Big Interview: The foundations are laid to industrialise merchandising in travel, says Paxport

Big Interview: The foundations are laid to industrialise merchandising in travel, says Paxport

Firm that bought Multicom wants to bring supermarket mentality to sector  

Swedish travel content aggregator, merchandising and payments technology provider Paxport says it has built the foundations to industrialise the way it helps travel firms become better retailers.

The firm, which bought Bristol-based budget flights aggregator and booking technology provider Multicom two years ago, has developed a suite of tools to bring a supermarket ethos to travel.

PaxShop, its travel retailing platform that focuses on increasing ancillary sales for airlines, tour operators and travel agents, was launched in the UK earlier this year.

It is offered alongside the PaxPay virtual payments platform, PaxManagement, a passenger administration outsourcing solution, and travel agent interface PaxPartner.

Multicom’s FindandBook booking system, widely used in the UK, has been rebranded PaxFAB and developed to offer more choice of content beyond its tradition low cost leisure airline fares.

Tony Barker, chief executive, says the focus has turned much more to offering product working in partnership with its clients to help them merchandise and personalise their offering.

He uses the analogy of petrol stations, which have now diversified their product offering away from petrol so much its core product is no longer the main source of profit, to explain what Paxport does.

“We are now seeing a better definition of what we can offer and we are able to go to the market to explain that,” he said.

“Before we had a tool box but it contained just one tool, now we have a number of tools which can be attractive in different ways to customers depending on where they are in their businesses.

“We have spent a bit of time getting the foundations right and putting Sweden and the UK together. We’ve now integrated some platforms and restructured things in Bristol.

“We are moving to be more of a product-oriented business, not IT for other companies, or a technology body shop for their businesses.

“Multicom did not really know much about the customer, but it brought some good technology into the business and some very good techy people and also there is new technology we are using.

“We are not building it all ourselves, we are looking at what our areas of excellence are and what value we can bring to our customers.

“Today everyone wants to know more about the customer and use data to drive personalisation to offer more service to people and get a bigger share of the travellers’ wallet.”

Barker said the travel industry remains well behind in terms of its approach to retailing, merchandising and providing customers what they want – a relevant personalised experience.

He cites Uber and Spotify as examples outside of travel of firms that are excelling by following the customer through their journey and providing what they want at every point along the way.

Iata’s New Distribution Capability is a huge opportunity for airlines and resellers, added Barker although he fears travel in general is too conservative to act quickly to grasp the opportunities.

“The frustrating thing is the speed of change,” he said. “One of our biggest competitors is potential customers who say we will do it ourselves.

“It’s about finding the right person within the organisation to make things happen, open the door and allow us to drive things forward. We’re looking for partners to come on this journey with us.

“We want to help them sell more stuff and provide a better travel experience for their customers. But they are too often doing something that stops them moving ahead.

“What we have been trying to do on the technology side it to industrialise it. We wanted to get the house built and then go out with a higher level of service.

“We are trying to put the focus on service and the customer and working together to identify where we can help, where the quick wins are.

“Our business model is a bit like Google; we know we can sell more things on your behalf, give us the opportunity and we all benefit.

“It’s a potentially variable cost model, you gain we gain mentality. The only reason we charge some form of set up fee is to make sure the company is committed.

“We went through the learning curve in Scandinavia and have the scars to prove it, which means we can be more confident rolling this out in other markets.

“With the efforts we are putting in we believe we will see a snowball effect because once competitors of our customers see what we are doing they will say we need that as well.”

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