Expedia APAC marketing head Gabriel Garcia says the younger generation in particular is open to sharing their experiences especially with well-known platforms that strictly comply with data privacy laws.
Travel booking site Expedia gets its data from users’ searches, cookies and click streams – the links and adverts people click as they browse.
“By the time they land on our page, there is already a very clear traveller intent. It gives us an idea of who the customer is and what kind of trip he or she wants,” he says.
Though there is a lot of hype around big data and machine learning, he says, adding that they alone are not enough as a marketing tool.
“Big data will not solve your problems, applying machine learning blindly will not solve customers’ problems. A company needs to understand the problem it seeks to solve first,” he says.
Also, as more users go mobile and use Expedia’s app, data mining becomes easier for the company, though Google still plays a large role due to the non-linear nature of how customers browse online when shopping.
Garcia, who is also the mobile apps marketing global head, reveals that as of the last quarter of 2017, more than half of the service’s traffic were from mobile users and one in three bookings were done via the app. He also claims the app has been downloaded over 250 million times.
Being more tech forward, the majority of Millennials are interested in a digital travel assistant to help facilitate their trips, something Expedia is aiming to offer. And not surprisingly, they also look for “share worthy” trips as much as good travel experiences.
When asked what troubles are commonly faced by South-East Asian customers, Garcia reveals the key ones are tyranny of choice (too many choices makes choosing painful), higher pricing due to weaker currency, and travel anxiety among new travellers.
He explains that Expedia’s algorithms help narrow down millions of choices to the ones most relevant to customer needs so it’s easier to pick the right ones. To help reduce anxiety, the app also is designed to be a single platform for tracking almost everything, including flight arrival times and delays, and booking a place to stay.
Expedia also owns HomeAway, which competes with AirBnB and Garcia claims even business travellers are starting to try alternative rentals, usually for slightly longer business trips where they would want something cosier than a hotel.
He says that the new Malaysian government appears open to collaboration to push short-term rentals forward as part of a plan to encourage local tourism, though it’s too early to predict the direction of its policies.
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