For The Travel Corporation’s youth brand Contiki switching to a new technology platform was just a part of the digital transformation it has gone through.
This year’s Travel Technology Europe chief technology officer Question Time moderated by DataArt’s Charlotte Lamp-Davis will hear from Rajat Dhawan, Contiki’s CTO.
He is one of four CTOs lined up to offer their insight into heading up the technology requirements of a travel company in the session at 10am on February 22.
Dhawan, a former Accenture director of strategy, said the brand took a two-pronged approach to its digital transformation.
“First we looked at what our strategy was and our ambition, what we really wanted to achieve. That was about engagement and conversions – bookings.
“Working backwards from that is was about what we needed to look at to see where we had the maximum potential to improve. Then we scoped out what our programme would look like.”
Dhawan said the second prong was to look at what Contiki was not doing well and where the gaps were in its offering.
One of the first things it found was that the B2C website was not stable enough. The firm also worked on making sure its experience was tailored to the various markets it works in.
Dhawan said in deciding what to do next Contiki interrogated its data to decide what was most pressing and then adopted a test and learn approach.
“We probably had a hundred plus ideas we could have implemented, but given capacity we had to take a data-driven approach to prioritise what we did,” he said.
Due to the nature of Contiki target audience of young, tech-savvy, adventurous travellers there was heightened need to hone its digital engagement.
Although its customer may end up booking through a contact centre, or even in a partner travel agent most will have visited its website at some point, said Dhawan.
Rajat Dhawan’s four-step guide to digital transformation
• Set your strategy and ambition
• Stabilise to make sure what you have works
• Identify the changes you need to make
• Optimise to enhance the experience
“Young people are early adopters of technology and prevalent on social media, so the features we have on our website are very important to us both on the B2C and travel agent B2B side,” he said.
Contiki was running on the Ruby on Rails platform but switched to Sitecore which it felt provided greater scope for the improved search and speed functionality it was looking for.
Contiki launched its new B2C platform in late 2016 and last month a new B2B website went live. This week it announced the launch of a chat bot ‘Tiki’ on Facebook Messenger.
Dhawan said Contiki is quite advanced on its path to full digital transformation and is running around five projects in parallel.
This has seen a change in personnel so that the Contiki team is more data-driven and has more software engineering, commercial and business analysis skills.
Dhawan said Contiki’s practical and scientific approach to digital transformation means it has followed a bespoke path rather than trying to chase industry trends.
Innovation has been an important factor where relevant although not something it has spent a lot of time on, he said. A hackathon four months ago focused on on-site search.
Contiki is currently looking at developing more machine learning-based search so that it surfaces the most relevant trips for each user.
“The next big thing for us is personalisation,” Dhawan said. “If we serve content based on where they come from or if they’ve engaged with us in the past we can have a more targeted one-on-one conversation on the website or send more targeted emails.
“All these things need to be seen in the context of your own business. What does it mean for you? What’s the business plan? Is it really that important? What are the pros and cons? What digital transformation means for your business is what is most important.
“Identifying what change needs to happen might be the most important thing than the change itself.”
Dhawan will appear on the CTO Question Time panel alongside Andrew Metcalfe from Guestline, Jonathan Midgley from The Trainline, and Andrew Jordan from Carson Wagonlit Travel at 10am on February 22.