Expedia reveals new technology is helping reduce traveller stress

by James Wilkinson

New technology that helps make travel more of a seamless experience is reducing stress and pain along the journey, an Expedia Group survey has revealed.

The findings of the Online Travel Friction Index were a key discussion point at Expedia Group’s Explore ‘19 Conference in Las Vegas today (Nov 13 local time), and the survey – which was conducted in association with business strategy firm Magid – revealed travellers want suppliers to “offer a seamless travel experience, and to quickly and effectively handle any challenge during their travels”.

According to Expedia Group, the research is aligned with “the company’s priority focus to unleash the power of its platform to build out traveller and partner solutions that can help knock down the barriers to travel, making it easier, more enjoyable, more attainable, more accessible and in doing so, ultimately bring the world within reach for billions of people around the globe”.

Expedia Group says removing travel friction requires a deep understanding of customer pain points.

“Expedia Group’s ‘Innovation Lab’ tests new products continuously, leveraging advanced technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning, eye tracking and face reader technology to understand travellers’ focus on a web page and the emotions they experience while booking travel,” the company says.

“These tests recently uncovered the attributes travellers value the most that provide an easy-to-use, or frictionless online booking experience.

“Friction reduction occurs through the creation of extensive end-to-end user experience research, highly efficient coordinated processes, iterative product development, and obsession with customer and partner centricity,” Expedia Group says.

According to Expedia and Magid, the Online Travel Friction Index research identified key factors that reduce traveller friction through a ‘friction reduction index’ – a weighted average numerical score rating over 15 experience attributes that nearly 850 online travel users, ages 18-55, used to rate their experiences related to research, shopping and booking of travel products on various travel websites.

Results from this research identified the top five most impactful friction reduction attributes as: an easily navigable booking website; inventory that is the best value; the ability to filter and sort a specific room type; the option to redeem special offers; and the ability to quickly filter and sort specific hotel location criteria.

The survey revealed Expedia Group brands consistently ranked higher in all five areas than other OTAs or branded chain sites that were included in the research.

In 2018, Expedia Group spent more than USD$1.6 billion in technology, with a focus on making its platform seamless for both partners and travellers.

Expedia Group’s Group President of the Travel Partners Group, Cyril Ranque, says the company’s massive efforts and investment in research and development over this decade have resulted in significant benefits for both travellers and partners, including reduction in distribution costs.

“Expedia Group is focused on connecting the world, by enabling discovery, search and booking of flights, hotels, transportation and activities – in a low stress, low friction manner,” he says.

“Our technology-first platform is dedicated to providing a one-stop, easy and convenient experience for travellers to discover and book their trip with all the information they need to make the best and most informed selection.

“While we are obsessed with customer centricity, it also means a laser focus on partner success including helping our partners maximise productivity, visibility, conversion, revenue, and delivering to them the tools and experiences that they want and need,” Ranque says.

In a major effort to removing traveller friction, Brand Expedia this week announced the launch of a trip assistance function on the app that will alert the hotel a traveler will be checking in, if the traveller is experiencing a flight delay of 8-plus hours, regardless of where the flight was booked.

It was also revealed that Brand Expedia is piloting a shuttle tracking technology program built by ‘Track My Shuttle’ into the Expedia app, allowing hotel guests to see exactly where to find shuttle pickup for their hotel, and follow along with a live route map.

On the business travel front, Egencia, Expedia Group’s corporate travel brand, is creating a frictionless booking experience for business travellers “by tapping into powerful algorithms and applied machine learning”, the company says.

The business travel management company recently launched ‘Smart Mix’, a feature that intelligently analyses data and complex scenarios, factoring in the personal preferences of each traveller and their company’s travel policy to deliver smarter search results out of hundreds of hotel and flight options.

This week, Egencia announced the number of flights selected in the top ten North American search results improved by 13 percent, since Smart Mix for air was launched this summer. Smart Mix for hotel has helped Egencia customers save hundreds of thousands of dollars by optimising search and sort results, estimating that customers could save over a million dollars by mid 2020 through the service.