When it comes to online travel, we see a constant evolution in technology. This is fuelled mostly by end-consumers’ rising expectations and the need to address key industry developments.
At this stage, we’re observing two fundamental trends.
NB: This is an analysis by Sebastien Gibergues, head of leisure and online travel for global customer group, Amadeus.
Generic search engines are becoming a more instantaneous, predictive and conversational experience for users, who will soon start expecting the same from online travel search.
This first trend is all about instant search - one of the features most expected by travelers who have little time to waste waiting for websites to respond.
Online shoppers have been used to the (world-wide) wait between a request and the display of a results page. This is becoming less and less acceptable. The trend is clearly moving towards instant results whether it is on a generic search engine or on an online travel site
The second trend is personalized search. This needs to be at the heart of any online retailer’s strategy. Personalization is the buzz word in the evolution of online travel, and the creation of individualized shopping experiences can be easily applied to online shoppers in travel.
However, personalization is currently quite simplistic, mostly driven by online retailers who seek new ways to boost sales conversion by delivering results defined by a generalized profile or purchase pattern.
As personalization develops, end consumers will soon expect targeted offers that match their own profile and purchase pattern, with specific needs and preferences included.
This is all great, but one question needs to be asked: are these two trends compatible?
Balancing the two
From a technical perspective, the best way to deliver instant results is to use caching technology to store and pre-compute huge amounts of data that can be returned instantly to the end consumer.
On the other hand, by definition, personalized content has to be assembled on the fly, based on customer profile or context.
We’ve concluded that there has to be a balance between the range of instantly available results and the ability to cache enough offers so they are instant.
Does it make sense to compute, store and refresh the price of a business class trip from Lima to Sydney for a family travelling with one child, if this type of request only happens once every five years?
This is a simple example, but it very much illustrates the "Instant vs. Personalized" dilemma.
So from fully instant to fully personalized, having the best of both worlds surely poses both an algorithmic and a practical challenge.
We can assume that the algorithmic challenge will be solved in the long run with advances in computer science, but we are left with the practical challenge for the foreseeable future.
The answer will be the right mix of instant and transaction-based search, decided by the use case or the stage in the booking path.
For example instant tools really matter during the initial search stages and should reflect the open and inspirational feel of generic search. Fields and filters - defining price, duration, holiday type, star rating or other preferences - can segment these instant results yet further.
As online travel shoppers progress through the search process and enter into a more transactional mindset, instant may be traded off for more customized offers.
This is where higher quality results with more personalized offers are created and presented, based on a user's own profile.
These profiles come into their own during the post-transaction and pre-departure stage where a range of upselling and cross-selling opportunities emerge.
Finding the right mix will be key to the success of online players over the next five years: instant for inspiration, content browsing and selection; transactional for depth and purchasing flows bringing personalization into online travel processes.
We believe instant search and personalization will revolutionize the way we book travel and the type of trips we decide to take. But there won’t be a big quantum leap to all instant, rather an incremental evolution.
Online booking engines will be able to leverage instant technology to complement the very efficient transactional search tools already in use today to create unique booking flows as we are starting to see with our existing solutions.
Coupled with personalization technology, dynamic profiling, and cumulative intelligence, the new killer application of this will be to mix data related to individuals for highly targeted offers and true personalization.
At Amadeus, we have been working on Instant Search technology for both flights and packages for over five years, while also integrating merchandising and personalization capabilities in our core search engine.
We are moving towards an entirely new generation of travel search solutions which will empower online retailers to build a travel experience with relevant, personalized travel options, adding value to the travelers’ choice beyond price.
This can only be great news for the consumer's experience of buying travel online in the near future.
NB: This is an analysis by Sebastien Gibergues, head of leisure and online travel for global customer group, Amadeus. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.
NB2:Searrch image via Shutterstock.