Google is trying to make it easier for consumers to use their smartphones to directly book travel from a Google search. The tech giant announced that hotel and flight reservations now can be scheduled directly from a search result on mobile—without the user ever having to leave their results list.
Search results, Google noted, will include photos of hotels as well as ways to customize for dates and prices. Similar functionality is offered when booking flights—and according to Google, recent upgrades focused on making it easier for users to toggle more easily between flights and hotels with a new tab layout.
The new functionality is a continuation of Google's strategy to own travel. In December, the company added price tracking and deals to hotel search as it previously had done with flight search. Then, in January, Google started using artificial intelligence to predict flight delays before the airlines even send out notifications to customers.
Google also allows users to search for specific destinations with a variety of flight and hotel options to chose from. Improvements include the “more destinations” tab, which offers suggestions on nearby trips for that original destination. Google also chooses to highlight which trusted partners their users might want to stop with on the way.
“One of the things we keep finding when we look at user behavior and when we talk to travelers is that they bounce around from task to task, and we weren’t really making that very easy for people,” Eric Zimmerman, director of travel product management at Google, told PhocusWire.com. “And it was particularly annoying on mobile because you had to keep going to the Google search box to start over and type and tap, and that's just very tedious.”
Zimmerman said Google also realizes many people “come to Google with a pretty vague idea of where they want to go.” To make it easy for them to find inspiration, the “more destinations” option pulls in ideas through algorithms that curate options based on the user’s location, past behavior and popular themes such as sunny destinations or national parks.
Users will find that when they search for a flight on Google from their phone and tap on the link or the “more destinations” button, a “hotels” tab will appear at the top of the page. On that tab, users will see hotels for the destination of the flight with the same check-in and check-out dates as the arrival and departure. The same will happen when searching for a hotel first.
The Google “your trips" tab shows all of the tracked flights prices, previous trips and recommended destinations based on the recent search history. Only users can see these results, but they will have the ability to send the itinerary to friends and family right from “your trips.”
At the Phocuswright Conference this past November, Google's VP of Travel Oliver Heckmann spoke about the future of digital assistance and described a world where the Google assistant will become multimodal and live in multiple devices—from your watch to your phone to an assistant in your home.
Google, for example, is investing heavily to tie together user data across its products to enable the company to “own” the customer relationship with the traveler, beginning at the top of the funnel and throughout the traveler journey. It’s a complex task, but with thousands of engineers plugging away at the problem, Google is poised to be able to dominate the traveler experience, from beginning to end.