Today the travel supply chain has become highly fragmented, crowded and complex with suppliers of hotel rooms, airline seats, tour packages and cars existing alongside intermediaries. Many of these intermediaries exist to offer travel product suppliers another and sometimes faster route to the end consumers. OTAs, GDSs, B2B Accommodation Wholesalers, Metasearch price comparison sites, branded dotcoms – all are part of the huge online travel market worth $313 billion in 2012*. Understanding online hotel booking behaviour is an essential part of the supplier journey.
The shopper for travel products is spoilt for choice both in the diversity of what is on offer and the myriad of online sites where he can go to make that purchase. But judging by the rising look-to-book ratios, making that choice easy with the needs and wants of the consumer in mind has not yet been achieved.
The online travel shopper, spends more on travel products than in other online retail stores and is passionate about his travel plans and finding the best deal for him. His research gives him instant access to flight, hotel, and car-rental options and the ability to play suppliers off against one another. A high degree of search activity across multiple sites usually precedes every booking. Of course there will always be shoppers who are not satisfied until they have researched all options to assure themselves that they are getting the very best price available, but that can take up valuable time. For intermediaries and suppliers to be able to serve up more limited options, but ones that more accurately match demand will help both the shopper to turn that look into a booking and the intermediary to turn that search into a conversion.
This empowerment of the consumer by the Internet is forcing travel companies to think more like retailers. This means learning to combine the data available on the products being searched for and bought with detailed knowledge of the customer, his situation and his preferences.
Outside of the travel industry, online retailers – Amazon always being cited as the classic example – are already using their accumulated wealth of customer data to drive personalisation to the next level with real-time recommendations during the buying process in a bid to satisfy customer searches and reduce shopping cart abandonment. Online travel companies, rather than catching up, seem to be falling further behind when it comes to using data to understand their customers, drive sales and improve look-to-book ratios.
At Triometric, in respect of hotel bookings, we see three distinct areas that can help travel intermediaries make better use of data that is already available as part of the travel transaction. Firstly take the context of the search request such as single traveller, family or group, mid-week or weekend, city or resort and then combine this data layer with hotel codes and descriptions (such as those supplied by a specialist like GIATA). This can help the intermediary to more closely match available inventory with what the consumer is indicating he wants. The ability to deliver more targeted responses to travel requests is key to bridging the relevance gap that often exists between search and response.
In summary the three areas are:
Distribution Complexity: Understanding the dynamics of the emerging trends and recognising which channel/product mixes deliver the best value.
Standards: Adopting industry-wide hotel codes and communication standards so everyone in the travel chain can be sure they are talking about the same product
Differentiation for Relevance: Analysing search data attributes to increase the likely relevance of replies.
Travel companies that understand the online hotel booking behavior value from their “information assets” from a variety of sources such as search traffic analytics and hotel description repositories have a better chance of securing that booking. These companies will be able to deliver optimally priced products, targeted to customers at the point of decision. That’s the key to success in the age of relevance using accumulated data and real-time monitoring and is the roadmap to growth for the companies at the leading edge.
(Article originally published by triometric)