I have been asked to have another look at ReadyRooms - Qantas' hotel only play designed to take on Australian online hotel behemoth Wotif.com. I had given ReadyRooms a hard time in the early days of the blog because the .com URL version points to the strangest landing page ever (at the very least it should redirect to the Australian version seamlessly). That criticism still stands as the problem still occurs. However I am prepared to re-look at the the site with fresh eyes.
Summary - There is clearly progress in product, functionality and features but I feel there is still an identity crisis at ReadyRooms. The site/business is stuck between the airline, the holiday division and the website owners. To be a success it needs to be allowed to come out from behind all three and operate as a independent business that can take advantage of the scale, size and reach of Qantas.com while being free to build its business, brands and products independently. In a position where it can attach this incredibly lucrative market with the same vigour of Wotif and HotelClub/RatesToGo in Australia and eventually Priceline, Venere, HRS, etc in Europe. Now that Qantas management is no longer distracted by 11 billion other things they can spend some time giving this business a little bit of focus and a little bit of freedom.
1. Big city content: Though the content/inventory is only Australia and NZ there seems to be a very good spread top level inventory in major cities. By that I mean chains (3-5 stars) and a few independents thrown in. I haven't done a full price comparison but the ad hoc checking shows that pricing is within reason compared to competitors;
2. UI: The user interface is clean and straight forward. There is a good balance between information and quantity of hotels. I often think that sites like Wotif.com go over the top with the number of hotels on one page - making it hard in a large city to step back as a consumer and sort the large number of responses into a quantity that makes it easy to choose. There are a myriad of surveys that show that if you give consumers too much choice they leave with nothing. Qantas's new ReadyRooms interface looks to have a good balance in this area. The purchase path is as you would expect - I like the use of tick box options for common requests like double room and non smoking; and
3. Home Page: They are making great use of the promotional spots on the home page. The balance between catchy/attractive photos and actual deals is good and enticing.
1. URL: As above still dont have the .com address working properly;
2. Secondary cities and international: Patchy availability and limited choice in secondary cities compared to competitors and nothing outside of Australia and New Zealand;
3. Brand: Qantas appear to be confused as to what the brand should be for ReadyRooms. If you look at the home page there are logos and references for Qantas, Qantas Holidays and ReadyRooms. When you keep all three brands on the page it significantly reduces the chances of building up ReadyRooms as a separate brand. This is important because each of Qantas and Qantas Holidays have a very different brand meaning to that being put forward by ReadyRooms. Qantas equals flights [full stop]. Qantas Holidays equals family holidays to top international destinations. If you want ReadyRooms to mean "Dont go to Wotif, come to us" then you have compete for the same type of customer experience. That is a customer looking for a hotel, just and hotel and nothing but a hotel. If you drag in too much of the Qantas and Qantas Holidays brands (as strong as they are), the "just a hotel crowd" will go looking somewhere else.
4. No Cross Sell: There is no hotel cross sell in the purchase path of an airline ticket on Qantas.com. It does not need explanation that the best first strategy Qantas have for growing ReadyRooms is to aim for the sorts of attachment rates that the big three OTAs (Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz) are enjoying in the US (15-40%). This can only be achieved with a cross sell and packaging. Qantas should build this as a priority.