Kayak is letting travellers search for travel deals using emojis

Planning to book your summer holiday? Just type in an emoji to kick off your flight or hotel search on Kayak.

The travel search engine has rolled out an emoji-search functionality today, in which users can use emojis to look up flight or hotel deals for their destinations.

Want to go to New York City or Las Vegas? Just put in the Statue of Liberty or the slot machine emoji for a list of deals. Kayak has introduced the emoji-search functionality for 10 cities so far, including New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Dublin, Las Vegas, Easter Island, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto.

“We’re always trying to make travel easier for our consumers,” said David Solomito, VP of brand marketing at Kayak North America. “Now that emojis are part of mainstream communication more than ever, this made sense.”

The brand eventually wants to introduce the emoji-search feature for an even broader array of destinations, and is calling on travellers to vote on which city and emoji combinations to enable next. Users can vote for which emojis should be matched to the next 15 destinations, with some of the emojis up for grabs including the baseball, pizza, beer mug, rainbow, coffee and taco emojis.

Each emoji corresponds with four city suggestions, but users can also suggest their own. The city with the most number of votes per emoji will be assigned to that emoji in the search functionality. Voting will conclude on July 13, and the winning combinations will be revealed on July 17, just in time for World Emoji Day. Starting July 17, users will also be able to search for destinations using country flag emojis, with each flag corresponding to the capital city of that country.

To be sure, brands using emojis in their marketing and communications is nothing new. Over 6 billion emojis are sent across mobile devices daily, according to Swyft Media, and 86% of smartphone users in the US regularly use emojis, according to a recent study by MoJiLaLa. The trend peaked in 2015, when brands used emojis to create a periodic table and to write an entire press release using emojis.

For Kayak, however, the emoji search functionality was more about providing utility than jumping on a trend, said Solomito. The travel search engine also enables search through a Facebook Messenger bot, and has also introduced voice search through both Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

“We’re doing this not because it’s the trendy thing to do, but because emojis have become more engrained in our culture than ever before,” he said. “It’s about utility, and giving our consumers whatever information they need in whatever way they want.”

Searchable emojis can kick off searches on both desktop and mobile devices as well as on Kayak’s Facebook Messenger bot. The brand is also promoting the voting campaign through both paid and organic media across its social channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

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