In today’s busy world, our attention is being demanded in more ways than ever before: consider the proliferation of options in your average coffee shop compared to the time when having milk and sugar were the only options.

The world of travel is no different.

There are hundreds of airlines in the world flying many thousands of routes between more than 40,000 airports. The number of different fares filed by those airlines has multiplied enormously.

The challenge for travel commerce

The challenge for a travel commerce platform is to find the right handful of suitable and available options at a price that will be acceptable to the consumer. The most widely used platforms will search across more than six billion fare records, which multiplies to trillions of choices once you’ve added in all the potential connections, feeder options and fare types that are available. The task is then made even more complex by the fact that these fares are updated and change constantly - airlines file new prices hourly as they run promotions or see a competitor has changed their prices.

At the same time, airlines and other travel suppliers have increasingly unbundled their products to make them more personalised, offering a seat with extra legroom, a flight without a meal, a hotel room with Wi-Fi included for example. This dizzying whirlwind of travel booking means the way people look for travel options has changed dramatically, which can be potentially confusing for the consumer.

According to a recent Expedia research, those looking to book travel visit up to 38 sites before purchasing. As well as switching between websites, they jump between computers, mobiles, via mobile websites, apps and increasingly, chatbots and voice-powered digital assistants.

There has been an explosion in growth and it is accelerating on the back of the continued growth in the web, massive growth in mobile and more recently, voice search. We estimate that search volumes have nearly doubled in the last 12 months, increasing from around three billion per month at the start of 2016 to around six billion per month today.

The challenge for travel companies

The challenge for travel companies is how to find the pure notes amid all this noise. At the heart of this challenge is the perfect search.

For an online travel agency or travel website, delivering the perfect search is about hitting a sweet spot balancing content, speed and accuracy. A travel search that does not address all three of these is unlikely to convert to a booking.

One of the key investments travel commerce platforms like us need to make is in travel choice. For example, many of our online travel agency customers are now making effective use of the breadth of content available to them to bolster the value of their brand and grow their revenues.

By investing in algorithms, computer power, machine learning, API connections and data science methodology, travel commerce platforms can ensure they provide enough choice to their agency customers to remain competitive.

The challenge for the travellers

Travellers are not interested in seeing the results on page three; the challenge is to make sure that the results presented on the first page – or, as voice search takes off, the one or two read back to you by your digital assistant, are the options most likely to convert to a booking. We always have the traveller in mind, which is why we call ourselves a B2B2C company, rather than just B2B.

The computing power to make that perfect search happen is complex, and leverages cloud edge caching, machine learning and artificial intelligence. This is an area we have invested in heavily over the past decades and will continue to do so.

The many changes taking place mean we are in a unique period where there are a lot of opportunities for companies that can get behind those shifts. Travel brands are increasingly pressurised by disruptors with new technology and delivering a better experience. If travel providers want to find new growth opportunities, they need to recognise the challenges and have an answer to them.

Travel companies that recognise the seismic changes that are taking place, and the need to be able to filter and personalise huge and growing amounts of content, are well positioned to not just survive but thrive. Having the right technology partner is crucial.

 

By Phil Donathy, senior product director at Travelport


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