Premier Inn recently unveiled a new iPad app alongside a revamped iPhone version as it seeks to increase mobile sales and repeat bookings.
The hotel chain took more than 100,000 bookings through its iPhone app in 2012 and the updated version has already seen average daily sales conversions increase from 3% to 5.9%.
Designed by Grapple, the new apps feature improved navigation, redesigned booking function, Trip Advisor ratings, the ability to add extras such as breakfast, and a simplified process for booking repeat stays.
The iPhone app has been downloaded more than two million times since it was first launched in January 2011, so to find out what the fuss is about I tried out the new iPad version...
Search and navigation
The functionality of the app is fairly simple and the homepage only has two options – a search function and ‘My bookings’.
Searching for a hotel is straightforward though for some reason the GPS wouldn’t work, but that may have something to do with my iPad rather than the app.
The predictive search function could be improved – I typed in ‘Marlow’ and the predictive search options came up with ‘Mar Lodge’ and ‘Margate’. ‘Marlow’ was seventh option in the list.
But apart from that the search function is very easy to use, with results displayed on the left of the screen alongside a map of locations.
You can filter results based on distance, price and Trip Advisor rating, and clicking on a hotel brings up more information on top of the map view.
By swiping the hotel details you can access additional details, but to be honest I think the amount of information on each hotel is too limited.
It makes sense to offer a stripped down experience within an iPad app, but Premier Inn only gives a brief two-paragraph description of each hotel alongside a few symbols that detail the facilities.
Furthermore, though there is an image carousel on each hotel listing the user doesn’t have any control over it, so there’s no way to actively browse photos of each location.
This may be enough for business travellers who are just looking for a last minute place to stay, but I would think that leisure travellers might like to access more detailed information.
By way of comparison, Expedia’s iPad app gives a huge amount of information in each hotel and allows you to access several different photos of each location.
Obviously the use case is slightly different, as Premier Inn customers know the type of facilities that are available and aren’t shopping between the same diverse range of hotels that are available on Expedia.
Therefore Premier Inn doesn’t necessarily need to include the same in-depth information, but I think it would be a useful if it added additional images to its app.
Though the search page has a large, bright ‘Book’ call-to-action, the subsequent page gives limited instructions on the next stage of the process.
You can add a breakfast option but the CTA hardly jumps out at you, while the ‘Next’ button is given as much priority as the ‘Back’ button.
On the plus side, filling in your details is a quick and process and there’s also the option to create an account to make future bookings simpler.
The CTAs throughout the booking stage vary between bold, yellow boxes and faint arrows, which isn’t a major usability issue but personally I’d prefer if were more consistent.
Premier Inn’s new iPad app is very simple to use, which means it is perfect for business travellers looking to make frequent bookings.
I couldn’t test all the account options without first booking a hotel, but from what I’ve seen there aren’t any major obstacles or UX issues.
That said, as a leisure traveller I think it would be useful to have access to more images and a key to explain what some of the different logos mean. For example, what facility does the snowflake illustrate?
Furthermore, the booking process could be streamlined slightly with a few minor tweaks to the CTAs.
Overall though, the stripped down design and simple usability of the Premier Inn app makes it a really useful tool for business travellers.