Transforming customer experience with superfast analytics
We process over a billion queries per year, from travellers looking for flights, hotels, vacation packages and car hire. In order to deliver the right experience, we rely on superfast data analytics.
is a technology company, as much as it is a travel search provider. 70 per cent
of our staff are technology employees, ranging from engineers to data scientists and those maintaining technical operations.
face several complex challenges in our business. The first is accessing and
analysing a huge amount of data from hundreds of airlines, hotels and travel
agencies, and doing so as quickly as possible.
Useful analytics at speed
of the companies we work with are much faster than others at presenting
results. In order to offer results quickly and usefully to our customers, we
have a live stream in which we quickly show them the main results to begin
with, adding additional items as they arrive during the following seconds.
the companies that are particularly slow at providing information, we draw
information from global distribution systems instead, in order to more quickly
provide the data to users.
major issue in the travel search industry is accuracy of data -
when people search for flight or hotel prices, they can find that the price at
the point of booking is different from the original price presented on the
search engine. Big data analytics enable us to check the problematic searches
and companies involved, so that we only present the most reliable information.
data mining also helps us know the final prices on offer, including booking
fees. Many search engines provide basic prices that do not include additional
booking or credit card fees. When a customer searches for travel prices, we dig
deeper to mine the actual costs of their preferred payment method, which they
can select , and show the final cost as closely as possible in our payment
The take-off of predictive analytics
offer predictive analytics directly to users. Since January last year, we have
offered users the opportunity to see how their flights prices are likely to change
in the coming weeks (see screenshot below).
order to do this, we rely on a number of items of data, including historical
price information, an analysis of repeatable patterns, and monitoring changing
present predicted price changes in a simple graph format, including information
showing how accurate we expect this prediction to be, so that users easily know
how and when to act. Since we first trialled this option, we have seen many
users accessing the information to hold back on purchases until a time when
there is a better deal, or buy right away when we forecast the prices to go
Presenting complex data
users access our service on a number of devices, ranging from traditional PCs
to tablets and mobile phones. This presents us with a real design challenge,
given that we collate and show so much information to each user in one display.
PCs and tablets alone, with their larger screen size, there is the challenge of
showing the key information such as price and times, as well as filtering
options, in a simple and easy-to-use fashion. Presenting this on mobile is even
more complex, but the tendency of users to scroll does help us provide further
filtering options lower down on the screen.
Technology fueling the change
addition to our own extensive work in improving analytics, it is also the
technology development by the industry that has enabled us to drive the change.
some of the analytical technology, including machine learning, has been
effective for much of the last decade, it is the real data mining that has
transformed. We are now able, using technology such as Hadoop, to dive much
more quickly into the data and arrive at what we need.
developments also help us cope with fluctuations in traffic according to
seasons and promotions. We always over-plan for traffic, and have two data
centres ready to handle the capacity. By keeping excess capability, we are also
able to switch off elements of either datacentre for maintenance, without
On the horizon
are finding that mobile search is growing significantly, and represents many
searches by business travellers and those already on holiday, looking to change
plans. Tablet searches are particularly popular at night when people are at
home making holiday bookings.
New technology is always emerging to support these
changes. We will continue our advanced work with analytics, so that we can
always provide the fastest and most accurate holiday results in the