One of the main selling points of HotelTonight, the app that allows users to reserve hotel rooms for, yes, that very evening, is its simplicity. In most cities, you just see three hotels, each in a different category — “luxe,” “hip,” and “basic.” Some cities, like Las Vegas and New York, are subdivided into large neighborhoods, and you get three hotels per neighborhood. Today, however, those hotel lists will be expanding, thanks to personalized recommendations.
Co-founder and CEO Sam Shank tells me that on a given day, there are often 20 or 30 hotels competing for those three spots in a given city. At the same time, if you’re making a booking through the app, those three offers may not be ideal for you — for example, they might be in inconvenient locations. So personalization makes sense as a way to show more offers without overwhelming users with a giant list.
In the new version of the HotelTonight app, up to three personalized offers will appear below the main list. If you’re browsing quickly, it might all blur together, but the additional choices will actually be identified by short descriptors explaining why they were recommended to you. Those explanations include “liked by similar HT bookers,” “you stayed here and liked it,” and “a hotel closer to you.” HotelTonight might also just include an additional luxe or hip hotel.
Shank says HotelTonight might include more personalized features in the future. The results could be further personalized based on other “signals,” such as users’ social data — though he emphasizes HotelTonight would only use that data with a user’s consent. The app might also include more active forms of personalization, i.e., giving users a chance to say, “This is the type of thing I’d like to see.”
In addition to adding personalization, the app has added the ability to see user ratings. Shank says HotelTonight was already asking users whether or not they enjoyed their stay, and providing that data to hotels. It was also using the data for its own decisions — Shank estimates that HotelTonight has stopped working with around 10 hotels because their user ratings were too low. Now when you search for hotels, you can also see the user rating (and the number of votes that rating is based on) for each option. The average rating among HotelTonight’s partners is 91 percent, Shank says. You might think the consistently high scores might reduce the usefulness of the reviews, but he argues that the point isn’t to help users choose between different hotels, but instead to assure them that yes, other users have stayed at this hotel, and yes, they liked it.
The new app has also made it easier to specify how many nights you’re booking in your initial search, rather than asking for that information after you’re looking at an individual hotel.
The company announced last month that it has been downloaded 3 million times.