News | DistributionExpressing a preference for better conversion ratesThis article was originally published onBy Sponsored Content | March 6, 2018 This is a viewpoint from Bharat Patel, president of sales, marketing and commercial for CodeGenAbandonment rates for online travel bookings are notoriously high. Recent statistics from salecycle.com show the percentage of customers who start the process of making a travel booking online and then drop out rather than making the final purchase is 82.4 per cent. If you look at holiday searches as a whole, conversion rates are on average less than 0.5 per cent. Information overload The biggest issue is that online searches today return far too much information. The choice is often overwhelming and the task of sifting through pages of generic hotels or packages seems far too labour-intensive – hence the poor conversion rate.Whilst technology has created these problems, we believe technology can also be the solution.Artificial intelligence is now powering tools that allow travel companies to return personalised, relevant holiday propositions to potential clients.While the travel agent of yesteryear would get a real feel for what their client wanted by asking questions face-to-face about their preferences, AI can automate the process by tapping into a traveller's social media footprint. When users log in via social media, AI can analyse not only the text but also the images in their posts.If, for example, someone posted a picture of the family on the beach last year, offering a special deal for a family room, or highlighting the kids’ clubs among the best hotels, would make senseResults can be reordered seamlessly and in real time to ensure they best match a potential customer’s preferences.Analysis of social media content might reveal they love art or sport, for example, throwing up the opportunity to suggest a stay close to the nearest gallery or museum, or prompt them to consider add-ons such as tickets to a football match during their city break.Laying out the simplicity of the concept like this does a disservice to the complexity of the technology involved. Natural language processing, machine learning and deep learning all come in to play here, but what matters most is the end resultAs this AI technology develops and learns, the ability to match ‘customer’ and ‘want’ will increase further. And the good news for operators is that this almost certainly increases the conversion rate.Feedback from businesses using our personalisation engine shows that conversion can rise from 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent. It might sound small, but remember, that actually is a four-fold increase in business.The ability of AI to deliver tailored search results for travellers which convert more highly because results reflect preferences is the most obvious benefit of this new technology. But AI can also help behind the scenes, away from the consumer-facing spotlight, particularly in the business-critical arena of revenue management. Spotlight on price Travel businesses of all shapes and sizes know how important hitting the sweet-spot of price is. Getting it right is vital, since going in too expensive against your competitors can create the wrong impression of your brand and be disastrous for sales and cash flow.Alternatively, selling too cheaply can damage what your brand may stand for or see you give away valuable inventory that you may have been able to charge more for later in the sales cycle.Machine learning is great for pricing and being able to react to market conditions. This predictive technology can generate statistical forecasts and automatically recommend mark-up values. Importantly, it doesn’t just rely on sales trends, but also incorporates as many data-sets as possible – including sales velocity and competitor pricing. Operators then have the option to manually alter pricing, taking in to account particular aims, or completely automate so pricing flexes in line with the market.Going forward, AI will reach further into the business of travel. Chatbot technology, already a familiar feature in the customer service world, will become more and more commonplace. Travel companies are beginning to incorporate virtual assistants into their offering and this trend is sure to continue, especially among the trendy and family-oriented brands that want to destress the holiday shopping experience.Chatbots that listen to customer needs, recommend a particular holiday, and then book it too, are almost certainly on the horizon and will soon be delivered into the CodeGen FLAIR family of AI tools, increasing conversion rates and reducing business overheads with fully automated processes.This is a viewpoint from Bharat Patel, president of sales, marketing and commercial for CodeGen. It appears as part of the tnooz sponsored content initiative..