In travel shopping, forget the Customer Is King mantra - caching is the new monarchNewsBy Viewpoints | April 30, 2013Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a viewpoint from Boyan Manev, director of business development and product marketing at Vayant Travel Technologies.First generation caches were about cutting cost – and travel sellers tolerated low levels of accuracy to make savings.But caching now offers much more: it’s a powerful tool that travel sellers – whatever their size - can use to turbocharge their customer offering.When we go to industry events one of the topics people want to talk about most is fares caching.In today’s competitive travel industry, everyone’s dealing with tight margins and trying to find new ways to stand out from the crowd.On the cost reduction front, first generation caching offered clear benefits. By reducing hits on the GDS – or, indeed, the airline host – it could deliver significant savings.But traditional caching came with compromises. Because first generation caches basically delivered a product built on travel shopper searches they could contain old or out-of-date information.These caches were retroactive, not proactive, and this impacted bookability: fewer than 50% of search results were available to book.Traditional caching could also prevent travel sellers from creating the kind of innovative and eye-catching promotions they need to compete in today’s market.How it (currently) worksSay an online travel agency wanted to offer its customers trips from London to New York, available over the next 90 days, and for 15 different lengths of stay.Altogether that adds up to 1,350 possible combinations. If the cache is updated once an hour, with a live search request to the GDS, that could mean 32,400 hits per day.That’s just one Origin and Destination (O&D): if a travel seller wanted to offer 1,000 O&Ds, the number of hits per day could reach 32 million.In a month, the travel seller could be generating close to one billion "unproductive" hits on the GDS.Clearly, the traditional caching model was not fit-for-purpose. Caching needed to be re-built around the needs of today’s travel sellers, rather than the limitations of existing technologies.And, in today’s diverse online environment, caching needed to be democratized to embrace niche and specialist players.In other words, caching had to be re-invented for the age of the proactive travel seller: entrepreneurial, customer-focused travel businesses who are really serious about selling.How it should workSo what do proactive travel sellers need? Speed is critical, of course, in terms of delivering answers in sub-second time.Volume is important too: to deliver rich customer shopping experiences, travel sellers need the ability to access and manage huge amounts of data.The old model might return just a few results (which were not always relevant to the travel seller’s business). But to offer exciting customer-shaped promotions, for example with dynamic packaging, travel sellers can require tens if not hundreds of results, and all the data has to be relevant.That’s why second generation caching lets travel sellers access and use all the data they need to delight customers.Last, but not least, next generation caching had to offer unprecedented levels of accuracy, above 80%.Typically, customers use next generation caching to power dynamic offerings. Swiss tour operator Hotelplan, for example, is using our system to bring the choice and flexibility of dynamic packaging to its customers, while Lufthansa has just built a custom-made second generation cache to push its fares to a number of German tour operators, who use the data in their dynamic packaging solutions.But this is just the beginning. There are so many ways for proactive agents to get close to their customers today: social media and email provide rich channels for interacting with customers.But only with the arrival of next-generation caching have travel sellers gained the ability to exploit that data to promote and sell their destinations.Forget what you thought you knew about fares caching. Today’s caching is about empowering proactive travel agents to deliver for the customer.Successful retailers have always known the customer is king: with second generation caching, travel sellers have the speed, relevant data and accuracy they need to deliver a royal standard of travel shopping experience.NB: This is a viewpoint from Boyan Manev, director of business development and product marketing at Vayant Travel Technologies.NB2:Crown laptop image via Shutterstock.