Lee Hayhurst speaks to Joe McCormick, senior manager, partner analytics of Expedia Partner Solutions about the evolving interplay of human and artificial intelligence
Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence are often considered to offer the greatest benefit to firms with endless resources to pump into research and development.
But Expedia Partner Solutions (EPS) says it is challenging that assumption through the work it is doing on identifying relevancy in hotel supply for its travel partners.
For 12 months EPS has been using a relevancy algorithm it developed to score properties based on 26 metrics to match them to the OTAs, retail travel agencies, airlines, loyalty and membership organisations that work with EPS.
Among those metrics used are attributes and individual characteristics of the property as well as insight driven from customer reviews.
This is not being used to entirely automate the process, but it is supporting its more traditional consultative approach carried out by the travel giant’s EPS human experts.
Joe McCormick, senior manager, partner analytics, said the approach is proving to be the “converse of most projects” in that it is benefiting partners with limited resources the most.
“We have over 600,000 properties and ideally we want all of our partners to map and load them so they can offer them to their end travellers,” he said.
“But resources to do that can be quite scarce so to combat that we are identifying the relevancy of each property to every partner individually so supply is bespoke for our partners.
“Usually within such initiatives the partners with the greatest resources get the most benefit, but actually relevancy works well for partners with the largest constraint on resources.
“They actually have the biggest opportunity because we can deliver the properties with the best return on investment.”
EPS claims to have seen a double-digit percentage increase across the board in booked volumes by taking this new approach.
McCormick said it is possible to drill down to the 500 most relevant properties for any individual partner based on their attributes and the characteristics of their audience.
Partners can use this scientific approach to increase the value of its existing customer base but also identify opportunities to grow into new segments like alternative accommodations.
Some are opting to map and grow hotel supply incrementally to make sure they are always offering the most relevant options for their clients.
“We use the human element and layer that knowledge and the business context on top of the relevancy score to make it even more bespoke,” said McCormick.
A historic, backward-looking approach analysing customer behaviour combined with a more projection-based forward-looking view is optimising EPS travel partnerships, said McCormick.
“We have a diverse range of partners and because we have these 26 metrics we can get really quite granular as to which type of property will resonate with their travellers.”
EPS says it regularly retrains its algorithm to make sure it improves its performance ensuring that partners, hotel suppliers and Expedia Group benefit.
“We are constantly looking to enhance our supplier offering,” added McCormick. “If we are not moving forward we are going to fall behind.
“What this is about is how we can extract the most value from our supply offering. This is a great way to showcase the value of Expedia Group supply.
“What relevancy does is give demonstrable value and highlights how much money is being left on the table by the travel partner not mapping the properties that most resonate with their travellers.
“It’s really important for companies to make use of analytics and the data they own to make travel inspirational and more personalised.
“Mobile, artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to make this even more important in the future.
“At EPS we are really partner-centric, fundamentally we succeed together. We have partner think tanks where we try to better understand and listen to each other.
“We both benefit if we can make better use of our supply. Each of our travel partners that has made use of relevancy has seen an uplift and been able to demonstrate the benefits.”
EPS director of data science Nuno Castro will be speaking at the 2019 Travolution Summit in London on September 12 on a panel looking at the future of travel. Book your place at the event here