Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi revealed two new data-led features on stage from the annual Expedia Partner Event in Las Vegas: a live travel ticker and real-time hotel reviews.
Real-time travel ticker
The other big feature that relies on Expedia’s data and user behavior firehose is a live travel ticker. Essentially, it replicates a news or stock ticker at the bottom of the screen and keeps users updated on the latest pricing and availability of interesting travel products.
This steady feed of information is gleaned both from the user’s behavior and from user account interactions that come through products – such as the travel items saved across devices on Scratchpad.
Other trend information populates the ticker, such as holiday travel trends that list the top hotels in a specific destination. For example, top hotels will be listed according to how how many rooms booked over the past 48 hours, when the last booking occurred and how many users are currently looking at a hotel.
Scratchpad was announced last year during the same partner event as part of the brand’s attempts to innovate for a post-Web future. The feature allows users to save searches and items of interest, and then automatically track any important changes as far as pricing and availability. These searches are then available across devices, wherever a user has signed into an account.
The next step brings this live change information to the real-time ticker, so the user doesn’t have to consult the Scratchpad to see changes. It also allows the Expedia brand to profile users and attempt to provide relevant products that the user may not have specifically saved.
The ticker is already in action along the Expedia homepage; users can opt out of the ticker by clicking it away on the homepage.
It’s a very unique and unusual approach to displaying real-time pricing in travel, and is a quite compelling stream to monitor.
Real-time hotel reviews
Real-time data is one of the primary drivers of the new technologies for Expedia, which leans on the incoming stream of data to provide immediate actionable insights for customers and partners.
The first of the data-driven technologies comes from a tie-in to Expedia’s Partner Central, which is the central brain of Expedia bookings for hotels. This is where the user’s instant reviews will be integrated for management perusal.
This dashboard is now being leveraged to further enhance the guest experience by helping hotel brands deliver better overall experiences while the guest is still on property.
The instant reviews work by pinging guests after they check-in for a live review, asking about specifics such as the check-in experience and room quality. The guest can thus offer live feedback on the experience, rather than waiting until later to complain or identify issues.
The hotelier then has the new opportunity to address any negatives and enhance any positives while the guest is still on-property.
Given the power of user reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, this is huge for hoteliers. There’s never been an easy way to tie into guest sentiment in real-time, and that’s a value proposition that Expedia now hopes to deliver.
Brand Expedia’s Chief Product Officer John Kim explains further:
One of the things that bothers consumers is that reviews are delayed. It’s usually a week or two after the stay from memory; there are some happy moments and then some not-so-happy moments. And then they put that into a review and publish.
The only feedback they get is usually social – and very frustrating for the hotel. They find out one month later, and they had no chance to fix it. You can imagine that meeting as a GM, and the VP comes into town and wants to talk about a particular bad review. Everybody loses.
The thesis is: what if I could signal to the hotel that someone is a content producer and the review is a living, breathing thing that can change in the moment? What would the hotel do to solve the problem?
Of course, a hotel brand could offer this in its own app, email marketing, or via Net Promoter Screens placed throughout the property. However, the brands may not have the engagement that Expedia has, or are unable to tie the real-time feedback into the current PMS system so the staff can act promptly before the guest has checked out.
The advantage here is that Expedia guests are increasingly likely to have booked a hotel room on mobile, which means they have already downloaded the Expedia app and have demonstrated interest in engaging via mobile. There’s no need to convince the guest to download a branded app to gather this feedback; it all comes into the already-functioning system the hotels are using to manage inbound Expedia bookings.
The real-time review product still has some runway ahead, as it’s only distributed via email in its initial phase – the consumer receives the email around 8pm the day of check-in at participating hotel partners. Down the line, with location awareness on the mobile app, real-time reviews could be an extraordinarily powerful tool for hoteliers to proactively manage the guest experience via the guest’s smartphone.
This is definitely a clever feature that should be widespread in a few years as mobile cements itself into the primary (and, in many cases, only) means of engagement, commerce and bookings in travel worldwide.
An image of the new feature is forthcoming.
Big data Smart data
Expedia likens this ongoing strategy to one of transforming Big Data into Smart Data. This isn’t a revolutionary concept at its face; it comes down to how the execution impacts the business and customer experience.
Tnooz sat with Brand Expedia’s Chief Product Officer John Kim to discuss the strategy of transforming data into smart data that works in real-time to increase relevancy and accuracy for consumers.
We’ve been shifting our platform from pull to push. Today, on most websites you have to use some sort of search wizard and interact with the website. When you think about travel, one of the reasons why people are searching dozens of times, is that they continue to do the same search over time to see if the availability has changed or if there is something else to discover.
What they’d rather have is a way to push the relevant information to them specifically – they’ve given you a clue, so just what’s relevant according to these clues. Why not use those? Can I make it simpler by just pushing out that data? We can now take every single click, rate change and page view and actually push it in real time. We think that’s powerful. And that’s just the data stream.
Kim likens this to a human-curated algorithm that allows ongoing customization of travel data – a wording that Kim emphasizes is more targeted to the trade audience and less to the consumer:
The second piece is to think about what application the consumer wants to filter the data.
We give them an unfiltered data stream, and then the data is flexible according to what you’re looking at, and you can create your own algorithm. The user can custom-create this as an ongoing search or news feed that would be custom to them – and powered by our data.
The combination of a detailed algorithm with a push-based model requires a large data stream and an incredible capacity to parse it accurately. That’s the biggest challenge for the company as it makes its self-proclaimed transition to a push model focused on smarter data – it must actually improve the user’s experience.
The technology must make it easier to book what they want when they want how they want – a feat that seems to be the current Holy Grail in travel.
NB: Live ticker image courtesy Shutterstock.
NB2: Author is a guest of Expedia for the event.
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