Let’s talk about distribution technologies and how we get the business info we want to help drive decisions. Perhaps focusing mostly on Airlines and Hoteliers, but not excluding the wider travel product market, the supplier organisations in this complex world have multiple classes of channels that they need to manage with an effective way. I think of “classes” as disparate groups of similar technology based distribution mechanisms that include the direct website, the indirect push distributor, the indirect web and the direct mobile API. Direct means straight interaction with the customer and indirect means through one or more third party distributors.
The indirect push type distributors take once or maybe several times a day, an upload of all the product and service availability data to refresh their distribution inventory. This is product and service data only and although possibly in XML, it can equally be sent in some binary format. The airline or hotel group can only expect reporting of bookings and is entirely dependent on the distributor for any search derived business intelligence.
The indirect API is usually based on XML technology and allows wholesalers to connect in real-time directly to the booking platform to search availability and pricing and hopefully book directly too. This traffic is product and service data only in a human readable text. Again, no presentation instructions are included and consumer presentation is handled by the OTA website at the consumer end of the supply chain. A variant of this channel probably handles metasearch traffic.
Ok, so what about the Pie?
Everyone wants more pie. How about being able to analyse and report on all 360°of the distribution pie? Pretty much every airline and hotel group captures and analyses their website data. Existing analytics software can deliver a treasure trove of website page popularity and visitor traffic that the marketing teams pour over and use to drive product decisions and offers, as well as manage prices and other activities. Let’s assume that some 40% of bookings comes via this channel so it equates is 144°of our pie and the analytics covers searches and bookings. What about the other 216°of other channels?
The push distributor will most likely report on bookings but not on searches. This is unfortunate because searches represent probably 95% or more of the traffic and yet the airline or hotel group ends up knowing nothing about the market demand and trends that this traffic represents. They might be satisfied with the level of bookings via the channel but the “how many didn’t convert, why not and what can we do about it?” type questions sadly go unanswered.
All the Pie including Mobile
The opportunity for the business is clearly to encourage their end customers to use their mobile app and benefit from a whole host of loyalty incentives delivered directly to their smartphone. Ironically this may be diverting traffic from brand.com which the marketing department is empowered to analyse in great detail so keeping sight of this traffic becomes a challenge.
The goal for online travel businesses is to be omni-channel – or put simply be able to address their customers’ requirements irrespective of the channel /medium the client has selected to engage with them on. To achieve this, the business needs detailed client information and analytics across all channels. The business will struggle to be effective if it is running blind on one or more significant distribution channel. Different markets are usually addressed through different channels (that’s why they exist) so it isn’t appropriate to assume that analytics from one channel can be simply applied to others.
In short the business needs to have a full 360° visibility of distribution – all of the pie – and it really should be the priority to use available technology and business intelligence reporting to plug the gaps that exist today.
Triometric can directly work with travel product suppliers to deliver detailed business analysis of their APIs and also with travel product distributors to provide similar levels of reporting.