Heritage technology holds travel back from meeting the challenges of ‘Uberisation’

Heritage technology holds travel back from meeting the challenges of ‘Uberisation’

Image via Mahathir Mohd Yasin / Shutterstock.com

Marketing platform provider Marin Software held a breakfast briefing for travel industry professionals to coincide with last month’s Travel Technology Europe trade show. Lee Hayhurst reports

The ‘Uberisation’ of travel is a major challenge for incumbent travel industry players prevented from simplifying how they operate by legacy technology.

Sentient One founder Jonathan Greensted questioned whether technology today was helping the travel industry to move forward.

“If you look at the speed of change and how disruptive digital can be we see both the opportunity and the risk.

“The opportunity is being able to build new experiences for our customers really, really quickly.

“The fear is when you look at companies like Uber and what they are doing for the industries they are entering. That’s got to be a challenge.

“In London black cab revenues are down 50%, half of their business has been stolen by Uber – as they would put it. But an Uber cab is half price and they’re twice as busy, so that’s okay.

“Uber actually wins for the drivers and the consumers and the only people who are complaining are the old guard who have not been able to innovate quickly enough.

“What’s that going to do for travel? That’s the conversation we are having with people.”

Greensted said complexity and “heritage systems” are a major issue in travel.

“Some of this software has been around for as long as I have.”

He said the issue is not a lack of bright, intelligent people in travel firms, but just that they are constrained by the past.

“They have lived in that heritage world for such a long time they do not get the digital world. The digital world is fundamentally different, the speed at which things are done.”

Greensted said adopting an agile approach while simplifying processes and “being tenacious” about the outcomes you want was vital.

“Look at Google. It started doing search and that’s all they did for a very long time. They became really good at it and because they did we became addicted to it.

“Because they won our trust they were then able to start adding other services. It’s all about being tenacious and getting it done, being really good and then looking to grow.

“Focus on doing one thing really, really well.”

Tom Lowes, search marketing manager of Sykes Cottages, said it was important marketers and IT directors sat down to devise a shared plan.

“Because you are trying to run your business and innovate, doing the two together is very difficult. That’s where start-ups do well.”

Lowes said internal technological issues can prevent firms doing new stuff because it does not move as quickly as external technology.

And he said the most important thing to get right when introducing a new channel into a business is to decide which commercial metric to use, stick to it, test and measure it.

“The challenge for a small business is what’s the commercial metric going to be. It might be going for the lowest CPC to start with and it may have to evolve over time, that’s fine.

“The challenge we face bringing channels online is we are so passionate about the integrity of our data. Unless you get that right, in terms of execution, there’s no point doing it.”

“We cannot afford to leave a scar on our data.” Greensted agreed, saying data scarring was a major issue. “The amount of data we are processing it at a quantum, we do not have the luxury of going back and fixing the last six weeks of data we have messed up.”

Greensted said progress comes from not being held back by the IT department and freeing up data to give a single customer view.

He said the IT team should be focussing on getting the basics right.

“The shiny new stuff, that should be their hobby. If they are focusing on the shiny new stuff they will trip your company up.”

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