Wednesday, 24 August 2016

On #TravelTech and industry verticals

Industry verticals can be big beasts. I work in "travel" or "travel tech", depending on how granular the segmentation gets. But this covers a range of people who have many different needs. It also covers many different levels of accessibility to the problem. 

This week I'll take a look at a variety of blog posts in "Travel tech". Written by those involved in solving different problems in the same vertical. The experience and accessibility to the problem area isn't evenly distributed. On the one hand, many people have experienced booking a holiday or catching a taxi. By comparison not as many have communicated to passengers following an airline schedule change.

Consumers making a travel booking 

I would like to contrast two different approaches here. The first is the the developer with access to the API calls. It is now possible for anyone to create booking apps with relative ease. I love the fact Arun's use case was "here is my budget, find me somewhere". This feels like how I research travel. But not the way that most sites have traditionally been organised. We have got used to reposing the question around the data and how computers search it. Compare this to how the developers of a Rome2Rio tackle the booking journey. As a multi-modal booking site, they have a lot more data at their disposal to test how effective UI changes are. Although it would be great to see more searches around budget and properties of the trip. Makes me wonder if this is an experiment that they have run. After all, it is possible that Arun Rajappa and I are the only people who like this kind of search!

The second class of people are designers and product people. Who as part of their lives encounter issues they would like to fix. For example Rudy Rosciglione interviewing at BlaBlaCar or frequent traveller Peter Smart who wanted better boarding passes. In this camp I love that SkyScanner took the feedback from Ash McCallum and then used it to inform their improvement. It was also great being part of the same online community that he is part of, as he appeared excited that they had picked up his ideas. The boarding pass example is interesting. Designers without domain knowledge, often want to leave out key pieces of information. They don't appear important but are part of the boarding pass specification.

Corporate Travel Booking

Another category under "travel" are those people who book travel on behalf of someone else. Like consumer sites you want something easy to use, but you have different drivers like policy compliance. Here the destination choices and selling the dream aren't as important.  But managing the booking as a whole is. Collaborative planning mentioned in the blog post is a great idea. Again feels like reflecting how humans would tackle the problem without an IT system in the way. Corporate travel isn't as glamorous as consumer bookings

Travel providers

The final group of users are those I deal with. The people working for the companies providing the travel. This has different challenges to the booking angle. Everyone has already picked where they want to go. When they want to go there and how much they're willing to pay. Now there are a variety of systems to help airlines, train operators and ferry companies deliver that service. This is an interesting area compared to those above as they are funneling down to one choice. After which you do not need the other bits of information. For the travel provider they narrow the search down to target groups of people to help. Here though the other people still need to given help. The system needs to support searching and track information in different ways. There are also fewer consumer systems that you can share conventions with, such as edit icons. This can be a blessing in being creative! but also means that you have conversations about which icon says "booking not processed due to simultaneous changes" :-)

Further reading