I’m in the middle of a three-week work vacation to Europe. I usually use Travelocity for booking airfare and hotels, but I found that a lot of boutique hotels in Europe were on Booking.com (which is in the Priceline.com family) and not Travelocity. A few “social” features of Booking.com really caught my attention. I am not sure if they are on Priceline, its parent company, or not. But they are on Booking, and used to great effect.
I’ll start by saying that over the last six to 10 years, everyone has tried to figure out how social networking could be harnessed for e-commerce. Generally, this has led to unimpressive “group shopping” functionality, or mundane “tell a friend” features. Booking.com takes an entirely different approach. Instead of trying to connect you with other people while you are shopping, the system simply lets you know what other people are doing in regards to the hotels you are viewing.
For example, take a look at this screen capture. On the top right of the screen, while I was viewing this hotel in Barcelona, a little notification popped up that the most recent booking for this hotel was made at 16:07 by someone in France.
Is that the most interesting thing in the world? Maybe not, but it does show me that this hotel is at least popular enough to have received a booking recently from this website. Over the course of my session, many other messages might pop up. If you look in the “My Viewed Hotels” area, you will see a note under the Bellagio: “There are 23 people looking at this hotel.” Other messages I’ve seen say things like “There is only one room left in this hotel,” or “Someone just reserved a room in this hotel and there are only 2 left.” These messages get your heart pumping and make you realize that if you don’t act now you might not be able to stay in the hotel of your choice.
While “People who bought this also bought that” technology has been around for a long time (I worked for a company that created some of this technology way back in 1997, and brought it to BarnesandNoble.com in 1999), Booking.com has taken this basic idea and turned it up a few notches. The standard “People who bought…” is informative and a great way to introduce new products to users. But it was never intended to turn a regular purchase into an “impulse buy.” I’m not sure an “impulse buy” is really the right term for what is happening here, but these features of Booking.com turn up the heat and the urgency to make a purchase quickly. The features are non-intrusive, interesting, and highly effective.
Looking at your company, how could you harness similar knowledge and display it to your users? Can you increase the urgency of a purchase the way Booking.com has, and get people to buy more quickly?
With a little creativity, you too can use the knowledge you already have about what people are doing on your site and create real-time notices to users that gently encourage them to add some urgency to their shopping process.
Questions, thoughts? Leave them below!
Until next time…
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