Guest post: Insights into the blurring world of commerce and search

Guest post: Insights into the blurring world of commerce and search

By Nick Morley, managing director EMEA of Intent Media

Online convergence heralds exciting opportunities, says Travolution Innovation Report 2015 sponsor Intent Media

At Intent Media, we’re privileged to work with many of the world’s leading travel companies, from online travel agencies (OTAs) and metasearch sites to global distribution systems and suppliers such as airlines and hotels.

In our discussions with industry thought leaders over the last year, there’s been a lot of talk about ‘convergence’: the bringing together of search and commerce business models to give travel shoppers a better experience.

As a company that was founded at the intersection of search and commerce, we’re especially interested in the evolution of this idea, and we think it’s worth looking at how the concept of convergence emerged.

As the online travel industry grew up in the 1990s and 2000s, it sorted into tribes. Think about ‘distribution people’ versus ‘marketing people’; ‘suppliers’ versus ‘OTAs’; and ‘search engines’ versus ‘travel guides’ versus ‘commerce sites’.

One of the starkest divides was between the ‘commerce’ tribe (OTAs and supplier sites, where transactions happened) and the ‘search’ tribe (search engines and metasearch sites, home to research and discovery).

Commerce companies have traditionally focused on metrics such as conversion rate, average order value, profitable traffic acquisition and lifetime customer value.

Meanwhile, search companies have been living in a different world. They use data indexing and predictive analytics to connect consumers with the most comprehensive and relevant travel information and options.

However, most consumers don’t see any such division. Many studies have shown that travel shoppers visit as many as 20 sites before making a purchase.

The discovery phase often starts on an OTA or supplier site – as opposed to a search engine – even if the consumer has no intention of buying there.

Consumers routinely hop among Google, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and dozens of other sites, and aren’t typically aware of the business models they encounter; they simply want to find what they’re looking for and feel confident in their purchase.

Today, more travel companies better understand the shopper perspective, and are responding with solutions built around convergence: TripAdvisor, Kayak and others are expanding transaction capabilities, while OTAs and suppliers are increasingly delivering metasearch experiences to consumers, even when it means showing competitive pricing.

The lines are blurring, with commerce and search combining in new and fascinating ways.

We’re excited to be a part of this change and look forward to seeing the continued innovation driven by convergence.And as a new player in the UK travel scene with our European headquarters now open in the heart of London, it’s important that we get to know the new markets we want to grow and operate in.

We’re therefore delighted to be supporting this exclusive analysis of travel technology spend in the UK which provides valuable insight into what is such a vital area of the travel business.

Technology has always been at the heart of this industry ever since airlines developed some of the first systems for processing and sharing large amounts of business critical data.

This report sheds light on how the aviation sector, as well as hotels, agents, tour operators and cruise and ferry companies, are building on that legacy and forging the future of this sector.

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