KAYAK says it is pleased with the impact of its first major television and cross-channel advertising campaign in the UK.
The Priceline-owned price comparison site was conspicuous on television screens over the turn of year period with its new ‘Sheep Happens’ campaign.
Annie Wilson, UK managing director, said television offered the opportunity to showcase KAYAK’s point of difference and build brand awareness.
The firm sponsored free London tube travel during the capital’s New Year celebrations.
It has also struck a partnership with youth website VICE’s technology channel Motherboard on a three-part documentary series looking at futuristic aspects of travel
“We feel TV was the most effective means of building brand awareness. It wasn’t just about traffic growth,” said Wilson.
“People understand what KAYAK does in the UK. People understand the concept of comparison and search. You have to educate how KAYAK is different from an online agent.
“We have some strong competitors and, especially this year, a lot of online travel brands are investing heavily in marketing so the cost of media is high.
“There is a reason we don’t go for glossy images and brochures. We provide smart tools to solve problems for users.
“People are always going to look at multiple sites before booking travel. Part of the pleasure is the research aspect so our objective is how we can differentiate ourselves.”
KAYAK believes its message, that it can help customers struggling with the process of finding the right deal, helps it to stand out in a crowded market that’s expensive to invest in.
And a key area which it believes it has the edge in is that it already offers price comparison in four verticals, including Holidays (Flight + Hotels), not just single components.
This draws in product from partners like ebookers, easyJet Holidays, and Expedia, however does not currently also compare traditional tour operator pre-packaged holidays.
Key to adding more product is suppliers being geared up to provide API connections so prices can be compared and booked in real time.
Wilson said given how important the package market is in the UK, as well as in Europe, including the continent’s largest market Germany, there is huge potential in this area.
The packaging technology was the first KAYAK built specifically for non-US markets and it has been since introduced into its home north American market.
“It would be fair to say our package product is our newest and least mature,” said Wilson.
KAYAK has recently launched package price comparison on mobile and is working to understand consumer behaviour on mobile devices.
Wilson said a balance has to be struck between how many requirements the user is expected to input upfront, offering self-service filters and making assumptions.
“We do not want to assume people are travelling in the same way all of the time. It’s a fine balance how to make it easier without making it too assumptive,” she said.
KAYAK is constantly testing different user interfaces based on how they research and book trips, and interact with content, like maps, images and product descriptions.
New product areas like vacation rentals and rail are also being slowly integrated although do not have their own vertical search.
Wilson said: “We want to be efficient and useful, first and foremost, but for our partners and advertisers we want to be a high performing platform for them.
“The message we want from partners is this traffic is great, we want more of it. OTAs will tell you just 1%, 2% or 3% of users who come to their sites convert.
“We know we send users from KAYAK that will convert in double digits.
“One of the biggest opportunities for us it to really add value to the consumer, to give ultimate transparency in terms of what people are booking.”
Tools that help users see what the end cost will be once payment and baggage fees are added are a part of this approach.
This requires closer partnerships with airlines and GDSs to expose fare families, a growing requirement in the New Distribution Capability (NDC) era being pushed by carriers and Iata.
“Hacker fares”, two ones way trips combined to reduce costs, are also expected to become a more prominent feature.
“Working with GDSs and airline APIs, we can start to expose this sort of content. It’s all about how you give the user all this information without it being incredibly complex,” said Wilson.
Facilitated bookings, keeping users on the site and not sending off to a third party, are another way metasearch sites are looking to reduce friction in the booking process and KAYAK is working with increasing numbers of suppliers and OTAs on this.
Wilson said this can boost mobile conversions by threefold, critical as it is the mobile web that is seeing the biggest growth in traffic. KAYAK’s mobile app has been downloaded more than 50 million times.
“We are not trying to get into the booking space. The supplier remain the merchant of record. We are just trying to make sure the experience is as seamless as possible,” Wilson said.
One of Wilson’s favourite features on KAYAK, she said, is ‘Trip’, a free travel assistant in which users can save results and track prices before buying and create itineraries to manage their trips post-purchase.