Monday, January 11, 2010

New Travelocity Deals Pages: Not Your Father's Travelocity

With apologies to Oldsmobile and hoping that our readers can even remember that nameplate, Travelocity has quietly (so far) launched a new deals section that is radically different from the current site. Building off the long dormant and under-utilized Experience Finder, the new Travel Deals "tool kit" section is pretty slick. A far cry from some aspects of the current user experience, these new tools put the consumer in the driver's seat with easy and well thought out features and functionality. However, the integration with the Travelocity mother-ship is nicely done so that the overall integrity of the site is maintained.

Travelocity has done a great job reinventing the age-old flight deals map. I'm an admitted map-geek so new mapping features are always fun to play with, especially when they are done well, which this is.

The new "Deals on a Map" page allows users to easily display recent airfare deals from their home city (which, in a first for Travelocity, actually uses auto-complete to help you input the city name!) to various clumps of destinations such as Ski, Florida, Hawaii, Europe or U.S. domestic.
Each destination is clearly shown with recent flight deals as well as, not surprisingly, the latest air+hotel package deals that Travelocity has put together. I say not surprisingly because, unlike stand-alone air, packages are highly profitable to Travelocity (and all OTAs.) As such, there are plenty of gentle hints to move users towards a package purchase such as only displaying the air+hotel pricing prior to zooming down to the hotel level.

The zoom feature (above) is great which allows users to drill down into a specific region and then into a city to see the latest pricing at the hotel level. Clicking on a specific hotel yields hotel-only pricing as well as a "community rating" (not quite sure what that means unless it is the standard Travelocity user rating) as well as the Travelocity star rating. Also included is a teeny, tiny photo that anyone who remembers driving an Oldsmobile Toronado will not be able to actually see.

Also part of the tool kit is a revamp of the deals page which is now easily reached from multiple places off the Travelocity home page. Given how price sensitive consumers have become these days, this is a great improvement in both functionality and placement.
Best of all, the new deals page finally puts the consumer in control of how they search and define what a deal is. Consumers today are constantly blasted with a bevy of "deals" many of which are not relevant to an individual consumer or, worse yet, not really even that much of a deal.

Travelocity's new page serves up some teaser deals but then allows the user to dive deep into various other promotions and sales that Travelocity has catalogued. Slick tool bars allow users to change destinations, dates and pricing. And, to keep us from going insane comparing all the different deals, there is a cool drag and drop feature that allows users to tag the deal while they look at other possibilities. Not to be left out of social media, Travelocity also allows these deals to be shared on Facebook and Twitter right from this page.

These new features go a long way to improving the consumer experience by exposing deals and then allowing users to make up their own minds about what constitutes a deal. We'd still like to see deals and flights searched in real time so I can input actual travel dates and then explore what options are out there for a specific time period. This would help answer the age-old problem of "I have a three day weekend coming up, I'm cheap and don't know where to go." Oh wait, wasn't that Site59?

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