We Think It’s a Good idea, But is It? – PhoCusWright Conference, Dublin, May 2016

Globalisation, innovation, the testing of good ideas and the mobile-connected user were high on the agenda at PhoCusWright Europe, held in Dublin earlier this month. It is one of the few industry events where those at the helm of the world’s top travel companies come to discuss both the challenges and the keys to their success.

The benefits of scale

Gary Morrison, Senior VP and Head of Retail at Expedia Worldwide discussed how his company understands what works for their customers – when, where and how they engage with their products, what they do online and why they keep coming back. Gary told us that Expedia did not just create products, but “creates a complete experience". He said that a major reason for their incredible success was precisely because they were so large and successful. Gary described it as the benefit of scale, which simply gives Expedia more scope to do more testing with their customer audience. “The benefit of scale is [online] more traffic, and traffic means more tests, and more testing means a better experience… Traffic is fundamentally the lifeblood of how many tests we can run concurrently," he said.

He reminded the audience to value the members within their own organisation for good ideas – and to put them to the test: “It’s extremely important to test any idea, no matter where it came from".

Gary’s presentation very much underscored the importance analytics and reporting to the success of every company. In fact, it’s for this reason that they are built into every Enterprise-ready SDL product, from Translation Management to our Web and content management solutions. Without such tools, companies both very large and very small will be forever blind to the realities of their own marketplace.

2.4 billion minutes a month

Expedia’s Media Solutions division also ran a workshop that took a deep dive into the results of the testing the company has done in the British travel market. I was blown away by the findings of their study:

  • 3 out of 4 UK digital users consume travel content
  • 2.4 billion minutes is spent on consuming travel content in the UK each month
  • More mobile users than desktop users now engage with travel content, representing an 82% YoY growth on mobile.
  • Half of all British smartphone owners and three-fifths of tablet owners actually used their mobile devices to plan trips

And the one I was least expecting:

  • Web browsers – not Apps – are still the primary way mobile travel information is accessed online

So, for those companies who treat the mobile browser experience as an afterthought, you may want to wake up to the realities of the marketplace. Again, SDL has long anticipated this trend and our SDL Web product makes creating engaging mobile websites as straightforward as the (now less important!) desktop version of the website.

“A lot of misconceptions about what we’re doing"

As you would expect from Google’s interest in the travel market, their approach has been to leverage the search engine interface as an entry point for travellers after a bargain. Oliver Heckmann, VP of Travel and Shopping at the search giant, presented Google’s strategy of connecting the discovery and planning process with the ability to book those choices.

It’s an interesting move, especially given that Expedia’s own testing shows that right now Online Travel Agents (“OTAs" – such as Expedia, Booking.com, etc.) were the “most influential online resource in bookers’ destination decisions". Google has some catching up to do, but their very presence in the marketplace has many OTAs worried. In response, Heckmann said that there were “a lot of misconceptions" about what Google was doing, and it had no intention of becoming an OTA.

Oliver did present one bit of data that once again stressed the importance of mobile: an almost 40% increase in mobile-based searches in travel over the past 6 months. More interestingly, the time per visit continues to decrease. This fact made me wonder, in light of the Expedia findings above, whether mobile users were bouncing away from websites that were not optimized for the mobile browser.

Worth testing, I think.

Power to the People

Peter Verhoeven, Managing Director EMEA for travel behemoth Booking.com talked about the power of “verified reviews". He pointed out that user reviews are one of the three key factors for Booking.com conversions, alongside price and location.

The importance of social commentary was also very evident with the launch of Booking.com Messages, an app that connects Booking.com partners and their guests. It’s currently being tested with 150,000 partners.

What was also highly significant was that Booking.com has undergone “a huge operational undertaking" in making their App available across 42 language markets. Indeed, globalisation was a strong undercurrent across all the keynote speeches. All the major companies are expanding their product portfolios and all are looking localise that content for as many native speakers as possible.

Part of the reason for SDL’s success in the travel sector has been the marriage of cutting-edge translation technologies with the globalisation of content. Indeed, going global faster has become a business imperative for all companies with an international focus. You simply must interact with a customer in their own language. If you don’t, they will point their mobile browser to a competitor that does – regardless of how many ‘good ideas’ you are testing.


Optimise your website for a Global Audience: http://www.sdl.com/video/optimize-your-website-for-a-global-audience/102553/

Four steps for easier website globalisation: http://blog.sdl.com/digital-experience/4-steps-for-easier-website-globalization/