Expedia has launched revamped beach holiday pages as it seeks to improve the way it guides customers to the products they are looking for.
The new pages incorporate some of the features of new ski pages launched earlier this year offering improved search functionality as well as Expedia’s ‘top picks’.
The launch comes as Expedia revealed the results of its first global Beach Survey that will help it tailor its offering based on the requirements of customers in its many different international markets.
Speaking at the launch Andrew Warner, Expedia senior director for marketing in Europe, set out the retailer’s strategy of developing more of a human face to its consumer offering.
He said: “If you go back to the early days of Expedia, essentially what we did was spun round the travel agents’ screen.
“Before that if something went wrong it was the travel agents fault or the tour operators’ fault. We were the first to give the customer the real-time information the travel agent was seeing.
“That meant the customer was in control but the problem with travel is there is a lot of choice so the next evolution was sites like Tripadvisor with not just traditional brochure descriptions but what other people have said.
“As that has become so big, actually is has become too big and the consumer has become overwhelmed.
“What we see in Europe – and we talk about people-shaped travel – is very much towards using the information we have available, whether that’s through mobile channels or what people share with us, to deliver a more personalised experience and get them to the stuff they want more quickly.
“The customer still wants a degree of control – however, this personalisation and reassurance that comes with things like independent reviews has become really important in terms of our development.”
Scott Crawford, Expedia’s head of packages for Europe, said one of the challenges is that different people have different requirements, not just in terms of national tastes but what mood they are in – whether they are researching or buying, travelling for business or pleasure.
Although this raises the issue of privacy for online firms seeking to find out what people are looking for, Expedia believes this can be overcome by being transparent and explaining how it will use the information it can access.
“There are clues you can use but it’s about trying to understand how you take all that data and use that to make sure we are giving people what the customer is looking for.”
Peter Parkes, head of social media, said: “People are increasingly leaving digital footprints that we can examine and integrate.
“If you think about the hoiday you had 15 years ago, the digital footprint of that would have been pretty minimal.
“Five years later you might have uploaded your photos online; now you have GPS digital footprints, hotels or bars you have checked in to, or comments your friends have posted.
“All of that data is becoming increasingly useful and with the right permissions we can think about building services on top of that.”
Ben Kazez, chief executive of Expedia-owned mobile app developer Mobiata, said one of the more promising areas of development was using behavioural information to discern what customers are looking for.
“One of the areas I get really excited about is we have all this booking history and we can mine that in all sort of ways and make a really good guess about what kind of trip you are looking to take but at the same time we also know how people use the website and apps.
“By looking at behaviours, at how long people stay on a certain page, what they look at, even if they don’t make a booking we can use that data to help people to find the right properties for them.
“Thinking about the user experience can be another way of helping the personalisation factor across all platforms.”
Kazez said the next stage of development for Mobiata is for mobile apps to help travellers while they are actually travelling.
“There is tremendous complexity in the world of travel, whether it’s finding the right hotel or flight, or getting to the right place when you are on a trip. There are any number of challenges.
“Computing is getting increasingly small and people are adding all sorts of sensors to their smart phone devices.
“This opens up all sorts of amazing opportunities for really helping travellers in the moment of travel. The need for personal on the go support is really one of our focuses.
“Because there is so much complexity combined with this expectation of this really beautiful smooth experience on mobile devices we have to approach everything with an eye for design. This presents all sort of design challenges with the smaller screen.
Kazez said future developments would be focused on the local and spontaneous purchases on mobile.
Warner said: “One of the things I would contend is becoming increasingly the case, is the line between what is and what is not mobile is blurring.”