How many times each day do you use a search engine?
It’s a fact: the word “Google” has entered the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb. It means “To search for information (about a person or thing) using Google’s search engine”. This shows just how powerful and integral a part of society search has already become.
Over 90% of our online experiences start with a search engine, and over 100 billion global searches are being conducted each month. There is no doubt that the power & importance of search is increasing.
For the travel industry, this means it is facing a challenge. How can it cope with this growing demand for complete and relevant information to be delivered, in milliseconds, to people’s fingertips?
Millions of people every day turn to the web to search for travel options, and for inspiration. So how do travel providers and online travel agencies cope with such massive demand for immediate and accurate data?
The answer is to rely on caching, or on other more sophisticated mechanisms like data pre-processing, i.e. anticipating all possible consumers’ searches before they are received.
In computing, a cache is where data is stored temporarily in order to serve future requests for that same data quickly and cost effectively. Your personal computer saves web pages in a cache so you can interact with them more quickly. As long as the cache contains the requested data, the request can be served immediately by simply reading the cache. Otherwise, the data is recomputed, or fetched from its original storage location, which is a comparatively slow process.
In the case of air travel, caching enables online travel agents, metasearch engines, and airline websites to deliver accurate air fares for millions – even trillions – of possible routes and schedules within milliseconds. Along with optimized search technology, it enables the creation of “inspiration” sites such as the one used by Lufthansa and Supersaver Travel.
Travellers search on their own terms, on the move, when they want and how they want. A typical consumer might do the following: search a destination and date > check out the price > go to a different site to see if there is a better price > Google the destination > ask their wife > search for a different destination >ask their boss for time off > search for a different date >…and so on. This search behaviour makes it hard for the CIO of an airline, or an online travel agency, to keep transaction costs to a minimum.
Each time a traveller conducts a search, he/she expects a near-instant response with an accurate price. The travel website that does not provide a response with acceptable speed risks losing out to the competition, and the website that provides a price that can’t actually be booked can lose the customer forever.
Caching of natural traffic is spreading across the travel industry. It’s a way to deliver fast, highly accurate results, and to minimize the transaction costs to the provider. Online travel agencies and metasearch engines were traditionally the primary users of cache-driven technology and know the advantages it can bring when balanced with accuracy and content limitations. Today, an increasing number of players are looking to use optimized pre-processing technology that bridge traditional caching limitations as a way to manage shopping transactions cost effectively.
With look-to-book ratios going crazy (thousands of looks to one booking is not uncommon in online travel) and air booking traffic moving increasingly online, even for business trips and complex itineraries, airlines need to do all they can to reach customers earlier in the booking process. In order to do this, their IT systems need to support an ever increasing number of transactions, especially from indirect channels. Building customised cache and pre-processing technology to support this process is both time-consuming and extremely expensive. Thanks to Amadeus, through the GDS, airlines can benefit from “massive pre-processing” technology, quicker and more cost effectively. For example, an airline’s inventory system can avoid the strain of a huge number of transactions as Amadeus buffers the vast majority (over 85%). This both improves efficiency and drives profitability.