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La Quinta Dials Up Mobile Reservations

Hotel chain makes it easier for guests to book stays while on the go. One of eight profiles of InformationWeek Elite 100 Business Innovation Award winners.

After studying guest behavior with mobile devices, La Quinta Inns & Suites came to the same conclusion about virtual keyboards on mobile devices as many other technology companies: Typing is bad for business.

The company’s research found that asking customers to enter long credit card numbers on mobile phones deterred many of them from completing reservations made through that channel. Its mobile conversion rate -- mobile visits to bookings -- was significantly lower than for customers using desktop browsers.

Yet the booking process at most major hotel chains requires a credit card number to reserve a room, so a cancellation fee can be charged if the customer cancels at a late date or fails to show up. An address may also be required, representing a further data-entry burden.

In 2012, La Quinta began an overhaul of its digital platform, which includes its booking system, its website, and its mobile technology. The goal was to provide a consistent customer experience across the Web, smartphones, and tablets. Mobile devices have become an increasingly important point of customer contact.

[For more InformationWeek Elite 100 coverage and a complete listing of the top 100 companies click here.]

In April 2012, the company began implementing its digital renovation plan. Its LQ Instant Hold system, rolled out to hotels gradually over several months, lets a guest make a reservation by entering a cellphone number. The reservation is immediately confirmed by text message and held for up to four hours, until the guest either calls the hotel to add a credit card number to the reservation or arrives.

A phone number is all it takes for mobile reservations at La Quinta.
A phone number is all it takes for mobile reservations at La Quinta.

This may seem like a minor improvement, switching from a 16-digit credit card number to a 10-digit mobile phone number, but smartphone keypads for dialing phone numbers accommodate touch data-entry better than cramped alphanumeric virtual keyboards. Plus, people can remember their phone numbers a whole lot easier than their credit card numbers.

In fact, LQ Instant Hold turned out to be a substantial improvement. In 2012, revenue from website bookings increased 11%. (The company, which was acquired by the Blackstone private equity firm in 2006, in February filed for an initial public offering.) Last year, LQ Instant Hold accounted for a significant portion of mobile bookings and helped increase bookings overall. Mobile conversions and customer brand perception also improved. La Quinta is seeking a patent for the technology.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
4/3/2014 | 5:15:34 PM
Re: Simple yet effective
This is an example of designing for the mobile device and its unique features, instead of translating a desktop experince to mobile. Phone dialing pads are big and easy to use, on-screen keyboards are hard, so go for easy.
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
4/2/2014 | 3:20:21 PM
Simple yet effective
The LQ Instant Hold feature that replaces CC # with phone # to hold a reservation is so simple yet effective for the hotel and the guest. The hotel reservation process can be clunky so it's good to see a less-is-more approach that works. Just as long as La Quinta doesn't use your number for telemarketing purposes later. 
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