Nothing is more frustrating to travel shoppers than clicking on a Google ad that touts “family travel” or “beach travel” and then landing on a site that is all things to all people, says Benoit Jolin of Expedia Affiliate Network.
The solution is for websites to qualify buyers instantly so it presents them with appropriate product choices. But that’s not easy to do. Now Expedia Affiliate Network is upgrading its AgentRez program to put this ability within reach of traditional agencies, according to Jolin, vice president of product management.
Expedia Affiliate Network has a range of online tools to instantly qualify buyers that it developed for online travel agencies and large suppliers such as airlines that sell white-label versions of Expedia’s hotel inventory.
The company plans to adapt that functionality for the front end of AgentRez beginning in 2012.
No expertise needed
Once AgentRez is adapted, agent users will be able to tell their websites to display only three-star hotels with swimming pools, for example. “You click on save, then publish, and those business rules arrive on your site. You don’t need a technical expert.”
The ability to put the right hotel at the right price in front of the right traveler is a complicated process, but it is a “super powerful” tool that can create a high conversion rate because “the customer is qualified at the click,” Jolin said.
“It’s all about relevancy,” he said. “Retailers will win if they understand the customer’s intent.”
Highly focused ‘child sites’
The tools that will be incorporated into AgentRez were developed for online travel agencies and large suppliers such as airlines that sell white-label versions of Expedia’s hotel inventory.
EAN’s new Chameleon product, designed for pure online retailers, has been the incubator for some of the ideas. Chameleon enables members of the affiliate program to create highly focused “child sites” that cater to particular markets.
“You don’t have to build them,” Jolin said. Expedia Inc., EAN’s parent company, is arguably the world’s largest processor of hotel transactions. “We bake all that expertise into our product line,” he said.
There are 20 million price and inventory changes every day, and “our sort algorithms need to make sense of all that change,” he said. (It also takes six statisticians, 45 engineers and 300 servers.)
Playing with the enemy?
Jolin said agents should not be put off by EAN’s status as unit of Expedia Inc. “Some still wonder, ‘Am I helping to fuel the beast?’
“But while Expedia.com has a focus, so do we. It’s about how we can be your most relevant partner, whether you are an airline, an OTA or a travel agent.”