Egencia, the travel management brand under the Expedia corporate umbrella, used this year's GBTA event to preview a new product iteration on mobile.
The company has set up a small team, headed by Tristan Rees, within the brand to focus exclusively on mobile. The mobile-first products exist as a sandbox to test different concepts on mobile, and then take the best-of-breed to roll out both onto mobile products and up the chain into desktop.
Adaptive search has become a core part of the pursuit of personalization in travel, yet not many travel brands leverage previous searches and customer history to drive delivery of user experience. Hipmunk provides tabs and previous searches, Expedia has Scratchpad, and now Egencia also has an adaptive search functionality that allows previous searches and common bookings to inform the search experience.
In the flight search example - screenshot above - previous searches and common trips (as pulled from the traveler's file) now live at the bottom of the app screen. These can then be pulled up quickly to book through to common city pairs and specific flights.
The rest of the search experience has been tweaked to be as simple as possible, with an easy-to-use calendar and filters to find more flights according to specific filters such as price, duration, airline carrier, and departure/arrival windows. This means that travelers can identify one type of flight - say a morning flight on United - and see additional similar flights.
Tristan Rees, the product lead, sees this as an important iteration in travel.
We took an idea from e-commerce that everyone is used to - such as similar products on Amazon. No one has applied that to travel yet.
So I can pick a flight for whatever reason - such as a Delta flight that leaves before 8am so I can make a 1 o'clock meeting - and I want to see flights that are in policy and preferred. You hit similar flights, and we ask you what you like about it. I like the airline, departure time and I like the price - so not only are we going to filter down into this set, we reach out to suppliers and go get more flights like that.
Egencia plans on adding more filters - such as airplane amenities - as the inventory information becomes available through airline partnerships.
This adaptive search will also soon be applied to hotels.
iPad app interface update
The iPad app has also taken on the look of the mobile TripNavigator app, which was announced last year at GBTA. The card-based interface will be brought into the larger screen real estate of the iPad.
The cards play a central role in delivering a step-by-step overview of a booked trip. From flight to flight, the idea is to make it so users don't have to pull up an email and pinch/zoom to find the relevant details.
There's also no need to see full information about a return trip at the start of a journey, so the card shows just the relevant information to that phase.
Should a traveler need the full booking, the card can be flipped and expanded to show the entire booking.
Smart touches enhance the experience, such as the nearest gas station for a car rental return, which was part of the goal internally.
We focused on the end trip experience for a traveler. When you look at a normal itinerary, it looks like a receipt, an invoice. It's not very helpful. It doesn't inform me with what I need to do. We take ahold of the itinerary, throw it against the wall, and sort it according to time and event.
For booking hotels, the iPad's screen is used fully to create a 3-column immersive interface to easily compare hotels. TripAdvisor reviews are easily accessible, and travel compliance is made very clear by using a blue button to book a compliant hotel and a red-flagged button to designate out of policy bookings.
Egencia is taking advantage on the deep inventory access that the Expedia umbrella provides, and using that to enhance the user experience. And as open booking keeps garnering more attention, the realization is that travelers booking outside of corporate portals are often already going to OTAs. So Egencia can provide an open booking experience within a managed corporate travel ecosystem
Rees concludes that this specific business model supports a technological competitive advantage:
We have this completely integrated business model. We are the agency, we are the technology platform, we are the service. We know all of that information, so I can build a better product because of our business model that no one else in the industry can.
The technology will be released in an update later this year.