Are your distribution tactics leading to higher customer conversions and lower customer acquisition costs? Every organisation seeks to improve these metrics, but in the world of online travel this could literally be the difference between sink or swim. Put like that, real time business analytics (as opposed to yesterday’s or last week’s results) could be the crucial support buoys that your business needs to not only survive but thrive.
Before we delve into this assertion in more detail, let’s look at a certain scenario. A traveller regularly accesses an airline website to book work trips. She generally travels business class on Monday for work and is back on Wednesday. She stumbles upon an attractive deal for luxury accommodation over the weekend. She conducts meta-search for economy seats for a family of four. Then she goes to her preferred airline that she usually travels with and conducts the same search.
If the traveller is served up content that recognises her as a business traveller, without taking account of the leisure purpose or the extended traveller group, then the airline may miss an opportunity. Of course, she might be on her next business trip soon, but for the in-moment search, she is looking for different options and enticers. What happened yesterday, last week, last month or last year will always have its place of relevance, especially for the accountants, but with today’s volume of online search and booking transactions real-time business intelligence is crucial.
Because there are many different paths travellers take before booking – to get inspired, to find travel options, to compare and contrast offers – online travel companies need to pay attention to the whole “customer journey”, not just where they end up when they make the decision to book a trip.
And that’s where analytics comes in. When travel suppliers better understand the search context, they can help travellers to better engage along the paths of their customer journeys, and are better informed in making those offers that lead to a purchase. This requires a more real-time data-driven approach where insights into customer searches, inventory availability, pricing, supplier responsiveness and such factors can influence and determine what should happen.
Real-time analytics involves gaining instant access to data from real-time consumer actions. This effectively is a snapshot of what is happening in a business here and now. Being able to view live analytics via reports or a key performance indicator dashboard gives the marketing, distribution or revenue generating departments actionable intelligence to help guide business tactics. By having access to pull queries and receiving instant results, decision makers can keep a pulse on key business drivers such as availability in key destinations.
XML Traffic hold Key Information
Online travel entities having long been trained to keep tabs on live XML web service feeds. The recent IATA New Distribution Capability (NDC) standards are pushing airlines in the same direction.
There is a need to capitalise on real time information to better understand service performance and product demand versus availability across multiple distribution channels. This enables a sharper evaluation of what users are looking for and how well those requirements are being met.
XML search and booking data streams over the network hold many of the answers. By processing it in near-real-time, it is possible to decipher each and every XML message for business insights into what the market is looking for, what the availability is and the various price points for meeting that availability. In other words, being in control with an actual dynamic market view. This helps to establish the relevancy of what is being offered to meet demand.
As the travel world gets more complex – this view is not just in terms of seats and rooms, but is opening up to an array of ancillaries and other travel related opportunities.
Thanks to real-time analytics, marketers for example can see, in real-time, how a product is performing, how many people are seeing it and how many are buying it. In travel this translates into a deep delve into what people are searching for and the responses to those searches and how this translates into the holy grail of conversions, known as bookings.
Deeper Look at Search Data
The objective is to sift through search data, segment it according to key categories such as leisure or business, singles, couples or family, mid-week or weekend, etc. – all relevant data that can help feed relevancy of offers.
It’s all about taking a deep look at the search data. Yes there is a lot of data but that is where the answers lie – in helping to formulate the right offers [in context] based on what is happening now.
The journey can be termed as closing the loop:
- Collect the search data from the network
- Get some customer insight
- Apply business rules to develop relevant product offers
- Monitor customer uptake and continue to collect data to get the insights
- Use the insights to make timely and meaningful adjustments
Closing the loop is essentially a process of continuous improvement of your products aligned to market demand. This is particularly relevant in an NDC enabled world – where the stress is on being able to make a host of ancillaries and fined tuned offers available not just on an airline’s own web site (powered by a flexible merchandising engine), but across all other indirect channels.
It definitely makes more sense to gear up for actionable data that is contextually relevant, and is made available when needed. The timing is absolutely vital to being nimble, proactive and allowing all business users to make better decisions based on data rather than instinct.
But if this all sounds pretty dependent on tools, you’re right — it does. In order to set up closed-loop monitoring process, you need to be able to track and analyse searches and responses. In other words, you need to be able to tie the intelligence emerging from what the prospective traveller is looking for with your offers (availability, prices, and enticements). [As a side note, we have the perfect analytics platform to collect, analyse and distribute insights from XML search and booking data].
Coming back to the lady looking for economy seats rather than business class for a family weekend trip. The preferred airline in question can avoid missing the opportunity if it is able to offer it’s loyal frequent traveller, not just four basic economy seats, but economy seats that may hit some of her hot buttons. Guaranteed seating together, ‘free baggage’ allowance, speedy boarding, on-board Wi-Fi or entertainment options, airport parking deal, etc. Airlines are rapidly developing their shopping lists of value added ancillaries and fare bundles. Ancillaries is all about the value passengers place on them for convenience and comfort.
In the complex and connected world of online travel, available data needs to be converted into usable intelligence more quickly than ever, to ensure companies can detect and respond immediately to business events as they happen. For example:
- Intermediaries running out of inventory in popular places,
- Servers being hit by high search traffic but low booking volume/value – making the more profitable channels slower to respond to (i. e. monitoring channel performance while it is happening)
- Understanding popular destinations or event related booking surges
- The value of searches correlated to bookings or agents
- Knowing when errors occur (as they occur – e. g. hotel codes or location codes)
- Being alerted to capacity or responsiveness issues on your system is invaluable — for being able to correct poor performance or failures.
These are real daily operational issues for most organisations dealing with online travel searches and bookings. If a customer experience suffers as a result of such shortcomings, then this would impact the conversion rate and overall customer acquisition cost.
To combat such incidents, organisations need real-time visibility into how their systems and processes are functioning and how their commercial operations are satisfying market demands. Pragmatic decision making fit for the context and the opportunities depends on it.