Best Practice from the Online Travel Industry
By Paul Whiteway, Internet Leader, Skyscanner
The travel industry was one of the first industries to be disrupted by the Internet with the first online travel agents launching over 20 years ago. Over the ensuing years, travel has become one of most competitive and most sophisticated online industries and provides a wealth of knowledge of best practice for other companies entering, or expanding online.
The quote from Heraclitus in 500 B.C. that “the only constant is change” reflects both the opportunities and the challenges that the pace of change in the internet economy provides. It is critical to keepabreast of the latest technology and user trends and maximize their potential. To help achieve this, Skyscanner utilizes Lean Startup principles, betaking an approach of constant building, measuring and learning. This process of endless experimentation and iteration enables organizations to consistently innovate and evolve in a rapidly changing landscape.
" Travel is a highly fragmented industry and one where the needs of users are incredibly diverse and complex, especially in Asia"
One benefit from the rapid pace of change is that advanced tools and capabilities that were previously only available to large corporations are now accessible to companies of any size. For example, usability testing and A/B testing were cost prohibitive for most SMEs five years ago but today there are a wealth of tools available that make this a must, and many of these tools are available for free. Tools such as Optimizely, Unbounce, UserTesting, Google Website Optimizer and many others enable businesses to validate their experiments.Internet companies run thousands of experiments every month to constantly optimize and innovate.
Put the User at the Centre
Travel is a highly fragmented industry and one where the needs of users are incredibly diverse and complex, especially in Asia. Everything we do at Skyscanner is about solving problems for users and this can only be done by putting the user at the centre and having a deep understanding of their needs and preferences.
Today’s users have awide range of behavior and preferences. Millennial consumers are often cited as an example of one of the most demanding and most unique customer segments with strong preferences in terms of what social media channels they use, endless mobility and multiple devices, different payment methods and a desire for unique and local travel experiences.
Delivering solutions that put the user at the centre requires a wide range of organizational capabilities, tools, people and most importantly, commitment. Through this commitment you can build sustainable, long term relationships with your users based on trust.
Localization is not Translation
At extension of putting the user at the center is designing truly local products. Localization extends way beyond just translation and encompasses many aspects within the product design such as design, tone of voice, and imagery. In addition to ensuring the product is truly local, the marketing channels used and the execution also need to be highly localized. In Asia, for example, the importance of mobile and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and WeChat is much higher than it is in the West.
All leading internet economy companies have one thing in common; the critical importance they place on making data driven decisions. There are an enormous number of ways to use data and a multitude of data driven techniques to help you optimize your business, whether it is optimizing your landing page, refining your website conversion or measuring your digital marketing ROI.
Big data provides avast number of insights and opportunities but the enormity of data also creates a challenge in that identifying the right data to act upon can be overwhelming. Fortunately, today there are a wide array of amazing tools tool that the world of utilizing big data is now open to everyone.
The value of data extends beyond creating better user experiences, our partners benefit from the wealth of data we have to make better business decisions. Airline partners for instance, can tap into actual search data to more accurately model trends in route demand.
Bringing everything together and presenting it to the user in a meaningful way requires strong design principles and capabilities. The world of UI (User Interface Design) and UX (User Experience design) are distinctly different but inherently interrelated. Great products start with UX that bring together art, design, psychology and data and provide a framework for building great products. This is then complimented with UI that provide the visual and cosmetic representation.
There are many more to learn from the online travel industry and over time these knowledge and best practice will evolve and change. The most exciting aspect of the internet industry is the pace of change. Last, but certainly not least, is the critical importance of having great talent. In today’s world where technology advances at light speed and the demand for talent outweighs supply it is important to create an environment that attracts and retains the best people.Internet companies are well known for their funky offices, collaborative culture, flexible working conditions, fun and interactive environments. All this goes to help create an environment that brings together highly skilled people who can do their best work together.