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!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Amazon’s entry to online travel – is that disruption?

As if the entries of Google and TripAdvisor were not enough disruption, we now have Amazon which is entering into hotel distribution. So while buying your books and what nots, you can now go and buy a hotel room from the retail GIANT!
Amazon Local currency has already been selling some limited and wholesaler type hotel programs for a while now. But that was more of a distressed sale kind of an approach they were taking. With the new model, Amazon is asking hotels to publish their rates and availability for a longer period. For hotels, this means hotels can push full price inventories in the peak season, and of course offer discounts when they are desperate.
Does that mean Amazon is now seriously entering into travel services a la Google?  Travel analysts apparently think so.  Expedia CEO has already ‘welcomed Amazon into the party’.
Truth is, as Expedia Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says, travel today is a trillion dollar global industry. And everyone wants to take a share of the pie. That is why we are seeing TripAdvisor making serious entry to commission based model through TripConnect Instant booking. Wait for Google to make the next move.
Are these changes going to make it more complicated for hoteliers? In my opinion, Amazon, with its marketing capabilities, can become a serious alternative for independent and small hotels. What about TripConnect and Google Direct booking, when they are launched globally?

But as always, your success depends on how well you manage your booking channels. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Italy based travel agency announces partnership with eRevMax

Italy based global travel services provider Seneca Travel Affair has joined the eRevMaxChannel Ecosystem to provide RateTiger Suite, the industry leading integrated channel manager for rate and availability updates, rate shopping and reservation delivery to its hotel customers.

eRevMax is the perfect online distribution partner for our business needs, and with this alliance we will be able to provide our hotel customers the best in class technology to streamline their online distribution.  RateTiger’s automated rate and inventory distribution and rate shopping capabilities complements our proprietary technology platform Xenia making it a one stop solution for hoteliers to manage online sales,” said Ercolino Ranieri, CEO, Seneca Travel Affair.


Seneca Travel Affair provides business travelers and hotels, benchmarking and expense management, self-booking tools, web services, interfacing to proprietary platforms or third-party reporting matrices.





Friday, November 21, 2014

Leading Channels of South America connects with eRevMax Channel Eco System for upgraded connectivity

Leading online booking channels of South America CVC, MalaPronta.com and several others have integrated with eRevMax for seamless connectivity to its growing base of customers in the region.

Our integration with eRevMax will help our hotel partners update rates and inventory in our sales channels in real-time, enabling us to bring the best offers to our customers. This integration will also connect us to eRevMax’s Hotel Ecosystem for improving our global inventory supply,” said Cristiane Belotti, On-line Product Manager at CVC.

Alicia Ribas, Operations Manager at MalaPronta.com also adds “This integration is aligned with our commitment to deliver the fastest and most trusted user experience. This will help our hotel partners to further reduce their time to update rates and availabilities while automating reservation delivery directly into their PMS.”


Following this integration with eRevMax accommodation providers connected to these channels can update Availability, Rate & Inventory (ARI) updates and receive bookings generated by these channels directly into their property management system via eRevMax solutions.


Read Full story here