Wotif.com has soft-launched their new iPhone App yesterday by announcing its release to their 80,000 + friends on its Facebook Page.
Interestingly, Wotif were one of the market leaders in mobilising their consumer website and unlike its major Northern hemisphere competitors, held back on releasing a native mobile app...until now.
The strategy seems to have worked with Wotif maintaining a good chunk of the online accommodation booking space in Australia and New Zealand, turning over US$1.1 billion worth of bookings per year for the 10,000 accommodation providers in Australia and New Zealand and 7,000 in Southeast Asia listed on its site.
A quick test drive of the app quickly reveals that it is extremely user friendly and intuitive.
The user is prompted to either search properties in their immediate location or type in a location. While tapping in a location, the auto complete option will quickly prompt and land the user where they want to go. The check-in screen gives over-sized buttons that prompts the user to enter the date of check-in and number of nights.
The next screen takes the user to the property listing page that only displays properties with availability and ranked in order of quality. For New Zealand accommodation options presented, this will be a mixture of Qualmark star ratings (star icons) and property self ratings (circle icons).
From a customer perspective, displaying properties in quality order is the most logical and this is the default option, however the user can easily filter the results by ranking properties: "cheapest first" or by "hotel name."
On the property listing page, the user can quickly alternate between the property listings and a customisable map interface.
Once a property is selected, the property page displays a selection of pictures and usual property descriptions along with room types available.
The booking process is much like the familiar Wotif desktop website interface making it quick and easy for the customer to complete a reservation from their iPhone.
Wotif will be closely monitoring the immediate reaction from their Facebook community in order to iron out any immediate bugs before their app is announced via mainstream media.
From what I can see, it's a great app. There is no great ground-breaking new features that can't be found on other accommodation apps, however a lot of time has been spent getting the look and feel just right.
If Kiwi based accommodation apps are to compete head to head, they will need to dump the model of appeasing different stratas of property advertisers and shift their focus to the needs of the end user - studying Wotif's new app would be a good start...
After a long wait, the app should make it easy for Wotif's customer base with an iPhone to make an impromptu accommodation reservation in their living rooms, during television ad breaks while relaxing on the couch...