December 13, 2011, 11:18 AM

Orbitz travels the m-commerce site redesign route

It also debuts Mobile Steals, offering mobile-only deals.

Lead Photo

The travel company has sped up navigating and browsing its m-commerce site.

Online travel company Orbitz has upped the ante once again on its mobile commerce web site, this time taking advantage of innate features of smartphones, enhancing the speed with which travelers can navigate and use the site, adding package deals and offering mobile-only discounts.

Orbitz now enables consumers to swipe through pictures of hotels. Swipe is a gesture generally associated with apps. But now, by using web programming language HTML5 in its redesign, it has enabled swipe on its m-commerce site. HTML5 allows programmers to makes sites behave more like their richer counterparts, apps, because the language can reach into a smartphone to gain access to built-in features and functions such as swiping and GPS.

The travel firm has also sped up browsing on the site. The mobile commerce site now uses the company’s in-house global online travel agency platform, which has been under development for a few years. The platform uses a page rendering framework, a web tool that enables fast creation of mobile web pages. When a consumer on a smartphone requests a page from Orbitz, be it the home page or search results or hotel details, the platform takes the content from the desktop page and funnels it through the page rendering framework, which instantly optimizes it for the mobile device. This is quicker, and easier to manage, than creating mobile-optimized pages for each desktop page and then redirecting consumers on mobile devices to those pages, says Chris Brown, vice president of product, who head m-commerce at Orbitz.

Shoppers on the m-commerce site now can access vacation packages. They can combine hotel rooms with airfares to access less expensive rates that are not offered when booking only one of the two. And Orbitz has introduced Mobile Steals, discounts on travel offered only to consumers accessing on smartphones or the iPad, or using one of the smartphone or iPad apps. The mobile-only rates are good for hotels in 50 cities worldwide.

“The mobile space is booming and we see opportunity growing rapidly and envisioned many better ways to serve our customers,” Brown says. “We’ve been getting data on what they are doing on the devices and learning how we can improve the experience.”

Orbitz launched its mobile site in 2006. The site offered information such as background on hotels; customers had to phone an agent to book travel. In 2007 it updated the site to include real-time information, such as airport wait times and traffic to and from airports. In 2010 it commerce-enabled the site, allowing customers to book flights, hotels and car rentals.

Mobile commerce is big for Orbitz at the last minute. 65% of hotel bookings are made the same day as arrival. Orbitz LLC is No. 12 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300.

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