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Posted by Josh Bernoff on June 15, 2014
You doubtless saw the recent news that Priceline bought OpenTable for $2.6 billion.
A lot of the articles on this talk about why it "makes sense" (the typical after-the-fact justification that journalists do). Once you get past the dining puns in the headlines, you learn that the merger makes sense because Priceline sells mostly outside the US and OpenTable mostly within the US -- so they can target each other's customers. Or it makes sense because Priceline can sell restaurant reservations to its travelers.
These justifications are all true, but allow me to propose a different justification. Imagine for a moment that the world is undergoing a mobile mind shift -- and that mobile moments are becoming more valuable. OpenTable has dominated the restaurant reservation moment. You can be anywhere, decide to make a reservation, check reviews, and book a table in a moment. It's a perfectly suited task for an app, and the OpenTable app is perfect for it.
OpenTable has also cleverly embedded itself into restaurants -- many of them use its system to manage reservations, even as their customers use it to make reservations. I don't know if there is a restaurateur app from Open Table, but there ought to be. Why not manage the reservations on your mobile device as well?
OpenTable dominates restaurant reservations and seating, especially in the US. They own the reservation moment and the seating moment. And unlike booking travel or hotels, restaurant reservations are far more often a momentary impulse buy.
While Priceline has an app, I'll bet most people are not booking on a mobile device -- they're booking on a PC, where they can investigate a little better. And Priceline has plenty of competition.
With OpenTable's help, Priceline can figure out where the mobile moments are in its particular variety of mobile bookings. And that may just be where the value in this deal comes from.