that are tailored to reflect the past purchase behaviour of each user.
Up until now, users opening the app would have seen on the first screen three hotels at their destination, called Impulse Deals.
Version 4 of the app makes a change, adding into the mix dynamically generated lodging options that include hotels that are truly close to where the user is standing, properties liked by similar HotelTonight bookers, and places the user has stayed at before and rated highly.
In any given mid-size city, 20 hotels may be competing for the three featured spots on the opening screen, which will attract the most interest from mobile customers booking on the fly.
Personalization allows a couple of possibly more relevant hotels to appear on the first page of search results without compromising the app's signature service of curating options and simplifying choice.
Getting back to hotel reviews roots
This update takes Sam Shank, co-founder and CEO, back to his stint at TravelPost, a company that aimed to compete with TripAdvisor by surfacing and promoting online hotel reviews that were deserving of merit. TravelPost failed in its challenge.
HotelTonight's ratings are verified to an extent that reviews on TripAdvisor aren't, given that only people who have booked through the app can post reviews.
Some hotels on the app have more than 1,000 ratings, allowing users to have a quick gauge of mass opinion.
Other user experience tweaks to the app
As a mobile-only company, HotelTonight has the luxury of designing its entire system for smartphones and tablets only, without having to worry about legacy issues or design cues for desktop interfaces.
The mobile-only mandate gives the company's developers time to focus on adjusting the little details that can drive mobile users nuts.
For instance, the Android app update organises the drop-down list of cities to choose from into groups for US, Canada, and the UK, so that London doesn't come in the middle of a list of, say, Canadian cities.
The Android version also has enhanced swipe navigation and better support for Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean devices.
The app has also streamlined the process for booking a multi-night stay in a single booking. Previously, it required an annoying number of steps to execute a multi-night reservation.
This move brings it into line with rival apps from Priceline and Travelocity's LastMinute.com.
The 18-month-old startup recently announced that its app has been downloaded more three million times.
The company has inventory in more than 50 markets -- about one-third of the markets covered by Priceline's comparable app.
HotelTonight says it has inventory with luxury hotels chains, such as Ace, Joie de Vivre, and Thompson, that provide a level of pricing and last-minute room availability not available through the legacy online travel agencies.