June 30, 2010, 4:18 PM

Marriott books sales with an upgraded mobile site

Marriott's customers like booking rooms via their smartphones.

Lead Photo

Marriott International Inc. knows its customer like booking rooms via their smartphones. They are telling the hotel chain loud and clear with their dollars. Marriott upgraded its m-commerce site to enable customers to make reservations and use their Marriott Rewards points, and many travelers are doing both. The upgraded site, launched in August 2008, did $34.6 million in gross annual revenue in its first year.

And there’s no slowdown in sight, says Kyra Hicks, director, online sales programs, for Marriott. She expects high double-digit growth in mobile sales this year.

While Marriott has had a pared-down mobile site offering a basic hotel directory since 2005, the new site enables travelers to book at any of Marriott’s 13 chains and 3,000 global hotels. Consumers have the ability to book from their phones in 200 countries, and Marriott has secured mobile booking from customers spanning 100 nations.

Marriott chose m-commerce technology vendor Usablenet Inc. to build and maintain the site, which took about two months to create, Hicks says. Usablenet has built m-commerce sites for such retailers as Vitacost.com Inc. and OfficeMax Inc. Consumers don’t need to know a special URL for the mobile site—entering www.marriott.com into a mobile browser automatically redirects them to the mobile-optimized site.

Part of the reason the hotel chain went with a mobile booking site before an app was because Marriott could optimize an m-commerce site for thousands of types of handsets, including those popular in Europe and Asia as well as in North America, Hicks says.

Her team also decided to hold off on apps so it could analyze data on who was visiting the site and the handsets they were using, then create apps for the most popular smartphones, Hicks says. That data has led Marriott to first go with an app for the BlackBerry, a phone favored by many business executives over  Apple Inc.’s consumer-oriented iPhone. The upcoming app will work with the BlackBerry Curve, Bold and Storm, Hicks says.

Until Marriott puts the finishing touches on its BlackBerry app, consumers with a web-enabled phone will continue to be able to book through their mobile browsers. Many have already at least checked out the new site. Marriott mobile ranked No. 14 for unique visitors to mobile travel sites in February with 591,000 unique visitors, according to web measurement firm Nielsen Online. And it ranked No. 1 among mobile hotel sites, beating out competing chains Starwood Hotels and Hilton.


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