Kayak targets growth with packages, personalisation and pin-point pricing

By Travolution
By Travolution
February 14, 2014 11:54 AM GMT

US travel metasearch Kayak says it sees package sales as a big growth area as it plots further expansion in Europe and the UK.

The site, which was bought by Booking.com parent Priceline in 2012 for almost £2 billion, recently appointed Jan Valentin as managing director for Europe.

In May 2013 Kayak launched a package holiday price comparison service on its site and also offers Kayak Holidays dynamically packaged deals via a tie up with On Holiday Group.

Giorgos Zacharia, Kayak new chief technology officer, said the move reflected the continued preference among UK and European customer for packages.

And he said it was now being trialled in the US where packages do not traditionally have a strong place in the travel market.

“We are working on getting as many relevant package providers as possible. The fact that you can combine a hotel with a low-cost carrier can provide significant savings and that’s unique to Kayak.”

Zacharia said any package providers with online bookability could be featured on the price comparison although it is testing a click-to-book functionality.

Kayak said it is also working on improving the user experience in what is a competitive market with Skyscanner enjoying significant presence along with Google and its flight and hotel meta products.

Much of this is designed to improve price accuracy and transparency so that the price the user sees in the search is the price they end up paying.

A payments fees calculator estimates what the end price will be once all additional costs are taken into account. Suppliers which are not upfront about these are at risk of being demoted.

For flights Kayak takes data feeds from multiple sources. Its scale, aligned with machine learning, means it can work out which is likely to be the most accurate.

Kayak Mix is another recently added feature which looks for the cheapest flying option by comparing prices if the travellers uses different airlines for the various legs of the journey.

Zacharia said personalisation was also important, Kayak being one of the number of price comparison sites now to offer a price forecasting service.

Its algorithm will also learn what a users’ preferences are so that the most relevant hotels are most prominently featured.

“We use a probability matrix,” said Zacharia. “We will show hotels based on the probability of booking.”

Work is also underway to make the technology more intelligent and flexible so that, for instance, it recognises if a particular hotel is capable of accommodating a larger group size if requested.

On mobile Kayak is on the 29th version of its app ,which has had 35 million downloads and has just been redesigned so that brands are displayed in the booking path.

A new ‘touch-optimised’ design has been developed to simplify the mobile experience and to make it more intuitive.

A tablet-optimised version of Kayak which is currently being rolled out in Europe is helping to inspire the next generation of its desktop website.

A map-based search feature called Explore has been developed allowing users to filter results based on departure season, flight time, budget or even weather and ‘stuff to do’.

This ticks the box marked visual inspiration, and is clearly a direct challenger to Google’s powerful ITA Software-powered Flight Search.

Kayak has also launched MyTrips, a trip planning and itinerary management tool into which travellers can input their booking confirmation details and sync this with their phone or share with friends.

Free to use, MyTrips is aimed at driving up loyalty and repeat use in what can be a highly promiscuous part of the online travel sector.

Zacharia said: “We believe user experience is key to the experience of any meta site and, of course the completeness of your content.

“If you do not have that accurate content you lose credibility among your users. It’s all down to constant improvement and experimentation.

“Hopefully we will have the best user experience out there and people will think of Kayak first.”

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