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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mobile site best practices (top 10) according to Google

Mobile site best practices (top 10) according to Google during the Eye for travel conference: 
  • Keep it quick
  • Simplify navigation
  • Be thumb friendly
  • Design for visibility
  • Make to accessible 
  • Make to easy to convert
  • Make to local
  • Make it seamless
  • Use mobile siege redirects 
  • Learn, listen & iterate

Monday, July 9, 2012

The new GDS: my smartphone

There are still people doubting that mobile will revolutionize travel. They will tell you that today, it represents only a few percentage of bookings and a very small amount of money.

What I say, is : What is important to see is not where we stand today, but the growth ... and the technology disruption coming. Reimagination is the new key trend in the travel world. Only companies with the right platform will be able to benefit from the growth. If you do not own the platform, then, you have to "buy it" and since the "fees" are smaller and smaller, the business model is hard to sustain on the long run. Expedia spent time and money to unify its back office platforms into one, others like Priceline prefer to buy "teams and technology" for a particular niche and region.

And today, Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft are investing massively in their platform. And investing to attract developpers and new business. Everywhere in the world.

At the same time, smartphone computing power (quadcore cpu) and communication power (4G is coming and wi-fi is already here) is still evolving fast.

So with your smartphone, you own in your hand a mini-GDS. You can access any travel information you want. Buy any trip you want. No need to go through a travel agent. You can even rent a small plane. Look at this innovative company: socialflights. The new 1st class ... No need to go through a GDS then. Domestic travel is changing fast.

Recently, a disruptive announcement was made on each of the major mobile operating systems (Android, Windows Phone 8 wallet Hub and Ios). The capability for the phone to handle and manage natively, cards: loyalty cards, payment cards and also digital boarding pass and digital coupon.

The long tail is now complete, every step of the travel is now digital. More, they created the missing link, the one everybody was waiting for: the link between your credit card, and your identity (through your phone). Technology is called Google Wallet, Microsoft Phone 8 Wallet Hub, or Apple iOS 6 Passbook. The phone can also benefit from NFC technology, but it is not a pre-requisite. All credit card vendors and digital payment companies are also jumping in this bandwagon. Digital money ...

Why is it so important to have that link?

Because soon you will be able to buy travel from Apple itunes or Google Play, using your platform account and to get all trip information in digital format within your phone automatically. No app to install. No email to forward to TripIT. Hundred of millions of people will have it when they will migrate to the new operating systems. The whole travel supply chain in your phone.

Imagine also that a company creates a digital lodged card (a Virtual Card established in the name of your company) for each corporate traveller and that all expense should be paid on the phone. No more hours to fill expense reporting tool, everything is captured, analysed in real time and attached to your cost center. Every digital bill will be pushed to the accounting system (back office) automatically, with the right time and geolocation information. Fraud will be more difficult. And it will be more difficult to make the company pay for your massage, with a bill written in chinese.

I even think that business travellers will soon get new devices built just for them. These devices will offer geolocation, GPS, safety and security alerts, digital boarding pass, digital payment etc. Everything could fit in a watch ... a smartphone is too heavy and people can install the app they want ... But reimagine this on a dedicated small device, may be with the branding of your company ...

Tomorrow, local suppliers (the "LO" of SOLOMO) will be also able to integrate the travel supply chain very easily at a cost to be defined still.
  • Need a taxi now and around you? Use Uber, Taximagic, or one of the new numerous services created (see here for Taxi and here for Black Car).
  • Need a conference room, use Regus, or rent a room directly from the web. I'm sure that sites like AirBnB for business will be created soon offering low cost rooms and small event conference rooms.
  • Need to fly: Low cost carriers (LCC) and private rental planes (like socialflights or Jetbox) are already disrupting the industry. Companies with fairly recent fleets and new hubs like Emirates and Ethiad, are also changing the rule of the game by both offering low fare tickets, but also integrating in their heart DMO (Destination Marketing - all is done that traveller stays sometimes in the hub to spend money).
  • High speed train ... These suppliers always preferred direct buying channels instead of going through OTA. SilverRail is a good example of how technology can provide solutions to local offer fragmentation.
  • Google+, Facebook, Pinterest: these social network will enable the creation and push of a local offer, to a geolocalised customer. Everything available at your fingertip, from what's near to me.
  • In flight wi-fi next generation will enable people to access video, and their favorite newspaper in flight, through their phone or tablets. I do not even talk about the new connected glasses (Google, Samsung, Apple are already working on it).
  • Hotel will morph into a local mall. You will be able to buy everything you want from your tablet. Imagine a small amazon.com in each hotel with local goods and gifts available from the hotel, but also from merchants around (shipping to be done between 15mn and 3 hours).
Question is then: are GDS, OTA and TMC's too big to fail? Is the mobile long tail disruptive enough to destroy the existing ecosystem in the short term? 

Look at what happened for the music industry ... Niches will have to be tackled for enabling growth. Business models will have to be re-invented.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Is Hipmunk "The World's Best Travel Site?"

Forbes published recently a very interesting article stating "Why Hipmunk Is The World's Best Travel Site"?
I try to put my comment directly on the site, but their "call out" stuff seems to not work very well or my content was not selected (or I did not understand how it works).
So, I decided to put my analysis on my blog.
So let's make a simple test.
  1. Paris to MSP (Minneapolis) 
  2. Business class
  3. Departure monday July 9, return friday July 13.
  4. then departure 3 weks in advance: from July 23 to 27
So a standard business journey. I want to take the direct flight since it is reducing "my agony" as Hipmunk says.

1. Let's start by ITA matrix

Using ITA matrix web site, I found prices ranging from $3986 USD to $5317 USD. This site is usally the one I use for the first screening.

2. Hipmunk

Then, I did the same with Hipmunk. I found one direct flight from Air France that costs $7817 USD.

So I selected my legs:

And I clicked on "Buy on Air france" and what redirected to https://www.airfrance.de/ that says: "There are no flights available. Please modify your travel dates."

For the second request, I found a better price:

Once again, I was redirected to "airfrance.de" and lost the parameters entered (no more business):

3. What about Kayak?

It proposed a fligh to be booked from Govoyages for $7818 USD.

Kayak.com redirects to airfrance.com that redirects to ... airfrance.de and the same error message that with Hipmunk.
For the second request, at buy time, i was redirected to delta.com and got then right ticket but for $7,058.40 USD.

4. What about performance?

Keynote did publish a report concerning some Travel web sites and Iphone/IPAD apps speed. You can find a comparison of all (Kayak, Hipmunk, etc, here).

5. Conclusion

I think I demonstrated that there is still room for improvement before becoming the "world's best travel site".

Monday, June 18, 2012

Travel Policy, Transparency, and tools

I was involved in some interesting discussions on linkedin group "TILTS (Travel Innovations I'd Like To See)". You might want to have a look.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Anti-disintermediation - The airlines should be leading the charge!

Very interesting blog post from the excellent distribution-solutionz blog: Anti-disintermediation - The airlines should be leading the charge!
 "Today's consumer can access goods or information on the Internet that traditionally required the assistance of an intermediary such as a retailer, travel agent, or banker. By cutting out the middleman (disintermediation), e-businesses are able to sell goods and services more quickly and efficiently, and for lower prices."

What they demonstrate is why airlines still need Mega Agencies (TMCs), Online Agencies (OTAs) and all other agencies: Air ticket categories and ticket prices.

"For international, a much smaller percentage of transactions (13%) sold by the agency community comes through the MEGA channel, but the average fare is more than twice that yielded by their brick and mortar agency counterparts and three times that of their online counterparts."

It might seems counter-intuitive but: 
"From the consumer perspective, it is important to understand that the airline ticket does not COST more through the agency channel. It is that the dialogue is simply different. Online typically presents the lowest cost first, even if price is not the consumer's criteria. An agency asks lots of questions - who are you traveling with, when do you need to be there, do you want a non-stop. Each of these helps refine the process to produce what the customer actually wants for a given trip."

Travel 2.0: Open Policy and Disintermediation

Travel 2.0 tidal wave is now impacting the corporate world. Companies are now facing employees who complain more and more about their corporate booking tool and their stringent travel policy. In a social and network centric world, companies embracing open innovation, open data could not afford to not listen.

A new movement, initiated by Intel, Google, etc. is now having some tractions due to employee pressure and also due to some new innovations: Travel Open Policy.

What seems impossible before is now possible! This is due on the User experience side to:

  •  web 2.0 technologies. Look at Hipmunk or Superfly
  • the mobile revolution. Look at Kayak new web site thought for tablets
This is also due to one big company on the data distribution side, shaking up the ecosystem: ITA, now called Google Travel (and the power of its API).

The main objective for some companies today is now to embrace open policy movement and to keep their travelers happy. Nevertheless they need to ensure that:
  1. Booking is done with the tool travelers like.
  2. Booking is done at the "right" price (aka. the best or negotiated fare and "conditions") and with the preferred companies suppliers. 
  3. Some company now accept that booking is done with the preferred Traveler suppliers (also called leakage), but they should book at the "right" price (aka. the best or equivalent to negotiated fare) and that duty of care is ensured. 
  4. Traveler Expenses (and the total cost of its trips) and Company Spent Reporting (and all dashboards and KPI attached) are still accurate.
The Beat in its daily newsletter recently disclosed the fact that "Concur is initiating discussions with airlines to enable "open bookings" that would give corporate clients the ability to enforce policy, apply discounts and track transactions when travelers book on airline websites". Disintermediation is not far away. Shop where you want and book on supplier's site, and let Concur know what you bought where (remember tripIt?) and provide unified expense. It is also the same approach advocated by Google Travel with Google Flight Search and Google Hotel Finder.

We also hear some weeks ago an interesting initiative from Short's Travel Management, which lets user do the trip shopping on the web site they want (mainly the big OTA) and then send by email the selected trip in order to enable Short's Travel Management to do the booking. In that case, there is no disintermediation. We're back to the GDS world.

Other solutions for the company still wanting to "ensure control" is to install "browser plug-in" (I prefer to call it a local sniffer) that will raise an alarm when users will be ready to book outside the agreed corporate defined channels: ProcureApp and KDS maverick. Maverick would trigger a pop-up on the screen warning travelers they should be using the preferred booking tool. If the traveler stil decide to go ahead and book anyway, Maverick would forward the data to the KDS client reporting tool.

So what's the future? Leisure market will more and more adopt corporate travel services and benefit from Expense Mgt and Safety and Security services. On the corporate side, the war of the platforms is raging:

  • Google Travel is slowly but surely becoming an alternative to GDS's and offering the same kind of services (airline booking engine, travel API, Direct Booking tool) and will benefit from all other Google Services (Map, Places, marketplace, play, etc.)
  • Corporate Travel Booking engine will provide two offers: an all in one tool (from shopping to expense) and a booking platform API to get the leakage back.
  • Startups will more and more try to bridge the gap between corporate travel and leisure and will offer soon differentiated sites and services.
  • Facebook and Apple will sooner or later enter the game with huge amount of cash.
Who will win? Open policy or Stringent policy? 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

HR or Head Hunters you should invest in social dashboards

Crowdsourcing will change the way HR or head hunters look for new talents.

Before, they had to collect CV and upload them in a DBMS. Only the old Microsoft World format was supported. They also have to manage data privacy and to follow "country legislations". This was real costly. On the other side, people were more and more worried about the usage of their information and becoming bored of receiving email and phone call of people looking for resources and only using keyword matching across resumes ... The system failed ...

Now, people are pushing all their information in social networks. No need to ask anything for accessing public information.

The best HR or head hunters, should build their own tools, using social network API in order to get pro-active information about talents. Of course, you can use the ones offered by linkedin, viadeo, xing (, etc.). But, if you build your own, then, you can leverage the information ... and you have a competitive advantage.

Until now, only small labs are available, but in the future, new powerful tools will be built. It's just a question of time, the time needed to have all social network to open their treasure via API.

Let's look at a first example, made by a french company named Social Computing, on linkedin. Log to linkedin and then you can see your network ... Each node is a person and each node contains the skills. You can click on the skills and then you see your network using this filter. Great isn't it?

Now, look at the linkedin labs ... Some are really cool ...
  • connection timeline: View your connections across the timeline of your career.
  • InMaps: Visualize your professional network, clustered in realtime based on their inter-relationships.”
  • Resume Builder: Build, save & share beautifully formatted resumes based on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Infinity: A beautiful visualization of your professional network, built using the LinkedIn Javascript APIs.
  • Presdo: Imagine walking into a conference and knowing every attendee’s professional background. With Presdo Match’s LinkedIn API integration, Presdo Match users can easily discover other event attendees with similar professional interests. After discovery, users can seamlessly connect with each other using Presdo Match’s simple interface. 
Viadeo API is recent but they already made two important partnerships with:
  • Salesforce: The Viadeo app adds a social layer to Salesforce users’ client and prospect management. 
  • APEC: Users can link their Viadeo and APEC accounts to add social relevance to the job ads they view; this enables them to use their professional network to get ahead in the job search.
Corporate Talent management tool could also benefit from crowdsourcing since employees tend to put more information on their linkedin profile and Facebook than in any internal corporate tool. Until now, these tools mainly use social and media site as job boards, a place to push job profiles and gather responses.

It's time to build tools enabling a HR or a head hunter to define its own talent search tree (with skills, experience, etc.) and to let the software work continuously and crunch the internet to provide matching profiles, found based on what people say, do or ... claim to do. It is also a great opportunity to build rules to detect automatically people lying about their realization and cursus ...

Big Brother is APIing You

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Travel 2.0 - Affinity Shopping War ...

Google ITA built the new AIR FRANCE KLM affinity shopper in its web sites. The service is deployed by AIR FRANCE KLM for travelers based in Austria, Finland, Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK.
The affinity shopping is using Google ITA technology named InstaSearch. Have a look at it, it is really impressive.
You can see it in  Spanish here.

You can also look at the contenders, that released their affinity shopper prior to Google:
– British Airways developed its own platform called TripSeeker
- Lufthansa was the first airline to take the Affinity Shopper system developed by Amadeus.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Travel 2.0: From dream (1998) to reality (2012)

Travel 2.0, a new term coined in 1998, is becoming a reality in 2012.

The main drivers are:

  • Mobile - smartphone are now available everywhere in volume
  • Mobile can be powered by Voice - SIRI on Iphone or all the others on Android enable more easy interactions with mobile apps.
  • GDS 2.0 are emerging - built on top of ITA or Farelogix, this new Travel search engines are providing easy to use API, and are enhanced by great  new Travel 2.0 site like HipMunk, Superfly, or Google Flight Search.
  • Tablet design (and couch surfing) are impacting web site. Kayak and TripIt recently rebuilt their web sites to match their IPAD User Experience. And by doing that they also prepare for Connected TV and Microsoft Kinect like interactions (death of the mouse...).
  • All corporate online booking tools are using hybrid mobile apps (HTML 5 + Native) and enable now (since Dec. 2011) policy compliant booking from mobile (Concur, KDS, GetThere). Only Aetm from Amadeus and  Traveldoo from Egencia are lagging behind.
  • Suppliers are investing to become "Mono" OTA. Following the model invented by French rail company SNCF and its voyages-sncf site, they are building a B2B (corporation oriented) and B2C (aka. leisure) web site for direct booking and basic dynamic package (sell car, hotel for an air supplier).
  • Corporate Travel Policy will be less and less based on a stringent PDF document and more and more available dynamically by checking dynamically the "right" fare. Obtaining the right fare will be done  through new type of providers and by offering spend transparency over the social network. Some OBT will not survive and OTA will try to extend their reach to corporation. 
  • Gamification will also enter the game to provide leaderboards and clear statistics about who's playing well (and not) the corporate/family travel game.
  • Travel could be represented by a set of pre-defined events (booking, ticketing, expense mgt) and by alerts (delay, cancelled flight, strikes, etc.). More and more, the notion of timeline (Facebook with Wipolo, or KDS project NEO) or storyboard (Rearden DEEM platform). Others will push even further this concept and move the whole travel lifecycle within the calendar system.
  • The rise of Mega-platform will also leverage some solutions against some others. Next generation travel 2.0 solutions will be native on Facebook, on Apple IOS (named iTravel), on Google (Flight Search and Hotel finder) and also on... Amazon and eBay. And last but not least the last kids on the blocks: Pinterest is also able to revolutionize travel inspiration and booking, by promoting friends and local travel plans.
  • The final missing link to make the whole travel process smoother is Artificial Intelligence and big data, or the digitally enhanced wisdom of friends and crowd. Imagine a system that will book the room you will like in an hotel (non smoking, quiet room not near from Ice machine, with shower and not bath) or in a plane (avoiding the worse seats shown by a site like seatGuru).
Future is here, and we were never so near from a real Travel 2.0 offer that could disrupt the market ...

KDS Now 2012

Yesterday, KDS organised in Paris their annual event dubbed "KDS Now 2012" to introduce their strategy and new products.
The show began by an introduction made by Yves Weisselberger (Executive Chairman).

Followed by a talk from Pascal Boniface the funding director of IRIS. During its talk he stated that the world changed and that we should be ready to evolve in a multipolar world (an not a world only dominated by the USA). We will also have to consume differently, since water and energy will not be available for all.
Then, the KDS CEO made his speech. It was a great year for KDS, and especially for one product driving 80% of the sales: KDS travel & Expense (all in one offer). KDS invested also a lot in R&D and product innovations.
The KDS strategy was introduced by Oliver Quayle: Simple, Mobile, Smart
1. Simple
Simplicity is always redefined by innovations and especially in the travel 2.0 world. KDS said that companies need to rethink the user experience of their products regularly.
Some examples were given:
  • Before Booking: provide a summarised fare notes to clients  before he/she pushes the "buy" button.
  • Mileage via mapping.
  • Easy Payment.
New product, to be considered as the first implementing the "simple" strategy part is  the KDS Admin Tool and is available Now (previous one to be deprecated end of this year)

2. Mobile

KDS presented a new mobile app, enabling policy compliant booking and two new features: "get me to my hotel" and "book on mobile".
KDS claims that ""no integrated mobile apps exists today for travel and expense (end to end)". We can says that what KDS build is clearly leading edge in term of User Experience.
  • Hybrid mobile application (like Rearden and Getthere). Available on Android, and BB (with OS sup. to V6). IoS to be done soon (and I hope IPAD).
  • When you book three options: best, cheapest, earliest to simplify the UX. Then every segment outside policy is in another colour (visual guilt to show on and out policy). The UX is real great and innovative.

3. Smart
The capability to offer timely and accurate reports using online, offline, credit card, and clients data. The tool is able to provide slice and dice reporting, more than 100's KPI and some forecasting features.
The new product exemplifying the "smart" strategy is the KDS Travel Manager Suite and is available Now.
Innovation: Project NEO
Being able to book your end to end trip in 3 clicks, 2 screens, and 1 minute. KDS, like Rearden with DEEM Storyboard or Facebook with Timeline, is adopting a timeline approach. Only relevent offers based on the traveler type and user policy is shown. 
For KDS: user experience is the best driver to policy compliance
Neo is not a product... Not yet.
Scott Gillepsie Keynote

Tranquility is the enemy of innovation. Scott predicts "best value" for traveler is the next step for creating traveler centric pgm. Cost transparency (what's my budget?) more than travel Policy compliance (what is my policy?). Deeper data relationship and smarter socializing will change travel policy.