Article on tnooz: LINK

By Linda Fox

Bd4travel was founded about two years ago after the three founders, who had worked together at Traveltainment, joined forces to address the potential for big data in the travel industry.

The trio, Andy Owen-Jones, Melanie Sickenberger and Ibrahim Husseini, have different fields of expertise including marketing and data and also recently pulled in Expedia founder Simon Breakwell as chairman.

With low conversion rates in the online travel industry and often a poor customer experience, bd4travel believes it can use data to create personalisation, increase conversion and generally reduce inefficiency through better use of customer information.

It’s current focus is online travel agencies and tour operators and the company believes it can reduce the cost of digital sales by between 10% and 30% on a case-by-case basis.

On estimating the size of the market for its services, bd4travel says:

“We estimate that the direct global market for our type of services in these areas runs to about $200 million annually and is growing rapidly as people find Search Engine Marketing less and less cost effective.  If we can show how to reduce or eliminate wasted Google spend and to improve customer experience then the market will be over $1 billion per year in travel alone.”

The company is competing with optimisation specialists and CRM companies but says its point of differentiation is in profiling every user of a digital channel, in real time and in depth.

The startup has a revenue mix of subscription fees and performance fees  for contact centres, websites and mobile sites.

bd4travelinsert

What problem does the business solve?

Too many online travel websites are geared at being the “best site for the average user”. This means that they are not brilliantly suited to any user. All the metrics and approaches they use reinforce this as they are focused on improving the conversion funnel.

Our real-time personalisation technology profiles individual visitors by analysing their behaviour and delivers the most relevant products and services in real-time with the highest probability to convert. It dramatically improves the customer experience, reduces churn and increases the average gross booking value.

How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?

We started off looking at how to measure data quality as that was a huge problem for a lot of companies.  And we came at it from the perspective of what the end customer experiences.

Very quickly we realised that existing customer metrics were based on averages and funnels rather than treating people as customers. Once we started to look in that direction we discovered a world of opportunity and switched to focus on customer behaviour.

Why should people or companies use the business?

Our real-time personalisation technology profiles individual visitors by analysing their behaviour and delivers the most relevant products and services in real-time with the highest probability to convert. We can dramatically improve the customer experience, reduce churn and increase the average gross booking value for OTAs.

What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?

Our core marketing strategy is to build the best and most useful tools in the travel industry.  We believe that much of the time in B2B sales, sponsorship is the price you pay for being unremarkable. So we aim to have remarkable products that deliver precisely what our customers need. Every penny they spend must count and we ultimately want to deliver an outstanding service that provides more value than our customers could have hoped for.

Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?

The company already has offices in the UK and Germany. While we’ve been able to serve clients in Europe and North American from these locations, as we talk to customers in Asia Pacific and the West Coast we will need to expand further.

As we continue to help travel sellers move away from treating their users as averages our portfolio of products will grow. We’re going in the opposite direction to the google-isation model, which shifts power and personalisation capability to a third party and in most cases even means that travel sites are left using Google Analytics to determine how best to perform. We want to give power, insight and personalisation capability back to the travel players.

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?

Too many online travel websites are geared at being the “best site for the average user”. This means that they are not brilliantly suited to any user. No one can be satisfied with a look to book ratio of less than 2%. All the metrics and approaches they use reinforce this as they are focused on improving the conversion funnel.

Our real-time personalisation technology profiles individual visitors by analysing their behaviour and delivers the most relevant products and services in real-time with the highest probability to convert. It dramatically improves the customer experience, reduces churn and increases the average gross booking value.

What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style… and why?

In terms of capability, we compare ourselves to Palantir. For usability throughout the organisation, Domo. And for employing nice people that are a pleasure to work with, Expedia.

Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?

We’re 100% focused on building a great product and growing our customer base. We haven’t spent much time thinking about potential acquirers as we see huge opportunity to be disruptive and create value as a standalone business.

Describe your startup in three words?

Real time personalisation

 

Tnooz view:

It’s really only in the past couple of years that most big travel companies have started thinking about how they can collect and use some of the data that customers are leaving about themselves online.

As bd4travel points out the low conversion rates, usually low single digits, in the travel industry mean companies need to focus in on what is working and not waste investment on a scatter-gun approach.

Many a travel exec at a conference has pointed to how big a different to the bottom line even a slight increase in online conversion can make.

The idea of one-to-one marketing is also beginning to take hold with airlines and hotel companies investing in ways to improve customer interactions and foster loyalty.

By profiling online customers, bd4travel says its technology can work out the best actions to take and make inferences according to the individual traveller’s needs.

Importantly it says it can do this with millions of products but only a limited number of purchases – the travel industry has always looked up to Amazon for its personalisation techniques but recognised that with perishable stock and only a few purchases a year, the same techniques don’t apply.

It’s a good time to be in the travel data space as companies are interested in making data work for them.

Data is rarely out of the news – in the past few days alone Oracle announced it acquisition of Maxymiser while Wego announced it was letting Syndacast use its travel intent data. Earlier this year Qantas took a controlling stake in analytics firm Taylor Fry to better use data for its Qantas Loyalty division.

The obstacles will be in persuading travel companies on thin margins to make the investment and getting past consumer concerns around what data they are happy sharing in the quest for a better experience.