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One Night: A last-minute booking app built for boutique hotels, by a boutique hotel

Earlier this year, The Standard Hotels launched its own last-minute app called One Night Standard, allowing fans to book available rooms for same-night stays at their properties. The venture proved a big hit, so much so that The Standard is now launching another last-minute booking app called One Night. But this time around, it’ll also feature a carefully chosen selection of independent hotels outside the Standard brand.

After 3 p.m. each day, users can log in to the app and begin browsing nearby hotels with rooms available that same night. Once a property has been selected, the booking can then be completed with just one button.

A genuine rival to HotelTonight?

One Night is a hotel booking app with big aspirations. At launch, it will feature a carefully curated selection of hotels in Los Angeles and New York City. But there are already plans in place to expand to a further five locations. Long-term, the intention is to compete on the level of HotelTonight.

If successful, One Night could well represent another way forward for independent hotels—a viable distribution channel that offers an alternative to an increasing reliance on OTAs for booking revenue. The big question is, can it really compete in an already crowded last-minute booking space?

A new approach to last-minute bookings

The last-minute hotel booking trend is booming right now. Following the launch of HotelTonight back in 2010, OTAs such as Booking.com, Priceline and Expedia have bolstered their own same-day and mobile offers, tapping into a lucrative area of growth.

One Night represents the hotel industry’s first foray into the last-minute market, except their brand proposition is uniquely different. In stark contrast to major booking sites, the app replaces the traditional price-comparison format with an experience-comparison format.

Instead of targeting travelers looking for deals, the app is deliberately designed to capture the mood of those spur-of-the-moment decisions with a focus on a feeling of spontaneity.

All about the experience

Last-minute booking on One Night app

Room rates aren’t prominently displayed on One Night. In fact, users need to swipe away from the homepage to find them. The decision to push price out of the initial browsing process is part of an intention by the app’s creators to change the way people search for hotels.

When you log into the app, each property has a series of beautiful images that emphasize their unique features and design. In addition, an hour-by-hour guide provides a series of suggestions on things to do and see in the hotel’s surrounding neighborhood.

The whole look and feel immediately promotes a different way of browsing for hotels. Instead of deals, discounts, and urgency-based messaging that the OTAs use, users are encouraged to take their time and get a true sense of the hotels they’re looking at.

Has the importance of price been overvalued?

The way price has been deemphasized on the app clearly sets One Night apart in the last-minute booking space, and it could well prove a smart move for that reason alone.

The emphasis on experience also feels more closely aligned with the spirit of spontaneity, which in itself is often less concerned with price and reasoned judgement. Arguably, reminding customers about room rates could even end up dampening an initially carefree and impulsive attitude.

There’s no doubt that travelers remain price-conscious, but it’s important to note that many will stretch their budget to secure the right hotel. In fact, a study into traveler reviews found that 76% of people will pay more for a hotel with higher review scores.

Potentially, this experiential focus could also pave the way for improving overall guest satisfaction. Reducing the relevance of price in the booking process will invariably lead to decisions being made by factors that directly contribute to the quality of the actual experience such as the hotel’s amenities, design concept and overall brand vibe.

Instead of hurriedly rushing to secure a room before a too-good-to-miss deal ends, the One Night format encourages users to take a more considered approach, weighing up the merit and overall suitability of a hotel.

Building loyalty among younger travelers

Chain hotels are nowhere to be seen on One Night. Instead, the app features a thoughtfully chosen collection of independent and boutique properties, each selected for their shared approach to design and lifestyle-driven philosophy. Current hotels on the app include properties such as Refinery Hotel and The Wythe in New York, and Palihouse and Sparrows Lodge in southern California.

This decision to be discerning is yet another way One Night sets itself apart from the competition, and it’s likely to engender particular loyalty among millennial travelers. As a generation known for seeking out authentic experiences, the whole premise of celebrating individuality and experience will undoubtedly strike a chord.

The app’s brand messaging is also designed to encourage spontaneity, and this again will likely chime with younger travelers that frequently rely on mobile apps to make quick decisions on the move.

While the last-minute trend is a cross-generational trend, it’s still one that millennials are most engaged with. In a survey by Priceline, 73% of millennials said they were likely to take a last-minute vacation during the year, compared with 58% of all respondents’ surveyed.

Attracting a local audience

One Night Standard reports that 60% of its user base is locally based, and that many of the bookings have come from loyal fans making spontaneous bookings for special occasions or late nights at work.

With a relatively small collection of properties in Los Angeles and New York City, it’s likely that One Night will also develop a significantly local base. If successful, the app represents an opportunity for independent and boutique hotels to reach a new and valuable audience. Not only are local users less price-driven and more experience-focused, but they are also more likely to take advantage of the property even when they are not staying overnight—for example, to visit the hotel bar or dine at the hotel restaurant.

As well as enabling hotels to better showcase their property through an image-rich format, the addition of the app’s hour-by-hour guide will also undoubtedly appeal to last-minute bookers seeking a new experience in their own city.

Shared customer data

Hotels will also receive customer data from One Night, giving them the ability to engage with guests leading up to their arrival. This is in contrast to standard OTA practice where customer contact details are rarely shared with the hotel following an OTA booking.

While the window of opportunity is shorter than normal, hotels will at least be able to send a welcome email to guests thanking them for their booking. But hotels may choose to go further, embracing their guests’ last-minute mindset by offering to make restaurant reservations or book theatre tickets for that evening.

A sign of the times ahead

The fact that One Night was launched by a hotel is a clear sign that the industry is trying to innovate and break free from the grip of the OTAs. If successful, it could prove a defining moment in the industry.

Hotels are becoming increasingly reliant on bookings from OTAs, which involves paying hefty commission fees each time. While One Night takes a booking fee for every transaction, the company has stated this will be lower than the major booking sites, which means it offers a new distribution channel with greater potential for increased profitability.

In any case, it’s likely that this new business model will be the first of many as the hotel industry seeks to find new channels to lessen its dependency on OTAs.

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