Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Big 5 – a look into top performing channels in the APAC region - Part I

There are total 2.92 billion people in the world having access to internet. Nearly half of them or 1.3 billion are from Asia Pacific. Last year, Asia Pacific became the largest regional ecommerce market and now contributes for more than a third of all business to consumer ecommerce sales in the world. The increase in online penetration has changed the travel behavior which traditionally preferred travel agencies, group bookings and in-person sales. Many are now choosing to travel in smaller groups, or even alone and preferring to self-manage travel by booking online.



PhoCusWright reports that in 2012 APAC region surpassed Europe to become the world’s largest regional travel market with US$326 billion in gross travel bookings. Despite slow economic growth and political turmoil in some countries in the region, an average 8% growth is expected this year taking the online travel market to $126billion, which is pretty mind-blowing. With 46% APAC travelers planning to book online, no wonder global giants like Expedia and Booking.com are eyeing for a share of the pie, where regional OTAs still rule.

Consider this - 69% of Chinese OTA market is controlled by three regional travel agencies Ctrip, eLong & Ly.com. In India MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip and Yatra have 60% of the market share. Japan, one of the largest online markets in the region, is dominated by Rakuten Travel.

In this article we list out five online travel agents who are playing vital role in shaping the online travel industry in Asia Pacific.


MakeMyTrip, the only local site to be amongst the top 10 most popular online booking sites globally has been consistently dominating the Indian online travel market with over 47% market share.  Rising disposable income and the corresponding expansion of the Indian middle class have triggered more cash flow in households, opening up possibilities for spending and leisure. Working on a hybrid model which offers both online and offline travel services, MakeMyTrip now has a customer base of over seven million, and page views crossing 20 million every month. To cash on the smartphone led internet revolution in the country, MakeMyTrip has invested heavily on their mobile application with full booking capabilities for flights, hotels and bus ticketing across all major platforms.  The application which has seen more than 3.2 million downloads, more than 29% of their monthly unique visitors and 25% of total online domestic hotel transactions come from mobile.


With the rise in disposable income levels, and an expanding middle class, China has emerged as the biggest outbound market. China has 632 million Internet users and 46.9% of them are pure mobile. Ctrip which receives over 1 million transactions per day is the largest Chinese online travel agency by revenue and valuation.




Ctrip.com controls 54% of Chinese online travel market and receives 8.6 million monthly visitors to its website of which 73.52% comes from China only. Ctrip has been partnering with local regional travel portals to consolidate its dominance in Greater China. The channel has formed a partnership with Priceline which gives Ctrip access with Priceline’s 500000 inventories and improve the cross-promotion of each other’s hotel inventory and other travel services.

In my next edition I'll talk about three more online channels who are playing vital role in shaping the online travel industry in Asia Pacific.

NB: Oriental People Image by Stockvault and Chinese Street by Freepik Images



This is a view point by Christy Toh Sales Manager at eRevMax based in Singapore.  She can be reached at christinet@erevmax.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why hotels can’t afford to ignore business intelligence in 2015- Part 2

Why BI can do what current tools don’t ?

The current kind of retrospective – your rate shopping or production data analysis is no longer adequate to ensure the best business decisions. Yes, you can see your competitor set’s rate movement in your rate shopping report, but at a time when competition is cut-throat, you need to be always prepared for sudden increase / decrease in demand. An advanced business intelligence like RateTiger Analytics gives you high quality market insights for your revenue strategy to respond to opportunities and threats in real time for optimizing business outcome. Benchmark your competitors on key parameters to make informed pricing decisions. Plan and forecast with greater precision with historical and future data analysis.


Quality data is essential for producing accurate forecasts. Production Reports, which comes with booking pace, reservation and budget gap analysis, provides revenue managers with booking demands from all sources of online distribution broken down into market segment. Compare demand and booking pace to identify whether your sales strategy should be in promotional or allocation mode. Analyze forecasted revenue and occupancy and compare the forecasts to the same time last year. By analyzing the performance metrics, they can get a clear understanding of what makes travelers to book the property. Which channel delivers the most booking? Which OTA provides the highest RevPAR? And which delivers the most advanced bookings? What type of package are people buying here? This helps hotels identify their most valuable guests, their demography and the channel they are using for booking, and adapt strategies accordingly to maximize revenue.


Whether it is using analytics to predict customer behaviour, set pricing strategy, optimize ad spending or manage risk, analytics is moving to the top of the management agenda.

To progress on their analytics journey, hoteliers will need to focus on ways to generate insights from their technology investments, connect the insights to the relevant processes, and then link them to tangible business outcomes. Those, who implement business intelligence as an ancillary activity to a routine and integral part of doing business will make it to the finishing line faster than others.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why hotels can’t afford to ignore business intelligence in 2015- Part 1

There are two types business organizations today – one who rely on incorporate business intelligence in their decision making process and another who still relies on ‘gut’ feeling. At a time when we live in a perpetual state of hyper-competition, organizations which are using business intelligence to get key insights are responding more quickly to correct things that may be problematic.

Business analysts predict that bad data or poor data quality costs US businesses $600 billion annually. According to Gartner, poor data quality is a primary reason for 40% of all business initiatives failing to achieve their targeted benefits. With advanced analytics, they can improve their revenue by 10 – 20%.


Wikipedia defines Business Intelligence as the set of techniques and tools for the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes. BI makes easy interpretation of large volumes of data which helps businesses identifying new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy based on insights. Sharlock Holmes has summed it up long time back, “Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay". BI does exactly that – builds insights by placing data at the right place.

Internet has been a great leveler in narrowing the information gap. Today’s customers are empowered with ample sources to get information on almost everything they want to know, social media for peer feedback and mobile connectivity to stay up to date even on the go. To say that we at hospitality industry are finding it challenging to cope up with changing guest behavior would be an understatement. British Airways paid a heavy price when a disgruntled customer bought promoted tweet to complain about their customer service, which became global news. In recent times United Airlines and Air India had to face lot of flak when videos on their customer service went viral in social media.

This constant scrutiny has forced us in the hospitality industry to continuously adjust and refine our marketing strategies. Let’s face it – we are dealing with the multifaceted traveler whose preference changes depending on type of trips. He might not need high-speed internet during his family vacation, but for his business trip that’s an absolute necessity. The way people plan trips is also changing.

Google, which has done a detailed study on consumer’s purchase path, has identified how different marketing channels such as email, social media, display ads, direct search, referrals, paid and organic search add different values to the customer at different stages. Some channels will act more as an assisting interaction, i.e. by building brand awareness – these are the channels which make a customer consider a brand while others will act further downstream, when the customer’s decision and transaction, is made. For hotels it has become imperative to understand guest buying behaviors, price elasticity and changing market dynamics for yielding the optimum rate from the most desired consumer set.

Organizations need to capture information at every stage and correctly analyze it to get the right strategy in place. However this is easier said, that done. In this era of information explosion, hoteliers are overloaded with data, but not enough understanding to map them to business needs. Clearly the problem has shifted to making sense of the data which is far more complicated than gathering information.



This is where business intelligence comes in. Data becomes valuable only after it is shaped into insights, and when those insights inform the key decision processes that lead to better outcomes. We at eRevMax, view business intelligence as something much more than a technology with an ROI; it’s a transformational phenomenon that will fundamentally change how business will be conducted and decisions made. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Rise and Rise of Mobility: how it is Changing World Travel - Part 2

Mobile Specific Promotion

True, that a large section of mobile bookers are last-minute guests, but does that mean it’s a channel to sell distressed inventories at a discounted rate? Hardly so. The fact that it’s primarily a last minute distribution channel should be a good enough reason for hotels to hold on to their last-minute best available rate. Treat mobile as a high demand channel and create promotions dedicated to this channels to grab instant attention of your guests.

Smart Pay

The days of carrying your wallet and paying through cash are gone. Paying in mobile sites or within the apps has become easier with Apple Pay- with a single touch. With iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad travelers can pay with breakthrough contactless payment technology within a unique secure gateway. With 62% smartphone users using mobile device for their travel planning, travel biggies are warming up to online wallets to this segment.


Utilize geo-location data

According to Google, geo-location data is going to be the key differentiator between mobile and desktop web. Providing information relevant to your guest’s location will help you to reach out to them more appeal which will lead to higher conversion.


2015 is likely to be year of mobile in travel industry and that is the reason major travel players have come to consolidate in the mobile sector and combine services for a cohesive planning and booking experience. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Rise and Rise of Mobility: how it is Changing World Travel - Part 1

More people today own a mobile device than a toothbrush. At the beginning of this year, about 5.1 billion, or 5 out of 7 people have access to mobile phones.  To say that the figure is mind blowing would be an understatement. Truth be told, mobile technology has occupied our daily lives – it has changed our relationships with family, spouses and close friends, altered communication modes and social behavior.


For hospitality industry, this effectively means fundamentally changing the way we do our business. Putting that in perspective, today we deal with a customer who has access to market data all the time. Right from planning to booking to sharing feedbacks – the traveler is using web, largely through a connected mobile device at every step.

As a customer today uses multiple devices to complete purchase journey, hotels need to ensure that guests get a ubiquitous experience. Here is what I think will be key factors hotel needs to consider while developing their mobile strategy.

Mobile Optimized Site

The days of tracking your customers through Desktop / Laptop IP address are gone. According to Global Online Travel Overview by PhoCusWright, about 22% of online bookings will be made in mobile this year.  Experian, in a recent report suggests that about 97% of tablet owners have made a purchase on their devices, and 83% have been engaged in shopping-related activities immediately before, during, or after visiting a store. Clearly it has become an integral part of the travel buying journey as they use the device from planning to “showroom’ viewing to purchasing to finally posting review – in other words using it at every stage of the travel journey.  However, do remember, your probable guest is most likely to use mobile while on the go, and hence has a shorter attention span. Make sure they don’t need to visit too many pages to get the right information. A responsive web-design which provides an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices should get the top priority in your wish list for 2015.
 

Ease of Booking

1.75 billion people today own a smartphone, a number you can hardly ignore for being used by elites. More than 50% of leisure travelers and 74% of first-class travelers today use a smartphone making it a platform which hotels must adapt to. By now, mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop internet usage, and mobile devices – and one in every five booking will come through smart phone and tablets. Peer-to-peer apartment rentals booked through mobile is even more at 34%. For the hospitality industry, this essentially indicates that unless they have a mobile friendly direct bookings, baked by a focused marketing strategy, lion-share will go to the OTAs which have been early adapters of this change.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Four Trends to Watch for in 2015 - Part 2

It’s all about personalization

Google has been making suggestions based on previous search and purchases for a while now. Your guest today expects personalized recommendations based on his preferences. As someone who needs to travel frequently, I go into a certain OTA application to make my bookings. Whenever I log in to the application, based on my earlier preferences, the site shows my favourite flight and hotel directly and upfront. It saves me lot of time, and as a result I get back to it for all bookings. In other words, they have created a loyal customer in me. All major OTAs today study your spending patterns to predict what you want, and what you're willing to pay for. With the latest technology available in the market place, hotels can collect customer likes and dislikes. Access cookies to personalize the online experience, such as recognizing guests’ name when they revisit and display customized offers and promotions based on their previous searches. Customer intelligence is key to delivering a customized campaign to your guests. Social media provides hotels with vital inputs to map the customer’s state of mind and hence elasticity. The more the revenue manager knows about the price sensitivity of a particular segment, the more he or she is able to price optimally.



Mobile booking taking center-stage

According to a recent PhoCusWright Report, mobile devices will account for 27% of U.S. online bookings this year, up from just 10% in 2013. The report also forecasted that mobile will account for 20% of online bookings in both Asia-Pacific and Europe next year. Consumers do not care whether your priority is on desktop site or application. All they are bothered about is their experience. As they switch from desk top to mobile to tablet, they want to have a seamless experience. Brand experience is not about having a nice website anymore. You need to have a presence in desktop, mobile and application. Nearly 45% travellers travel with two or more devices and they are always connected. Working on multiple platforms will help hotels to track individual-level behavior within and across channels, deriving valuable insights regarding consumer behavior and draw an effective marketing strategy.




Dhiraj Kumar is Associate Product Owner at eRevMax. He is based out of Kolkata and can be reached at dhirajk@erevmax.com

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Four Trends to Watch for in 2015

There is no hospitality like understanding. As an hotelier, I can vouch for it. As an hotelier, you need to understand your guest, their buying pattern, seasonal behaviour, market rate fluctuation, global economy and what not. And as if tracking you competitors is not enough, you have to now keep of new players in the distribution arena. Today’s revenue manager’s job is always on a roller coaster.


2014 was the year when meta-search channels further consolidated their position, with TripAdvisor throwing in a surprise in the form of commission based model, and bed banks like AirBnB becoming a really hot topic. The year ended with the curtain-raiser for Amazon’s entry as hotel retailer. If you think 2015 will be any different, you are in for a surprise.
Here are four trends I will be watching for in 2015.

Rise, rise and rise of Big Data

We have been hearing it for the past few years, now. But 2015 is going to be the year when Bid Data is going to take center-stage in marketing and distribution strategies of most hospitality companies. It is the buzz word I hear at every travel industry conference, at every trade show, as if it has the Midas Touch to solve every problem we face today.


And indeed it almost has. Big data by definition usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. As revenue managers, you and I are used to accessing multiple reports from CRM, PMS, CRS, etc. Data overload has been long been a cause of worry for us. What big data does is that it gives us the capability to store data, dissect and dice it, analyze and draw insights from it…and then use those insights to greater understanding of customers and markets which eventually yields innovative products and more valuable customers.

Analytics for positive business outcome

Ok, I admit, Big Data and Analytics are closely related. Analytics is the application of science to Analysis, or as some experts call it, it’s basically data science. We all have data, but it becomes valuable only after you analyze it to derive insights. To give you an example, while benchmarking reports might help you to know your pricing position, it would not be giving you a clear picture on what should be your best position in a channel– which might not be the first or last position, but somewhere in between which gives you the maximum yield. With Analytics, you will be able to identify your best position, which would get you the optimal return.

Hotels for a long time relied on transactional data for customer insights. With the advent of internet, incoming traffic has been important source for customer segmentation.  However, with cross-platform connectivity becoming the new normal, hotels are increasingly finding it difficult to cope up with so many things are happening across so many platforms – how do we stay in sync? Analytics gives them the insights through which travel companies are able to “listen in” on potential consumers’ opinions, needs and desires, and deliver results accordingly.

In next edition I’ll talk about how mobile is outpacing desktop and becoming a hot trend.

By Dhiraj Kumar is Associate Product Owner at eRevMax. He is based out of Kolkata and can be reached at dhirajk@erevmax.com

Monday, January 5, 2015

How Google Search Works

Google, the search engine giant searches more than 40,000 pages per second or billions of web pages per day. Search starts with the web and it is made up of over 60 trillion individual pages and the number is constantly growing.



How the search giant finds relevant results of your search query in the blink of an eye? Explore the art and science that makes it possible. Google does it in three steps – Crawling & Indexing, Algorithms & Spam Filter.

See more here How Google Works

Crawling & Indexing

Google use software known as “Web Crawlers”, it searches trillions of web pages and gathers the information and provides you the most useful results. Crawlers finds link to link, page to page and bring data about those web pages back to Google’s servers.

Algorithms

Google has spent more than one million computing hours to build their 100,000,000 gigabytes index which finds billions of queries in a fraction of second. This search query is based on an algorithm- a complex computer program and formulas which brings the answers to your search query.



Fighting Spam

Spam sites use various techniques such as repeating keywords or putting invisible links over and over to game their way to the top of search ranking. Google fight with these spam sites through a combination of computer algorithms and manual review and finds the legitimate websites of your search query.

See full story here How Google Works

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is TripAdvisor turning into an OTA with its Instant Booking Model?

TripAdvisor has recently unveiled their direct booking feature, which offers users the option to book hotels within its site. Officially called TripConnect Instant Booking, this function has already created a lot of buzz in the industry.
I attended a session at WTM, where TripAdvsior gave a rough sketch on how the model works.  This will allow users to research, compare, choose and now book hotels, in other words, complete the buying journey while staying within TripAdvisor user experience.

This is a major shift in TripAdvisor’s revenue model, which earlier relied on advertising. Only last year, the travel giant had revealed its meta-search service, where a supplier  uses TripConnect CPC (cost-per-click) to place bids to appear in the price and availability search results. With the new model, TripAdvisor has introduced a commission based ‘bidding model’, where suppliers like OTAs, hotels, GDSs bid on a commission percentage they are willing to pay.
The basic difference between the CPC and Instant Booking model is that for the former, partners bid via cost-per-click for the top positions, and pay when users click on that link, whereas in the new model, they pay TripAdvisor a commission once the user completes their stay.  In the earlier model, suppliers required bid management strategy to be on top position, and directing traffic would not necessarily lead to conversion. The Instant Booking gives them 100% return on investment; in addition they will own the data, can view traveller profile and be the pointof sale collecting the payments.
If it reminds you of the traditional OTA model, you are absolutely right. But does that mean TripAdvisor is aspiring to be an OTA? According to analysts, this is an extremely smart move by TripAdvisor to improve monetization of its mobile channel.  The site gets around 110 million monthly unique visitors, about 40% of its total traffic, but accounts for less than 20% of desktop when it comes to monetization.
With mobile booking rapidly growing in US, Europe and APAC, Instant Booking, which allows users to book a hotel room while staying on the TripAdvisor user-shell will encourage more people to book, and therefore improve conversion rates. To make it more attractive for partners, TripAdvisor is using the Top Position of it search result and extending Premium Certification to enjoy benefits like tradeshow and online promotion to those signing up for this programme.
For independent hotels struggling to improve position in a channel where big OTAs with larger marketing spends typically dominate, this can be a golden opportunity to get direct bookings at a lower cost per acquisition, and to increase distribution on distressed inventory or increase direct bookings in low periods through improved mobile booking experience.
Choice Hotels International, Best Western, GetaRoom.com, Amoma, Tingo and GDS operator Travelport have already signed up for this programme.  In fact for TripAdvisor, Travelport’s listings for 580,000 hotels worldwide, including 480,000 non-branded properties and 150,000 e-commerce enabled listed properties can be the biggest coup for this program.

Presently pilot testing on global Mobile and certain US desktop IP addresses, the program is expected to be globally rolled out early 2015. With Google Hotel Finder also testing Buy Now in the UK market, does this indicate a new trend to look out for in 2015? It certainly looks so!