Posted by Steve O’Hear
Bd4travel, a German startup that offers a “predictive analytics platform” for the online travel industry to help target site visitors in a more personal way, has raised a $4.2 million Series A round led by London-based Hoxton Ventures. Talis Capital, and Robin Klein of The Accelerator Group also participated.
Powered by big data and machine learning, bd4travel’s platform enables online travel companies to personalise the experience of site visitors in real-time based on an array of data points including how they land on the site and where they click.
This data, which, along with page visits includes preferences such as location, dates, price point, features, and number of people, is then used to build a profile of each current visitor so that the browsing experience can be tailored to offer the most relevant products and services with — crucially — the highest probability to end in a sale.
It can also tell whether the user is just looking for inspiration or is ready to book a trip or simply wants an alternative to a fully booked hotel.
“Too many websites are geared at being the ‘best site for the average user’. This means that they are not brilliantly suited to any user,” says bd4travel travel co-founder and CEO Andy Owen-Jones. “We change this so that each site can understand what every single user is after in real-time for complex products and then we respond. This represents a breakthrough in personalisation for categories such as travel.”
So, for example, a customer might land on a travel site looking for a hotel holiday with a pool to keep the kids happy. They see a few products they like the look of and check the price. However, the last couple of hotels they check are either not available or cost more than was initially shown.
It’s at this point that bd4travel can intervene in the customer journey if its algorithms identify them as at risk of leaving the site without making a booking or as someone who has had a poor shopping experience, and take action accordingly.
This might include triggering a help popup, suggesting an alternative that also meets their needs and at the appropriate price point, presenting a tailored discount offer where margins allow, or alerting the contact centre that there is a high value customer who may quit the site.
“As they keep browsing we build a unique pattern for them and interpret what it means. So, assuming they are kept on the site, the next products they look at are sorted in a way that reflects their priorities,” Owen-Jones explains. “They may not have said they want a pool, but if all the hotels they checked have a pool then we infer that is important and we prioritise hotels with pools up in the search. If we see they have kids then we change the hotel images to the ones that have children in to show them that we are picking the right products.”
The same principle applies to a returning visitor. So, continuing the above example, instead of generic offers, they’ll see offers that are relevant to a family looking for a holiday with kids. “The teaser boxes would be populated with the top hotels or destinations that we predict would meet their needs. And as they engage with the site, the accuracy of the predictions become better and better. ”
It’s this level of big data-driven personalisation that Owen-Jones says has previously only really been the domain of a major e-commerce technology player like Amazon or similar large-scale grocery stores who are able to find the necessary correlations to make inferences. “We have developed ways of doing this when there are millions of products and only a limited number of purchases by an individual, for example in travel,” he says.
Meanwhile, asked why Hoxton Ventures chose to lead bd4travel’s Series A, Partner Hussein Kanji described the founding team as “rock stars”. Owen-Jones and co-founders, Melanie Sickenberger and Ibrahim Husseini, previously worked at Traveltainment, the European leisure travel booking solution. Before that they held key positions at Amadeus, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Yahoo. “Andy is one of the top five guys in the world when it comes to travel and analytics,” he adds.
Notable is that bd4travel is also announcing that Simon Breakwell, Expedia founder and partner at TCV, has joined the company as Chairman. It’s also my understanding that Expedia was one of the startup’s first customers. That feels like somewhat of a coup for the young company.