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How we helped Expedia add value to the holiday booking experience

The business challenge

Expedia was looking for a way to stand out in a price-led market and were keen that the solution should reflect their challenger brand mentality – by using technology to make booking a trip better for their customers. They asked ais London to develop a product that would deliver value to a travel audience and impress their network affiliate partners sufficiently for them to feature the new functionality on their own travel sites.

The solution

Through user research, we found our audience were an inquisitive bunch. They didn’t trust official pictures or reviews. They were a little savvier, valuing third-party comment and images to validate their choice of hotel. Facilitating this kind of search seemed like a great way to show Expedia’s confidence in their range of hotels.
So we gave Expedia bookers the chance to see hotels without the ‘brochure sheen’, and even explore the surrounding area in a world-first Google Maps mash-up: Expedia Hotel View.

The development had a number of key challenges, the biggest of which was how to map Expedia data onto Google Map/Street View to allow users to search and return hotels. Our technical team decided to use the Expedia hotels geographical co-ordinates and the Haversine formula (sounds a bit like a spy thriller) to compute the Great Circle distance between two points. A stored procedure in the database would then return a list of the 50 closest hotels.

When viewing a hotel in Hotel View, users can browse live booking, review, and rating information. Should they be unimpressed, they can wander down the street or jump to local hotel markers to assess their options. As they ‘wander the streets’, their view updates to show other hotel options in the surrounding area.

Expedia Hotel View is a localised application available in US and UK English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, across USD, GBP and the euro.

We delivered Expedia promotional assets (featuring an innovative in-banner search) and suddenly found we had a conference of affiliate bigwigs from Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the US interested in taking the technology for themselves.They saw the value in the customisable aspect of the banners, but also wanted association with this technological innovation.

The results

Hotel View is now used in 15 European territories and clearly shows how Google Street View functionality can be successfully integrated into a brand campaign. To top it off, Google now uses it as a ‘best use’ example of what can be done with Street View.