Travelsupermarket is halfway through the process of building its new flights engine, having started the transformation of the site in January with car hire.
Vic Darvey, who heads up the division of Moneysupermarket as managing director of new business, said the flights engine would be based on the same open source technology as car hire.
This will allow the leading metasearch player to better merchandise flights as the site looks to improve the way it helps customers find the right product and deal for them, he claimed.
“It’s quite interesting to see the part that metasearch can play in this industry now. The market is really good at comparing prices, but what we are not really good at as an industry is helping people to choose,” Darvey said.
Although Travelsupermarket is not officially involved in any projects related to Iata’s New Distribution Capability [NDC] standard, it is being guided by the same principles.
“We are working really closely with airline partners to work out how they want us to merchandise airline seats,” Darvey said.
“It’s all around the add-ons – people paying for better meals, for wireless as part of a bundle – so it’s about the additional data our partners give us in the feed.
“We will look at ways to get access to that data from suppliers to get our customers a better experience.”
The former lastminute.com commercial director spoke about Travelsupermarket’s intention to put its technology on a completely new modern footing at last year’s Travolution Summit.
The firm has struck a significant deal with Adobe to help it build a front end that is adaptable to customers’ needs and can provide a more personalised experience.
The new site will be fully mobile-responsive and promises to return results from its comprehensive range of suppliers in seconds.
The car hire module has expanded to cover 300,000 locations globally from just 1,000 previously, with 26 partners – including all the big aggregators – providing content.
Darvey said Travelsupermerket was being rebuilt from the ground up using more flexible open source technology.
This process started last October using 40 developers based in Chester plus additional outsourced capacity, and in just three months the car hire engine was live.
“Because the technology is non-enterprise it means it’s a lot more agile and it’s purpose built for responsiveness and things like mobile.
“It allows us to move very, very quickly and allows us to be completely agile and repurpose for multiple platforms and devices which is now a lot easier for us to do.
“And it allows us to internationalise our business if we want to do that because we have built the capability to allow us to get into a market.”
Darvey said once flights goes live, hotels and then holidays would be next as the website looks to establish itself in its core UK market and possibly eventually overseas.
The new platform will enable a much more facet-based product search offering, with customers able to search by factors like weather and region, he added.
“The thing that is really bothering the sector is how do you remain really comprehensive but potentially only show six results based on me knowing you better than I did three months ago.
“Only 15% of users use filters or know how to use filters. The problem we need to solve is we are one of over 17 sites that our customers could visit,” Darvey said.
“The race is on to understand how to create that disruptive, sticky experience you need for customers to say ‘this is the only place I want to go’.”
“We want to be the one. Our advantage in meta is we are a supermarket; it’s in our name. I have been pleasantly surprised by the brand data we get back and where we are in the marketplace.”
Darvey said the firm generates 56 million users a year and that 50% of those are engaging on mobile or tablet.
He said this was a challenge for Travelsupermarket and the industry because only 30% of travel sites are mobile-optimised which means the hand off is a poor experience.
Referred to internally as the “last mile problem”, Darvey said this explains why competitors like Kayak have started offering branded booking in which customers transact with it.