Expedia Morphs Itself Into A Travel Data Platform, With New Cross-Device Apps And Planning Tools

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In the days before the age of Airbnb, Kayak.com, Hipmunk, TripIt, and a slew of other travel-related services, there existed three dominant forces: Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia. They still remain in operation today, but much of the spotlight has been shone on the likes of Kayak and Airbnb, with the latter being defined as a “decacorn“, a startup that has reached the $10 billion valuation amount. But even with all of these best of breed type services, these legacy travel websites have persevered. Take Expedia for example — the company on Thursday announced the launch of a new effort to help revolutionize the travel industry across not only plane, hotel, and car reservations, but also among devices.

At a media event in San Francisco, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was on stage to share his company’s latest endeavor. Among his proclamations was the redefinition of Expedia. No longer would it consider itself to be a website, but rather it views itself as a “travel data platform”. This will be more apparent as we dive deeper into the three main announcements.

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Get ready to travel from any device

The first piece of news from Khosrowshahi was that Expedia would now be centered around a key trend in the travel business, specifically in how e-commerce is done. He said that while 50 percent of travel spend happens online, there’s a change taking place — it’s become more “evolutionary than revolutionary”. By that Khosrowshahi means that year-over-year, there’s not been any significant innovations in the industry. The landscape a year ago was the same five years ago. He believes that we’re at a tipping point where it’s time to move away from single pull devices. With this current paradigm, when you’re at a computer, you do your travel research, you’re telling the device what you want. It’s very isolated from all other Internet-connected devices you have. This doesn’t work in the current technology adoption landscape.

That being said, Expedia shared that now consumer travelers will be able to research and book their travels across PCs, mobile devices, and tablets through continuous sessions. So that means if you’ve started searching for travel options on your laptop, you can jump to your smartphone and resume where you left off. It’s all about understanding your travel behaviors and creating a streamlined experience — some people prefer to make their travel arrangements one way while other prefer a more traditional approach. No matter what, there’s one Expedia, not three versions across three devices. Khosrowshahi says not many retailers are connecting these experiences together and Expedia wants to be a leader here.

With cross-device options, Expedia is also implementing push notifications into its apps. With its native iOS and Android apps, consumers can receive all the relevant information about their travels, such as gate changes, flight delays, confirmation numbers, departure times, hotel reservations, car rental info, etc. without having to wait for an email. In most cases, Expedia suggests that push notifications would be faster than the email one. Push notifications can also be shared with other consumers who have the Expedia app, so that you can have the system ping your family via push if your flight is delayed or when you’ve arrived.

Organize your travel better

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In a study, Expedia discovered that the average consumer does 48 different searches on its platform before they even book a ticket. Another discovery was that these users often wanted to be able to search anytime and anywhere, but had a habit of writing down their findings, either on a piece of paper or in an application. Organizing one’s itinerary can be a difficult thing, especially as you’re trying to keep track of airfare, car rentals, nightly hotel room rates, etc. This was the basis of Expedia’s second announcement: the launch of Scratchpad.

Scratchpad is pretty much exactly what you might think: it’s a feature that will collect data from searches you run on Expedia, no matter whether it’s on the Web or on its mobile apps. It’s being billed as the “perfect memory app” for travel since it’s not a static piece of content. Rather, Scratchpad will update itself to provide you with the latest prices no matter when you look at the file. It will notify you if price changes, something sells out, and other travel updates occur.

Downsides here is that it’s only available on Web and on Expedia’s iPhone and Android apps, along with the fact that sharing is next to impossible … at least in this phase of its existence. I discovered that there’s no way to share via Google Drive, Evernote, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, or even get it as a PDF. The only feasible way to share would be to do a workaround: have your itinerary emailed to you and then forward it to your travel companions. Expedia says that simply adding a share feature isn’t necessarily cut and dry and it’s working on finding the right way to make it happen.

The new tablet experience is “sensual”

The last announcement from Khosrowshahi was that Expedia would be releasing a new tablet app soon. When specifically? Sometime in “the fall”. What makes this tablet app different is that it’s been reimagined so that it provides what Khosrowshahi calls a “sensual experience”. By that he means the app has a more lean back approach that offers a lot of utility. The soon-to-arrive app is very interactive, beautiful, and offers great transitions. Expedia looked at consumer behavior on tablets and wanted to think about planning the trip, not necessarily focused on the components of the trip.

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Expedia’s iOS and Android tablet app will know where you are automatically so that you just have to input your destination and it will show you the relevant hotel and flight information. There’s even a section called “Collections”, which could help give consumers some travel ideas. Personalization hasn’t been implemented into the app yet, but Expedia isn’t opposed to having the listings under “Collections” be more focused on your friends’ activities or other relevant data.

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While Scratchpad isn’t available on the tablet version (yet), Expedia assures me that the data is still captured and you can access it on the Web or on the smartphone app.

All your travel needs in one place

To wrap up Expedia’s announcements into a succinct point, it appears that the company is looking to consolidate all the resources you need to manage your travel experience. With many people clamoring on about the likes of HotelTonight, TripIt, Kayak, etc., Expedia believes that its service will definitely stand out from them. It’s going to give you context around your entire trip. Khosrowshahi suggested that while people use Google for flight searches, it’s not necessarily going to provide the best results, or even notifications. Why? Because Google wasn’t build just for travel — Expedia is. So while the best of breed services like Airbnb and HotelTonight are popular, they are viewed by Expedia as having tunnel vision — they’re only focused on one small part of the grand travel experience.

The latest version of Expedia’s app for smartphones is now available on iOS and Android. A Windows Phone version is said to be in the works now. The tablet version should be available in the fall. A wearable version is also being made available — the app for the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch is launching this week.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."