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A new foundation for our mobile app

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In part two of our mobile marketing series, Thijs van As, Director of Product – Mobile, takes you on a tour of the Booking.com app’s past, present improvements and bright future

The consumer shift from instinctively relying on desktop experiences to preferring mobile apps isn’t something that happened in just the last few years. Mobile app engagement has been steadily increasing since the iPhone first came out for both e-commerce and social apps. I’d like to show you how we’ve been improving the development process, and give you some insight into what you can expect as we invest even more into this vital part of our business. 

From ‘ancient’ history to a new foundation

When the iPhone was still new and our app was first released over a decade ago, it may have seemed like a side project at first – a new channel to get users into our funnel. But it has grown to become a valuable storefront. Today, mobile bookings, particularly through our apps, represent over half (60%) of our total room nights.

But in the beginning, we had only one small team building the app. Over the course of years, we realised two things: first, we needed an overarching strategy for our app as a dedicated storefront, and second, we needed a better way of working for our developers that would help them streamline and speed up the development process. We decided it was time to tighten the reins of standardisation and give our app the modernisation attention it deserved so it could become an even bigger part of our business. 

To that end, we created our App Core group, which functions horizontally to serve everyone who works on the app. They ensure that the app does what it should do, as well as ensuring our operational excellence. 

Take, for example, our Android app. Our customers rely on literally thousands of different Android devices, which means we must continually ensure our app works for every one of them. This comes with regular updates to our app – every week, practically – to make sure it all runs like a Swiss watch. This level of device diversity has led our App Core group even deeper into the data, monitoring usage in real time to see how many people are using our app and investigating any issues so our customers and partners never miss out on a booking. 

This group also has goals on the customer side to drive engagement from app users and increase long-term loyalty by building functionality that meets customer needs like helping them in the different stages of booking. They’re hard at work right now implementing new, consistent design standards to be used across the app. 

A seamless customer journey

Our teams have already identified areas of improvement that can both increase engagement and provide significant customer value:

  • Location-based opportunities – from having the accommodation confirmation number and address handy to helping guests get a ride back to your accommodation after a night out, helping customers based on their location is key.
  • Resuming the customer journey – most customers spend multiple days, or even weeks, before deciding where to book, so we aim to make it easier for them to bounce back and forth between desktop and mobile and resume their customer journey – particularly during ‘micro’ moments, like when sitting in a daily commute.
  • A better ‘home’ – millions of people land on the app home screen every day with a specific intent or reason, and we can make their experience more contextually relevant based on where they’re at in their journey. If we know their home base is London and they’re opening the app in Madrid and they’ve already booked a hotel, we can show them things to do or provide en-route directions.
  • Better ways to save and compare – accommodation bookers look at some properties many, many times before finally deciding to book, so we want to give them more ways to save, filter and compare. 

It’s worth noting that these mobile app improvements don’t come at the expense of desktop development. Whenever we make an improvement in mobile, it compels us to create parity in the desktop app so customers can rely on the new functionality no matter how they access us. In this way, it’s easy to see how important our mobile app has become not just for growing our business but for informing the path that our product growth takes. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working on successful and user-friendly apps in my career like Gmail and Google Maps, and I think our entire business should be proud of the recent marketing gains we reported. It’s especially impressive when you consider that these gains came during a time when unfortunately not many of us were able to travel. It points to a bright future for our app – and a bright future for the increased business we’ll be able to bring to our partners. 

 

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Takeaway
  • Over the past decade, Booking.com’s mobile app has steadily grown to become a valuable storefront
  • Our project to modernise the development and design of our app has led to more streamlined processes and encouraged us to build new functionality
  • Infrastructure and design improvements are helping us tackle new stages of the customer journey so our app can be a stronger real-time travel companion for users
  • As improvements roll on, look for updates to the app home screen, better ways to jump back into search and more features that will help customers while they’re on-the-go