Ai Editorial: Counting on user interface level API to optimize conversion rate

First Published on 18th June, 2018

Ai Editorial: Travel e-commerce players need to optimize their respective APIs, assessing aspects such as user experience, design, usage guidelines etc. to come up with the desired results, writes Ai's Ritesh Gupta

 

API connectivity in the arena of travel e-commerce isn’t new but airlines still need to dig deeper while working on technical considerations and designing of APIs.

This is a significant issue considering the fact that airlines, like other travel suppliers, have been widening their distribution reach over the years, letting B2B partners access their inventory and sales systems via APIs to step up the average order value or target the “second wallet”. If a passenger is on an airline site or app, and there is an opportunity to cross-sell a product by showing images/ videos of the ancillary offering and make the shopping frictionless, then it would end up benefiting all the stakeholders – the passenger, the airline as well as the B2B partner.

Boosting conversion rate via UI level API

If a B2B partner has an API to offer to airlines, there are a couple of possibilities. For one B2B partner, API could be an XML level interface that can be handed over to airlines for implementation from this partner’s systems to the user interface (UI) staff of the airline. Certain players don’t go along with this approach when working with airlines or any other partner. Rather they offer a combination of both XML or server side request and UI widget. This means full UI all the way down through the technology stack is provided. The reason: when the UI and code associated with it enables one to continuously optimize the business and improve upon the attach rate along with the revenue metrics for that business which can be airline or any B2B partner that is taking the booking from travellers. In case, airlines use their own UI and only use B2B partner’s API, the partner may not able to influence the optimization of that UI.

An example of the same would be CarTrawler offering UI level API rather than extending XML or JSON level API.

So, for example, in case of Ryanair’s platform, all of the options related to car-hire, pre-booked taxis, coaches etc. that a user comes across is based on CarTrawler’s code running on the airline website. CarTrawler ensures a seamless experience for the visitor by working in conjunction with the Ryanair team to connect the B2B travel technology platform’s coding to the airline’s shopping cart. So if a customer adds a car hire into the shopping cart on Ryanair.com, it would be CarTrawler’s code implementing the user interface and the same is working in the background on the airline-owned platform. Eventually CarTrawler uses the airline API to put the product into their basket.  

 

 

Other technology specialists, too, acknowledge the efficacy of UI level APIs.

In case of Travelaer, the company’s Chief Experience Officer Mike Slone shared that  the company’s API provides a JSON interface for easier usage with modern Javascript frameworks.

“It is user interface friendly as all business logic is handled server side by our API layer - API and backend layer. Users of the API can concentrate on UI and presentation. This allows less travel-centric developers or developers who don’t have a background in the travel industry to spend less time trying to figure out how travel technology works and more time on creating a better customer experience,” shared Slone. Overall, the company is focused on producing tools in a modular format via API or UI that will enhance the user experience for an airline.

XML connectivity

Slone added that XML is not very UI friendly as it is hard to parse, it is more resource intensive so should be avoided client side.

“Usually you need to have some kind of translation layer to translate the XML into JSON for better integration (on the) client side,” he said.

“So the airlines using NDC XML should invest in some translation layer like our API layer that would help them build great UI/ UX with short time to market and sound client side performance.”

There are other areas, too, that demand attention. For instance, deriving business intelligence from search and booking streams and transactions or while working with several intermediaries, ascertaining what sort of requests are coming from a particular intermediary. All of this has to be looked into during the designing stages of an API and this will only propel the distribution initiatives of an airline.

 

How can airlines and travel companies make the most of their respective APIs? Hear from experts at the upcoming Mega Event Asia-Pacific (Ancillary, Loyalty and Co-Brand Conferences) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand (28-30 August, 2018).

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

 

 

Ai Editorial: How Kiwi.com intends to simplify an interlined itinerary?

First Published on 11th June, 2018

Ai Editorial: Kiwi.com is on the verge of introducing a new webpage form where consumers just fill in where they wish to go rather than filling information in different tabs. Ai's Ritesh Gupta spoke to Kiwi.com's CEO Oliver Dlouhy about how the team planned and executed this new search page.

 

E-commerce organizations, including ones from the travel sector, today are focused on being "agile entities". One of their core strengths is their organizational culture and how teams work in unison.

The culture is all about encouraging the team members to experiment, let them fail and always strive to improve upon their digital interfaces, be it for their .com or app.

These organizations avoid quick wins, adopt a fail-fast attitude and are part of a culture that supports curiosity, learning and problem solving.

New concept of search page at Kiwi.com

Booking an air ticket for multiple destinations can be a laborious task. Virtual interlining specialist Kiwi.com has been assiduously looking at ways to simplify an interlined itinerary. The company asserts that every virtually interlined itinerary is covered and guaranteed to get the traveller to their final destination.

So what's new as far as the core product i.e. flights is concerned?

According to Oliver Dlouhy, CEO and Founder, Kiwi.com, his team has been working on plans to launch a new webpage form where consumers just fill in where they wish to go rather than filling information in different tabs. A traveller would share names all of the cities and dates on Kiwi.com's interface. The results would feature a sequence of flights. The order of bookings is recommended to optimize the budget. 

It started as an idea to have a search-page like no other in the industry, shared Jakub Skopec, Senior Manager - Airline Partnerships, Kiwi.com.

Skopec said, "As an experiment, Oliver and our designers created a new concept of our search page from scratch in various iterations. Along the way, a couple more people were added to the loop devs, product and project manager. Oliver's ask was to move fast and still take it as an experiment, so qualitative user-testing went on even during development.  Feedback from the users has shown that the concept as a whole is a too much of a change to digest, so, actually we decided to deliver selected parts of the concept in smaller parts – incrementally." 

Skopec said, "We started with a clean, new, look of search, and built on top of that. Adding Rooms, Cars and Holidays to the homepage, ability to put a flight into favourites in case you want to compare and return to it quickly or explore more destinations, share your flights via social media to motivate your friends to come with you, or searching by points of interest (e.g. Berlin Wall or Grand Canyon) so you don´t have to look for the nearest airport, we serve you up relevant and informative results, saving you the bother. All of the above features originated in the new concept, but are tested in an A/B test and will be delivered individually."  

Taking through the journey of development of this new search page, Dlouhy shared that once there is a feature project launched the UX designer makes sure to invite to the table everyone involved - the Product Manager, UX, Customer Service, Marketing, Analyst, and other stakeholders - depending on the project.

"Gathering requirements and insights from all of these parties is important to enable the designer to frame the problem we’ll be solving and understand also what we don’t know - what blocks us from executing the project. UX Researchers help here with filling the information gaps through various set of research activities. Once we know what problem is to be solved the designer can start exploring ways to solve the problem - typically through a digital user interface but the solution can be found elsewhere too. Loops of concept tests and user test ensure that we design the right thing right," shared Skopec.

Taking complexity out of travel via agility

Dlouhy says Kiwi.com's offering is "super-complex" and "will never be finished".

To keep pace with the same, the staff count has risen considerably over the last two years and there are 350-400 members in the IT team.

So what qualities does Kiwi.com look for in employees?

"(We look for) honesty, transparency, openness, ability to quickly adapt to a constantly changing environment, passion for travel, efficiency, willingness to fail fast and improve," shared Dlouhy.

He added that there are numerous things in the organization designed to make people work together, collaborate and interact.

"Office space, tools we use, encouraging various workstyles and best practices/ guidelines, and key is clear and concise communication across the company," said Dlouhy.

A couple of examples on product delivery level are Product Managers and UX sitting with or close-to Dev teams, office space where project teams can sit together, open and public project channels on Slack, shared docs and definitions, the organization structure itself and many more. No proxies, no silos, more of a matrix structure where everybody can talk to everybody freely and openly. 

Development cycle

Continuous refinement of product means teams are eyeing agile, quick development cycles.

For Dlouhy, agility is a mindset.

He says Kiwi.com (or Skypicker previously) was born agile – without people collaborating, focusing on delivering working software, relentless focus on customers and ability to adapt quickly a start-up could not survive, not to mention grow like it did.

"So now the recipe is simple – try to avoid anything that would disrupt progress and growth and identify tools and agile practices that will help us to achieve and make sense to people using them," he says.

It is being pointed out that if organizations end up settling for commodity-level task for incremental enhancements then it won’t serve the purpose. Don’t incentivize the team to progress only for quick gains. So is Dlouhy for mindset of “incrementalism” or against it?

"I think “purpose” is the keyword here. Let´s say you want to optimize a product – shipping improvements often shortens your feedback loop, enables you to learn, adapt, get better and try again. Innovative features usually require more work and polishing – you can still produce them incrementally, you even might want to get feedback along the way (prototype, beta, etc.), but you might release them once the increments work as a whole, fulfill the need and deliver the experience the customer shall receive. Incrementalism is harmful when confused with “doing only one-offs” or shipping half-baked products," he says.

 

How can airlines and travel companies embrace innovation? Hear from experts at the upcoming Mega Event Asia-Pacific (Ancillary, Loyalty and Co-Brand Conferences) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand (28-30 August, 2018).

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

 

Ai Editorial: Fragmented distribution - must for airlines to sustain their existence

First Published on 5th June, 2018

Ai Editorial: Airlines need to find ways to support fragmented distribution, rather than continuously drifting and ending up with a precarious situation where one player in Google ends up controlling the whole travel value chain, says Bobby Healy, CarTrawler’s CTO.

 

Airlines need to assess how emerging forces such as conversational commerce enable them to break the threat of monopoly. An opportunity in this context is API connectivity.

“When you consider Facebook Messenger or Tencent’s WeChat, these are strong ecosystems in which Google doesn’t have a monopoly (in conversational commerce). Airlines should work with players that will sell their product via a conversational interface. It is a far more fragmented ecosystem and not controlled by one player. Airlines need to stick to fragmented distribution, as is the case now, but they need to be guarded against the future,” said Healy, who added that the concept of Alibaba’s Fliggy storefront or Tencent’s WeChat mini-programs are much better and are quite different from transactional platforms of today. 

Other than conversational commerce, Healy also referred to blockchain technology. “These could be small opportunities as of now, but over a period of time any new distribution platform that airlines find is not controlled by one player they should pursue it. And enabling technology for them to pursue would be APIs,” he said.

Healy added, “If you look at what Google is planning, then there would be no more flights booked on the airline-owned websites. The role would be restricted only for operational notifications and logistics-related conversations with passengers. Google are close to having that vision. Airlines could end up paying more than $50 per booking in 10 years’ time if they keep on going in the direction as they are moving now.”  Healy further said, “A way to mitigate the same is to provide relevant travel products – hotels, car rental, insurance, activities etc. In fact, Ryanair has shown the way, open to offering flight comparisons featuring other airlines.”

The logic behind working out a marketplace like one that by Ryanair would be to retain the customers on their platform even if they sell them some other flights. In a way a platform that connects end users to other systems that provide them important services. The value of the brand will largely come from technology that enables seamless, frictionless, user-centric transaction. 

Considering the way digital economy works, it is being asserted that airlines that will focus only on core business will not be able to survive outside of niche markets. Core business has become commodity and yields no profit.

The role of airlines from being a supplier to a platform operator needs to be contemplated.

NDC – playing into the hands of Google and meta-searchers? 

Referring to IATA’s XML distribution standard, Healy mentioned that NDC certainly helps, but doesn’t make integration any easier. It does improve the capabilities of an airline to distribute their products better.

“For me, the biggest winner from NDC would be companies like Google or Skyscanner. Because eventually it is going to help these players come up with a better proposition for the consumer. It (NDC) doesn’t help them technically (so many versions of NDC XML APIs) but for Google, Skyscanner and KAYAK it is not difficult to implement airlines’ APIs that is bread and butter for them. So NDC doesn’t reduce their effort (as of now) in a way that they really care about. But, overall, NDC plays into hands of the meta-search. Because in the end, rather than showing just price comparison, they end up showing product attributes as well. Only price comparison is a barrier to a meta-search being valuable to travellers,” said Healy.

Healy mentioned that airlines still need to look-out for new trends, such as API connectivity paving way for sharing of relevant information or bookings within the interface consumers are operating in. “Conversational commerce is going to drive a lot of changes. The younger demographic is going to use it and that is going to be powered by intermediaries – Google, Amazon, Skyscanner etc. And they will initially build themselves because they have APIs to their content. Over time airlines would need to refine their APIs to support conversational commerce. An API like NDC is nearly everything that you need in conversational interface – may be additional functionalities could be cancellation that are needed at an API level,” said Healy.

Chatbots are still in the initial stages, and haven’t solved painpoints in a big way. On voice activation software in the travel industry, Healy mentioned that it is currently capable of answering simple questions like the status of a particular flight. “In a decade or so, we will see the rise of micro-transactions carried out in a conversational style completed through a voice operated interface.” So airlines need to prepare for such developments.

Expect a lot of changes in the next decade. It is being projected that mobile apps would be slowly replaced with chatbots that enable constant human-like conversation with passengers. Every customer journey will be different. The more data you will have and the more systems you will have in your digital ecosystem, the better proposition you will have for your customers. The value of the brand will largely come from technology that enables seamless, frictionless, user-centric transaction. Airlines need to gear up for the same.

 

Hear from experts and assess the journey of airlines at the upcoming Mega Event Asia-Pacific (Ancillary, Loyalty and Co-Brand Conferences) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand (28-30 August, 2018).

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Personalising destination discovery – an opportunity for airlines

First Published on 1st June, 2018

Ai Editorial: Destination discovery and associated experiences is one area where airlines haven’t excelled in a big way. Airlines need to play their part in shortening the research phase of leisure travellers, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta  

 

Travel suppliers, including airlines, are looking at various issues to have a say early in the booking funnel. This way passengers would have a stronger brand affiliation, plus the probability of targeting the “second wallet” would go up.  

For this to work a lot of introspection is needed. Some of the issues that are being contemplated are:

·          If booking a flight isn’t only about price and destination but also timing (say weekend vs. weekdays) and social context (family, individual, colleagues etc.), then how the same is reflecting on an airline-owned channel?

·          Are travellers “converting” faster on platforms such as Airbnb.com when compared with an airline or a hotel site?

·          What is the likelihood of a traveller opening an app from Google or a 3rd party app rather than the airline they flew with when they arrive at a destination?

Destination discovery

When a user ends up on an airline-owned site, there is an immediate need to come to grips with one aspect – what is the traveller looking for? Is it a leisure trip or a “bleisure” one? The ideal situation would be to generate enough data within your own user ecosystem to truly understand where and why people are planning to travel.

Airlines have to focus on pre-booking engagement. The options presented to the user shouldn’t be merely about “where to go” (what if this option doesn’t come into the picture in the first interaction at all!).

“Airlines have had poor representation in this arena (the pre-booking phase) and have handed over the advantage to 3rd party sites,” said Matt Walker, Chief Storyteller, LikeWhere.

And when the main curators of the pre-booking phase happen to be players like Google, Facebook etc., the threat of these players going deeper into the booking funnel is worth noticing.

“We (airlines) are past the stage of avoiding them (Google, Facebook etc.) altogether,” said a source. “Airlines have to focus on their brands and their platform strategy to have a bigger say. The likes of Ryanair, Southwest…haven’t relied on Google in a big way. Association with Google can’t be overlooked, especially for certain areas, but direct engagement needs to be focused upon as well. Being dependent on 3rd parties is a problem, the future is dark then.” 

The art of recommending it right

“What is the consumer actually consuming – is it car hire, airline tickets, hotels etc. or experiences in a destination?,” questioned an executive. “Clearly destination discovery and associated experiences is one area where airlines haven’t focused upon, and even if they have via say a white label travel publisher, it hasn’t really shortened the research phase of leisure travellers or enabled them to get closer to taking a decision regarding their destination, the experiences they would like to indulge in and subsequently the likelihood of booking with airlines.”

This is where companies like LikeWhere are stepping in, trying to build a bond with travellers via knowing about them “on the fly” (even without any previous history of knowing them). So the core idea is to offer what is being termed as “smart travel content”. It is presented by a layer of intelligence that ensures that the content shown would complement a traveller’s likings.

“Lifestyle preferences and lifecycle timing are the two metrics of customer relevance in digital,” says Walker.

LikeWhere focuses on personalising destination discovery and eventually enables airlines to position themselves for the main booking/ancillaries. 

As for how LikeWhere does it, Walker refers to the onboarding process that could last 15 seconds or so, akin to the Netflix does to its users. A user wouldn’t start with typical “from” to “to” tabs, rather share interests/ preferences and then recommendations would ensue. “We ask you about neighborhoods (specific places) in your city, and that accesses our own meta-data. When say 5-10 lifestyle preferences of a user are identified, these are matched to neighborhoods across the world. Once we establish certain parameters with a customer we use machine learning to add value, through informing more contextual recommendations,” shared Walker. “We analyze cities, interpret how they feel in human terms, then match the right location to the right customer.”

Is it too late?

If one searches for “ATP World Tour Finals 2018 London”, which is scheduled to take place from 11-18 November, there is no simple way to book around a complete trip including tickets for matches, hotel, airline ticket etc. It remains a fragmented experience. There are attractive packages for the tournament – hospitality packages, private suite at the venue but nothing more. A site, https://www.tennistours.com, came close to offering a travel package but the link didn’t work! This was after browsing top 10 links on Google. So a disjointed shopping experience continues. It is worth watching how travel technology specialists crack this conundrum. Also, since airlines didn’t figure in the search on the first page, how many airlines are in a position to understand that a traveller is visiting London for a reason and offer a relevant package? So in this case, an airline should target the purpose of the trip, come up with suggestions/ tips that enhance the stay and then inch towards the first part of the booking, which could be an airline ticket or even the main experience that the customer is looking for.

Other than content, airline can also bank on the devices being used. For instance, the mobile phone is a highly personal device, and offers an opportunity to capitalize on certain innate features, such as location. Also, as mobile becomes the primary device and since users don’t like to search on it (easy to mistype, to make mistakes), airlines have to preempt what users are likely looking for, based on their context, and bring them relevant content from the moment they access their devices. Based on the intelligence garnered from the device, plus a host of other signals, one can expect a suggestion for a dinner (say the app is opened at 7pm, so the first recommendation is triggered according to the context).

Airlines need to increase the width of your funnel to allow for a higher quality of user engagement. This can happen earlier on in the booking process. The "engine room" of search and booking may be tough to change from the outside-in. That doesn't mean that airlines can't experiment today with new layers which broaden the funnel and increase loyalty.

Hear from experts and assess the journey of airlines at the upcoming Mega Event Asia-Pacific (Ancillary, Loyalty and Co-Brand Conferences) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand (28-30 August, 2018).

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

 

Ai Video: Counting on people and agile adaptive digital platforms

First Published on 22nd May, 2018

Full service carriers have mainly focused on safety and operations for years. But it is time for them to be a part of a digital economy. Otherwise they would continue to get behind in the race of fulfilling customer expectations and being ready for modern commerce.

It is being acknowledged that airlines need to gear up for an entrepreneurial or innovation culture.

“Airlines need to embrace rapid learning cycles, experimenting, and empowering autonomous teams to innovate and validate at speed, says Bill McKimm, Business Development Director, Thoughtworks.  “Airlines need to structure their talent pool, how they bring agile principles into their respective businesses and work out a plan to deviate from their current architecture to a targeted one over a period of time as per a roadmap.” This needs to be worked, even though business continuity and no “downtime” are critical factors while working on such a major transformation.

McKimm referred to the significance of being “agile” and how a prototype of a new offering is crafted with the least effort possible to be used for validated learning about customers. An agile development team works on such minimum viable product to a subdivision of their users to test a new idea, to garner data and doing so learn from the whole exercise. Also, the chosen architecture paves way for the development team to deliver rapidly.  Also there is a provision to leave endpoints as an API that will be consumed by other apps. As for making the most of 3rd party offerings, the adaptive platform with API interface helps in getting associated with start-ups, innovators etc. in a flexible manner.

Hear from experts and assess the journey of airlines at the upcoming Mega Event Asia-Pacific (Ancillary, Loyalty and Co-Brand Conferences) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand (28-30 August, 2018).

 

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

 

Ai Editorial: 5 areas that can propel airlines’ digital transformation journey

First Published on 14th May, 2018

Ai Editorial: Avoiding quick wins, adopting fail-fast attitude, opting for growth culture, a governance team and setting up a “best of breed” platform for optimizing digital experiences can help in a big way in gearing up for the digital API economy, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Airlines need to gear up for the digital world, which brings significantly different complexity and speed, something the likes of network carriers weren’t used to in the classical economy.

It is time to do away with slow, incumbent development processes, technologies and applications to deliver change.

Airlines have to be ready - digitally enabled end-to-end, by working out new digital front-end experiences, and seamlessly connecting these to the back-end systems.

At the same time, the journey of digital transformation needs to be understood because transforming a business involves an element of risk, too.

Failure to demonstrate value as desired can be a major concern. Here we explore 5 aspects that can help airlines in getting closer to the goal of being agile and delivering a superlative passenger experience as an organization:

·          Avoid quick wins: Do away with the mindset of “incrementalism”. It is being pointed out that if organizations end up settling for commodity-level task for incremental enhancements then it won’t serve the purpose. Don’t incentivize the team to progress only for quick gains. In one of his recent posts, Dave Thomson, Head of Product at Skyscanner, wrote that with this approach, one can avoid “big scary problems”. Thomson referred to a couple of possibilities where such mistakes happen –relatively larger businesses tend to be susceptible and the lack of precise and linked goals letting executives/ teams to work on an idea and deliver it. He says “think of quick wins as handing a lifeline to your competitors” and letting them “entirely leapfrog everything you are doing”. Thomson’s recommendation: think of “the network effects that exist within marketplaces, it’s better to swing for the fence and miss than not swing at all”.

·          Adopt fail fast attitude: Make learning as transparent as possible. For those keen on sharing learning, they go for reasonable prototypes, test them with users, and constantly refine them until they reach a minimum viable product. User experience professionals point out that focus must not be on the functional attributes of your product or service, but instead on the context for how customers purchases and use them.

“A great user experience isn’t enough. Airlines need to be connecting user experience with conversion rate optimization, but this isn’t happening today because most airlines don’t understand the relationship between the two.  We are constantly seeing airlines spend 6 months to 1-year designing a new digital experience, then they spend another year building this new digital experience, but by the time they have the new experience live it is 1-2 years old.  This process can’t continue for airlines to be successful,” says Mike Slone, Chief Experience Officer, Travelaer.

“(Airlines) They need to develop a “fail fast” attitude. One that allows them to quickly produce new innovative digital experiences, launch them, observe successes and failures, revise the user experience, observe and measure, and then optimize and redesign again- this should be a constant process, not one that is started every few years after you realize that your user experience is old and outdated.  Airlines are not agile enough and most are not willing to fail fast, thus they will always be behind until they change their internal processes to stay ahead of their customers,” shared Slone.

·          Go for growth culture: Specialists point out that digital transformation is certainly not about assets, it’s not even about processes and methodologies. It’s about culture.

As a digital organization, Air New Zealand encourages a culture of curiosity, learning and problem solving, while providing clear direction and support.

Companies like Skyscanner are very particular about agile developments cycles and speed associated with it. Focus on setting up small, cross-functional, dedicated teams. They work on a small set of tasks together as a unit, and get feedback and clarification from each other continuously. In these companies engineering, growth, data science, and product operate together as much as possible. They deliver very fast, ensure teams are never afraid of trying new things and offer them ownership and independence in their functioning. Failure is part of their daily routine, as there is a culture of forgiveness and experimentation.

·          Governance team: Datalex recommends putting in place an agile governance team. Blair Koch, Datalex CTO and President USA asserts that this team should feature senior leader representation from all the functional leaders involved in the scope of the digital transformation.

“The roadmap developed should show how the transformation will take you from the current state to the future state and include a dimension of time, preferably at least quarterly “releases” of capabilities. The roadmap should be 24-36 months in duration,” wrote Koch in his posting.

·          Role of travel technology: The future of an airline’s digital success is building their own “best of breed” platform that can incorporate seamlessly the best travel tech products or modules into one experience.

“Relying on one Internet Booking Engine or one travel tech partner is often a mistake because the airline is held back by the abilities of one provider, when they could be advancing by working with multiple providers. Some airlines will always want the “easy button,” but the innovative airlines will push beyond the spoon feeding that happens from the large travel tech providers,” said Slone.

Airlines are starting to use sophisticated tools not produced by travel tech companies to improve their ability to personalize and adapt the content to their customer’s needs.  

 

Hear from experts and assess the journey of travel companies at the upcoming Mega Event Asia-Pacific (Ancillary, Loyalty and Co-Brand Conferences) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand (28-30 August, 2018).

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

 

 

Ai Video: Leveraging XML data for 3rd party distribution

First Published on 9th May, 2018

 

Airlines are on look-out for ways to evaluate search and booking behavior on every channel they are associated with. A critical aspect of the whole exercise is to replicate every aspect of the experience that is being offered via direct channels and extend the same to 3rd party ones.  

With IATA’s NDC XML standard, carriers intend to be in control of the offers they are able to make and distribute, and they can get closer to the same by leveraging insights from XML search and booking message streams coming in via the indirect channels. It is vital to assess how such intelligence is being banked upon for real-time decision-making: understanding market demand as it happens, promotional opportunities, flight schedules/ capacity adjustments etc. Data has to pave way for financial gains, be it via cost reduction or augmenting revenue generation, by understanding the performance of product and service offerings in detail.

 

So how is the industry making the most of XML / JSON APIs to exchange search and booking data? How has NDC played its part in understanding the performance of 3rd party channels via XML analytics?

 

Ai’s Ritesh Gupta spoke to Matthew Goulden, CEO, Triometric about the same.

 

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Ai Video: Gearing for personalized pricing

First Published on 3rd May, 2018

It is imperative for airlines to refine their commerce expertise in order to come up with tailored offers for travellers. The requisite capabilities need to embody proficiency in revenue management, dynamic pricing, merchandising etc. and deliver on several counts be it for upselling ancillary services across a passenger’s journey or controlling offers across all the channels.

 

Airlines have been attempting to optimize the order value per passenger depending upon parameters such as travellers’ location, frequency of their trips etc. There have been concerns pertaining to what is limiting such exercise, for instance, is it data silos that inhibits the single view of the customer and this in turn restricts the ability to fully understand the intent of travellers? What about privacy violations and wrong end user identification? How are modern e-commerce platforms facilitating this?

 

Ai’s Ritesh Gupta spoke to PROS’ Regional VP – Travel, EMEA, Gary Mayger about the current status of personalized pricing.

 

 

Ai Video: Where do GDSs stand with NDC XML API distribution?

First Published on 27th April, 2018 

IATA’s New Distribution Capability or NDC has always resulted in intriguing deliberation around how this communication protocol is going to impact the functioning of GDSs. Considering the current situation, be it for NDC schemas or non-NDC schemas, it isn’t realistic or even pragmatic to point out that the role of GDS companies wouldn’t count.

There are no reliable statistics for the market penetration of NDC bookings, but it is believed to be very low.

Overall, GDS distribution remains above 40% of the total market, and total number of GDS segments has grown in line with overall market growth. All four major GDS companies have committed to NDC. As for what to expect in the time to come, Ian Tunnacliffe, Owner at IFT Consulting, says within the next year all four GDSs will offer airlines the option of connecting using the NDC Schema. “(Also), top tier airlines will roll out more Direct Connect NDC links to their major sellers, NDC adoption will continue to increase slowly with GDSs driving the most growth and the eventual arrival of ONE Order will give a boost to the take up of NDC.”

 

Ai Video: Counting on experiment-driven design process for digital assets

First Published on 24th April, 2018

 

Travellers tend to visit 35-40 sites before booking a vacation, a number which travel e-commerce players are trying to cut down by embracing an experiment-driven design process for their respective digital assets.

 

As much as airlines can benefit from being in the consideration set early on in the booking funnel, specialists point out that they aren’t doing enough when it comes to targeting the “second wallet”.

 

According to Iztok Franko, founder, Diggintravel, one of the two hurdles as far as ancillary revenue generation is concerned happens to be the lack of a user-centric (UX) mindset. The other challenge is - IT and platforms not being flexible enough.

 

As per the findings of the 2018 Diggintravel Airline Ancillary Revenue Survey, airlines are in the early stage of applying the conversion optimization process to ancillary upsell and cross-sell activities. “Without a real user-centric approach to digital UX, you can’t do any real digital merchandising,” says Franko.

 

In order to be adept at selling what travellers require for their trips, airlines need to perform user testing on a regular basis. Focus needs to be on agile quick development cycles, for which airlines need to be in control. As we talk of the cultural change, alongside roles such as marketing data scientist, product designer, cloud engineering etc., airlines need to embrace new ways of running a digital organization – can there be a culture of curiosity, learning and problem solving? Is there scope for experimentation? What is failure in quick development cycles and how the same paves for positive results? Some of the bigger OTAs such as Booking.com and meta-search engines such as Skyscanner have already made deep forays into the same. All of this is as important as airline-specific systems that are being considered for creating personalised offers or serving passengers at all touchpoints.

 

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