Orbitz Lets Users Resume Searches Across Devices

Online travel agencies were among the first Web businesses to feel the full impact of the consumer migration to mobile as customers began using their devices throughout the travel process from planning and booking to while traveling.

For Orbitz Worldwide, one of the companies at the forefront of that change, mobile has become a core part of its businesses, integrated closely with its broader digital marketing and e-commerce operations. On the back-end, Orbitz now has seven mobile development teams staffed by a total of 75 developers.

Speaking at MediaPost’s Mobile Insider Summit in Lake Tahoe on Tuesday, Megan Hughes, director of product, mobile at Orbitz, offered some insight into how the company is adapting to the mobile shift. She noted, for example, that a third of hotel bookings now take place via mobile—across its branded apps and mobile and tablet Web sites—compared to only 3% in 2010, when it began building out its mobile operations in earnest.

Among hotel bookings, 65% are same-day, compared to only about 15% on the desktop, providing further evidence that travel bookings in mobile skew toward last-minute purchases rather than ones made far in advance. Among customers who aren’t yet booking via mobile, 75% plan to do so soon, up 36% from last year, according to a recent Orbitz survey.

To create a more consistent experience across screens, Orbitz has recently begun rolling out a responsive design approach across its desktop and mobile sites. “Not that many Web pages today are fully responsive, but it is the direction we’re moving to really take advantage of the changes we’re seeing.” It’s also making its apps responsive across phones and tablets.

In the last two months, Orbitz has gotten more active in push messaging, as well. On that front, it’s integrated flight status alerts into Google Now, Google’s virtual assistant app, as well as into native Android and iOS messaging services. Beyond that, the ability to get flight updates has also been integrated with social sharing through sites like Facebook.

With customers often switching between desktop and mobile devices as they plan travel, Orbitz has also taken steps to be to cater to that behavior. To that end, it has started syncing recent user searches across its properties across devices so a user can pick up on one device where they left off on another.

“So if you’re doing a search home on your iPad, you get to work the next day, you go on to the Orbitz desktop site, and you’ll see the searches you did the previous night,” she told the Mobile Insider audience.

Oribitz also pulls in a dynamic background image of the last site someone searched, “just to carry that inspiration throughout the booking process.” At the same time, she noted that tracking cross-device behavior and attribution remains a challenge. “We know that our consumers are switching between different devices, and we know when they came in through a marketing channel to the mobile Web and made a booking, but it’s not all getting tracked back,” she said.

Another challenge arising from the mobile shift is playing catch up on advertising within its apps as traffic moves increasingly from desktop to smartphones and tablets. While increased mobile bookings are welcome, display advertising hasn’t caught up with the surge in mobile use.

“All the traffic that was getting impressions on desktop is moving over to mobile,” she said. “How do we create great monetization opportunities in the app and the mobile Web site that actually are actually a great consumer experiences?”

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1 comment about "Orbitz Lets Users Resume Searches Across Devices".
  1. Jorge Ortiz from Precision Market Insights from Verizon , August 21, 2014 at 3:02 p.m.
    Excellent examples of forward thinking using the mobile channel in many different capacities. Interested in seeing an update in a few months from Orbitz and others that I'm sure will follow suit.