Showing posts with label everyyou. Show all posts
Showing posts with label everyyou. Show all posts

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 Predictions: The BOOT on which trends live and which ones die in 2011

I loved 2010. So much happened in online travel that I have cricks in my neck from looking left and right, from scanning an RSS news feed on one side, tweets and r-tweets on the other, conference presentations filled with announcements, press releases filling up my inbox, posts to the left of me, news to the we are stuck in the middle of the most exciting online industry in the world.

Don't slow down, 2011 is already here. The Boot has six predictions for 2010. Three things will live and thrive and three things will wither and die:

2011 - three things will thrive

1. Social lives:
the parallel rises of social media, the open ended question and consumers willingness to discuss and share everything openly and freely will in 20011 continue to change the way the industry attracts and retains customers. The traffic numbers of Facebook, Twitter, foursquare etc are all but unprecedented. But it is not their rise that is the story. The story is the consumer behaviour behind the rise of these products. Pick your metaphor - consumers have opened the kimono, dropped their pants or invited everyone in to their lives. Nothing is sacred. Everything can and will be shared. In 2011 the online travel industry will continue to adjust marketing channels and communications techniques to match this trend. Five tips on how to do that are here.

2. Search lives: but not as you know it. Search has changed forever especially the measure of authority. The display changes we have seen in Google and Bing in 2010 are a precursor to the profound changes I expect to see in the measure of authority for content/sites in search in 2011.
The old measure of inbound links will be enhanced with input from social networks, context and location, expert advice, preference matching and more. Search marketing will have to change to encompass content, social, information syndication and data mining. I am predicting there will be as many six factors that drive authority in search.

In addition to the changes in authority, search will change in how results are displayed. Results will become multi-destinational and multi-dimensional.

3. Data lives: In 2010 the Economist introduced me to the yottabyte as a indicator of how much data is being collected every day on everything (yottabyte = 2 to the power of 80 bytes or 1000 Zettabyte). The online travel industry following suit - collecting data on a scale unimaginable five years ago and the quantity is rising exponentially by the day. The access to this level of data and the open and honest nature of this data gives the industry the chance to profile and market to consumers at a level of detail down to and below the level of the individual. In 2011 that data will be put to use. My EveryYou concept will take even further hold in online travel (more on EveryYou here). More and more you will hear of activities in online travel to develop specific and targeted recommendations of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time. Micro-targeting at scale.

2011 - three things will die

1. Convergence dies: For the first decade and half of online travel and the last fifteen years of communications technology, the non-stop talk was around convergence. That devices would merge. That our phones, computers, TVs, game consoles, printers, fridges and more would all come together in one device. The opposite is true. Convergence is dead. Devices are becoming (at the same time) more specialised, more capable and more connected. As a result, in 2011 we will give up on the idea of convergence of devices and instead adopt a concept of multiple devices supporting a communications ecosystem. Activities will start on one device, continue on another and conclude on a third. Each device in the chain will have a main purpose different from the other but will be able to support activities spread across other devices. Our different devices will remain with separate functions (content creation devices, gaming and entertainment devices, communications devices) but each will connect and share with the other in a common network.

2. Mobile dies: Sure mobile is everywhere. Sure I ate humble pie and admitted that 2009 was the year of the mobile. But in 2011 the mobile/tablet/PC debate will change from building for devices to building for display preferences. Device distinction as a designator for what is or is not built will die. Device platform discussions will move from “which product is this built for” to “is this compatible for all displays”.

Much like we now say that a site has to be web ready rather than differentiating between its readiness on FireFox, Chrome, Safari, opera and IE. The type of the device and whether or not it is mobile is now irrelevant. Mobile/PC/Tablet will be the different “browsers” of 2011. All code will need to be written in preparation for this.

(OK that is not the death of mobile - more like the enlightenment or complete ubiquity of mobile - but you get the gist)

3. BAR dies: Best Available Rate has been a staple of the online travel industry since 2002. In response to the absolute transparency of the Internet, chain and independent hotels guaranteed common prices across each distribution channel. In 2011 we have reached a point where through a combination of dramatically improved IP address targeting, growth in closed user groups, private sale sites, group coupon sites and more there will be a myriad of ways in which hotels will put deals out there that are different to their BAR. Get ready for a move to a world of more and more targeting, more and more yield management and a wider variety of prices for the same property and product.

Close your tray tables and turn off your electronic devices. We are in for an amazing and 2011 and the BOOT is here to cover it for you.

If you are interested here are my 2010 predictions

Thanks to 1suisse1 for the image via flickr

Monday, August 09, 2010

EveryYou: Wharton on Mobile Networks and E-Commerce getting personal

Madame BOOT is a long time consumer of the Knowledge@Wharton series. She has pointed me to this short but interesting post titled "In the Age of Mobile Networks, E-Commerce Gets Personal". The piece talks to how mobile networks will be an enabler or micro targeting. How the next generation of services such as 4square will be key to retailers be able to target consumers with individuated deals and "transform how people shop". Is the BOOT's recommended read of the week.

For more background on this - my concept of EveryYou can be quickly described as "micro-targeting at scale". The detailed definition is
“The development of a specific and targeted recommendation of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time”
This theory I am working on says that we have reached a state of computational power, data collection levels and social trend in favour of interaction and information sharing that retailers will be able to target offers not only at individuals but at the different versions of each individal that appears at a particular point in time.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Introducing the "Tastegraph" - discussing recommendations with LikeCube's Emmanuel Marchal

After a post on Tnooz about non-destinational search I spoke with Emmanuel Marchal a Director of recommendation based B2B search provider LikeCube (Crunchbase profile here) about the future of travel search and the power of recommendations.

I have not doubt that the future of online travel is recommendations. Finding a way to give people a targeted recommendation based not only on their demographic or individual wants but on their wants at a particular moment in time. I call this my EveryYou principle (EveryYou definition here, more articles here). Developing a way to do micro targeting at scale.

Marchal's LikeCube is a B2B software as a services solution that purports to provide travel review and retail sites with targeted recommendations and search. His opening sales pitch for LikeCube is similar to that of any search site - give me your data and I will give you the best results for a search string. The LikeCube twist on traditional search is that answers are based not on links and page ranks but on the commonality between the likes and preferences of the content contributors. Marchal pitched this to me as targeting results based on the users "Tastegraph" rather "Sociograph". Instead of linking recommendations and results to the thoughts and feedback of those in the same social network as a user (sociograph), LikeCube targets recommendations and search results from those with the same likes and preferences of the user (tastegraph).

He gave two great examples of how standard approaches to reviews on a content or retail sites do not result in a useful recommendation. The first example was the reviews around TripAdvisor's Dirtiest Hotel of 2010 - the Heritage Marina Hotel in San Francisco. It won the "dirtiest" award in part because 174 of the 330 reviews ranked the hotel as "Terrible". Clearly - according to this rating - no one would ever want to stay there. But 48 of the reviews rated the hotel as "Very Good" or "Excellent". That means 15% of the reviewers of the dirtiest hotel of 2010 think the Heritage Marina is a fantastic place to stay and are keen to stay there again. People with different tastes and needs can see the same hotel in a very different light. Review sites are trying to manage these contradictions by helping users to refine a recommendation by reviewer demographics. The plan being to allow a consumer to see reviews only from people of the same demographics to maximise the chance of getting a recommendation form people with the same interests. This leads to Marchal's second example. He showed me two reviews for the same hotel on Both reviews were by people self classified as "young couples". One rated the hotel a four out of ten the other a nine point five. Additional classification and demographic criteria is not the answer to making reviews more relevant. As Marchal says (and I agree), these two examples highlight the need for a next generation of recommendation search.

That's the theory of LikeCube. I like the theory and enjoyed the conversion with Marchal. The challenge is seeing LikeCube in action. The first implementation of LikeCube is Qype ( a European Yelp clone).

Unfortunately as a B2B solution that requires access to a client's data source, it is impossible to review LikeCube in action outside an implementation. With only one implementation to view it is very hard to make an accurate assessment of LikeCube in action. In LikeCube's defence they only launched last November (at World Travel Mart).

LikeCube's challenge is not winning over people to the idea of targeted tastegraph based search results, it is building scale and proving that their technology can do what is promised. Winning more implementations and proving the case behind the technology (and as a result winning more implementations). Is the standard challenge for a B2B software start-up - made harder by the consumer facing nature of a LikeCube implementation. If they can do it then I predict this to be a very valuable space to be in.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Economist: Data, too much information and the Yottabyte

I have been saying for three years now that the biggest challenge we have to face in the online travel industry is "too much information". Now, thanks to the Economist, we can actually start to see how much is too much.

Once or twice a month the Economist publishes a special report on a country or subject. A few weeks back they published Data, data everywhere, a supplement devoted to the amount of information and data swirling around us. Let me jump straight to an extract from the punchline to the article
"According to one estimate, mankind created 150 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data in 2005. This year, it will create 1,200 exabytes. Merely keeping up with this flood, and storing the bits that might be useful, is difficult enough. Analysing it, to spot patterns and extract useful information, is harder still."
Not all of this is online but according to Cisco, by 2013 667 exabytes of data will be flowing over the internet.

To put an exabyte into context, to store 1 exabyte of data would take 15.6million top of the range 64GB iPads. I struggle to think how we can capture, digest, store, manage, secure, use and more that amount of data.

The Economist gave three interesting snapshots of companies trying to deal with this amount of data:
  • Facebook: currently storing more than 40 billion photos;
  • Wal-Mart: processing 1 million transactions per hour; and
  • Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and SAP: have spent more than $156billion on buying software firms specialising in data management and analytics.
The official definition of information is data processed in timely, relevant and accurate form. An IBM survey reported by the Economist found that half of the managers quizzed did not trust the information they had to base decisions on. We have more data than we know what to do with but don't trust it to help us come to the right outcome. The data flood's first consequence is to stifle our ability to turn data into information.

From all this it is clear that we need to learn some new words. Screw the giga, tera, peta and even exabyte. Time to introduce you to the Zettabyte (2 to the 70 bytes or a 1000 exabytes) and the Yottabyte (2 to the 80 bytes or 1000 Zettabyte). Though you will not need to worry about the Yotta just yet. Even the Economist admits that the Yotta is currently not just too much information but "too big to imagine".

The Data special report is a great read - check it out.

PS if you want to read more about what exciting things I think we should be doing with data, check out my series of posts on my concept of EveryYou.

thanks to J.Kleyn for the photo via flickr

Sunday, January 10, 2010

EveryYou and Customer Reward: When an upgrade is not the right response

My EveryYou concept is about developing specific and targeted recommendations (which can include rewards) of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time. I had a chance this week to experience an example of the deficiency of customer profiling and standard practice and thus a place where a more individualised (EveryYou) approach would have been much better.

I have just bought a house – should be celebrating. But due to a twist of fate and timing I have to spend the next two months in a serviced apartment before I can move into the new house. It is nothing too dramatic but gave me a chance to sample the serviced apartment market. I won’t mention the provider but they very kindly offered me a complementary upgrade to a bigger apartment with a view. Of course I was pleased to accept. Just prior to check-in we settled all the details of the stay including the deposit payment and my confirmation that I would be brining by wife, seven year old and three year old.

On check-in we discovered that the upgraded apartment was much bigger than expected, had great views over the park and had the bonus of a separate study/office. But we had to move out immediately. As large as the apartment was, it was completely unsuitable for children under 12 let alone 7 and 3. Firstly the bedrooms were on two separate floors. Meaning that my wife and I would have to sleep on a different floor to the children – not acceptable when one of the bedrooms is right next to the front door that cannot be locked. Secondly the study/office (on the second floor) had two windows at child accessible height that could easily be opened and pushed outwards. Easily exposing a young curious mind to a ten floor drop and instant death. Either we put the children in a bedroom next a door where the three year old could leave the apartment without us knowing or in a bedroom near a study with easy access to a deadly drop.

When we spoke with the front desk, they could not understand why we wanted to move (clearly not parents) and especially could not understand that we wanted to turn down the upgrade and take a smaller (but safer) apartment. This exposed two things to me. Firstly how “the upgrade” is one of the few (if not the only) pre-check in reward that a hotel/serviced apartment has set for sharing with consumers. Secondly how in the serviced apartment market the staff are not as well prepared as hotel staff for non-standard request.

Under a generalised profiling system of customer rewards, it is clear that the vast majority of customers would love to receive an upgrade. But trusting generalisations and profiling can lead the hotel/apartment sales rep to use it as a reward when deeper analysis would show that other rewards would better impress and therefore make more loyal a customer. If my wife and I were on our own or with adult travelling companions (ie the "weekend holiday away with friends" version of me) then the upgrade would be perfect. But if the accommodation provider had spent the time analysing and using the data they had on me for this trip (ie the "parent" version of me) then they would have determined that the reward I would have been more interested in would be a twin room as the second bedroom or an apartment closer to the swimming pool or free car parking. On another occasion (ie the "business traveller" version of me) it would be free wifi rather than a bigger apartment that would be the perfect reward. Generalised profiling is no match for taking the time to use data provided by customers and technology available to suppliers to target rewards/recommendations suited to not just the individual but the version of the individual that happens to be travelling at the time (EveryYou). Using these techniques would prove to my landlords for the next two months that a upgrade is not always the reward it should be.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Secret to Innovation - technology and social movement together. Thoughts from PhoCusWright Innovation Summit

Another follow up from yesterday’s Travel Innovation Summit at the PhoCusWright. During the presentation I saw a lot screens and tech diagrams from innovators showing the latest in Web 2/3.0 technology. Lots of impressive looking technology touching on search, collaboration, analytics, content aggregation, mobile and more. Despite the impressive nature of the technology on display I came away reminded that technology is not enough for innovation. With innovation there is also critical need for an execution element and timing the product with social readiness for its adoption. For a new piece of technology to be capable of becoming an innovation it has to be timed to match the social movement and consumer readiness to use it (or be capable of holding on long enough for consumers to catch up).

This was particularly front of mind for me because only recently we learnt about Yahoo! finally shutting down GeoCities (TechCrunch story here). A business it bought for $2.87billion. At the height of GeoCities (wikipedia here) popularity it was the number one place for user generated content and destination information. It was the blogging platform before there were blogging platforms. Countless personal GeoCities pages were set up by individuals to talk about their lives, animals, home towns, travel experiences and more. Millions of words of local content were available through GeoCities years before TravelMuse, Nileguide, Geckogo, Tripsay, TripAdvisor, Uptake, etc were a glint in an angel funder’s eye. Yet it died. Clearly not for lack of user generated content. Sean Keener of BootsnAll said at breakfast yesterday that GeoCities died because Yahoo! blew it because they did not know what to do with it. There is something in this. But another reason why GeoCities died was that it came out too far ahead of the desire for consumers to share themselves with the InterTube world. When GeoCities was at its peak in 2000/2001 the traffic was high, the usage was ok but there was no revenue model (no AdSense or equiv) and no sharing and distribution mechanisms (twitter, facebook, URL shortening). The consumer trend for writing, sharing and engaging in social commentary was not there to support the business. The product/technology was launched too far ahead of the social desire and trend to use it.

Don’t believe in this need for technology and social change to be together? Let me give you another example. In 1996 – as a young lawyer- I was excited to load PointCast as my screen saver. Without me having to click a button or search a site, news and information was pushed to me. All the information I used to have to surf around to find was coming to me in a means that was more convenient, faster and “hands free”. Everybody in the firm followed suit and downloaded the product. Then in Jan 1997 (wikipedia story here) Murdoch offered $450mm for company. While PointCast was holding out for more money network admins across the corporate world were finding their network s crashing down under the load of constant information queries. Employees were banned from using PointCast. Without complaint we shrugged and uninstalled PointCast. The critical part was “without complaint”. We liked the feature but did not need it. It was not that big a deal to go back to reading the local paper, BBC and CNN online. Within moments Murdoch pulled the bid and PointCast was later sold for (a paltry) $7mm and shut down a year later. Fast forward to 2009 and each of us has a newsreader indexing hundreds of information and news site. If companies tried to block newsreaders there would be an employee revolution and drop in productivity. PointCast was the first prototype of a news reader but socially we did not need to fight for it and did not miss it much when it left because there wasn’t enough content out there to compel the need for an aggregation product. Technology came too early for the consumers.

My point from these two examples is that when trying to innovate it is critical to focus as much on timing and social readiness as it is to focus on the technology and product. Making sure consumers are available and ready to pick up what you are building.

I talk about this in my EveryYou concept. Our ability to develop a specific and targeted recommendation of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time is only now becoming available because of the matching of technological capability (near unlimited processing power) and consumer desire to share information and data and receive targeted advice and replies.

What do you think? How important is timing in innovation?

thanks to Vermin Inc for the photo

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tnooz: BOOT on Lonely Planet on Tnooz

By second post for Tnooz is live titled "Tips for what Lonely Planet should do next". Contains some background on Lonely Planet's online plans over the last few years, the online and brand vision from new CEO Matt Goldberg and my recommendations on what else they could do. Check out the post here for more. He is an extract with my recommendations for Lonely Planet:
1. Content Expansion: Make more and more of the content currently only available in books available online with the aim of being the number one organic search results for every major destination search item. It might hurt some book sales but winning in organic search will be more valuable long term;
2. Open Syndication: Increase syndication capabilities by allowing bloggers, writers, transaction sites, Facebook pages and more to access content material is an open way. Similar to point #1 above, it might cost a few book sales but being the social network content source of choice will be more valuable long term.
3. Facilitate and Make EveryYou Recommendations: Invest in recommendation technology to allow the community forums and information to be combined with the editorial content, booking behaviour and other data available to put Lonely Planet at the forefront of the development of specific and targeted recommendations of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time. See My EveryYou concept. It will cost money and development time but the future of inspiration and content sites are targeted recommendations.
Tnooz editor Kevin May has followed up with a post "We love Lonely Planet and want to see it get better says the BBC", where an interesting debate has started.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Long Tail and travel - Chris Anderson shows data

I am sure the timing is a complete fluke but two weeks after I published my first challenge to Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory in my post EveryYou: Individuation and going beyond the Long Tail theory he published a post on seekingAlpha called the Long Tail of Travel. In this post he carries some search data analysis that says that over time the top 50 destinations out for the UK have fallen from 36% of the total destinations in travelled by air 1998 to 26% in 2008 driven by low cost carriers, consumer demand and more. He has based this on data from the UK CAA. His post contains a graph and link to the data.

I have no doubt that searches for body and tail destinations are up and growing but we need more that just the Long Tail theory to allow demand for the tail to be unconstrained. We need targeting, recommending and discovery tools that allow consumers to find things they did not know they wanted to know about and trust the answers they get. [Broken record time] we need to use the technology and social changes made available to generated individuated search responses to open ended web queries.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WebInTravel: WIT presenation 2009 - Recommendations, Long Tail and EveryYou

On doctor's orders I had to cancel my trip to WebInTravel this year. Here with slides and audio is the presentation I would have given today if I had been there.

Key themes are
  1. the long tail theory is now 5 years old. That is "decades" in Internet years. It is time for a rethink;
  2. we now have access to effectively unlimited computational power (technology change);
  3. consumers are voluntarily giving us data and information about themselves - often for no obvious tangible gain (forwarding links, writing reviews, uploading photos, setting up detailed traveller profiles etc) (social change); and
  4. if we work to put together the technology change and social change we can target EveryYou rather than Everyone. Can develop specific and targeted recommendations of one for an individual. Rather than a recommendation based on demographics, a recommendation of one based on the individuals unique combination of desires, needs and interests.
PS - forgive the timing of the slides, they are not quite right but the message comes through.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

EveryYou in Germany

A German blogger has picked up the EveryYou concept. Here is the post on the Hermann Hohenberger Blog in German and the badly translated by google version called “The End of Target Groups”.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tnooz: first BOOT story on Tnooz live on Augmented Reality, EveryYou and more

My first story for the new Tnooz site is live called "Augmented Reality, mobile, search and (maybe) getting it wrong". As well as touching on Augmented reality and mobile apps I give even more background and analysis on my emerging EveryYou concept. Read the full story here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

EveryYou: Individuation and going beyond the Long Tail theory

This post is part of my developing series on the EveryYou concept– the ability we are developing to create a specific and targeted recommendation of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time (first post here).

It is Internet marketing heresy to say anything that might contradict the gospel of the Long TailChris Anderson’s now famous 2004 book on how the removal of the constraint of needing to support physical inventory and location (ie moving from stores to sites and physical to bits) has expanded marketing and sales opportunities beyond items that have achieved mass popularity to the niche and obscure. Anderson says this will result in demand shifting shift from the Head (mass popularity) to the Tail (niche products). But in my introduction to the EveryYou concept I said that one of the advantages we now have from the four dimensions of data available to us is that…
“We could kill off the head, body and long tail of sales and replace it with a sale of one, a market of one for the EveryYou.”
It is dangerous to be a heretic in Internet folk law but thankfully I found some support for my blasphemy in a recent article from Knowledge@Wharton called “Rethinking the Long Tail Theory: How to Define 'Hits' and 'Niches'

In this article professor Serguei Netessine and doctoral student Tom F. Tan looked at Netflix data to see whether or not the growth in niche or tail sales was proving that the tail was catching the head. They concluded that
“The presence of the Long Tail effect might be less universal than one may be led to believe."
Instead of seeing the death of the 80:20 rule, Netessine and Tan found that the growth in demand for the top 20% of the movies (ie the head) was faster than the rest (the Tail) (note that the data was comparing 2005 to 2000). One of their conclusions was that the challenge with internet distribution was not the supply side (making digital inventory available on the web) or the traffic side (bringing people to the web) but was the discovery side (getting the people to find the thing they did not know they were looking for). Netessine and Tan say
“product variety has been skyrocketing in the Internet age, and therefore more and more products can be left unnoticed by consumers, or are being discovered very slowly, even though the customer base is also expanding."
This is exactly the point of the EveryYou principle adds value. The Long Tail is based on matching the unconstrained supply of the Internet to niche demand. What is missing is that the niche demand in Long Tail theory is constrained because it depends on knowledge. That is, someone can only demand a niche product if they know about it and believe that they like it (or could like it). For unconstrained niche demand you need to have a systematic and automated means of making trusted and targeted recommendations to someone. This is the EveryYou principle. Using the four dimensions of data we now have on people interacting with our sites (breadth), the different things an individual does on a site (depth), the interrelation between the data we have one person and others (context) and the freely provided data we have unrelated to transactions (community) we can develop a specific and targeted recommendation of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time.

Without the recommendation part the tail is undiscoverable and therefore demand constrained. Through the EveryYou principle you don’t need to think about a head, body or tail as you can use technology and social change to target each recommendation and individual as a single, individuated marketing activity.

More on EveryYou soon.

PS - thanks to Madame BOOT for sending through the article

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Preparing for WebInTravel: Reviewing the BOOT’s predictions for 2009

With TRAVELtech over it now time to prepare for WebInTravel in Singapore October 20-23. organiser Siew Hoon ask to to prepare an article prior to the conference on my thoughts on 2009 so far and beyond. Here is an edited version of submission

Back in January I made six predictions for 2009:
  1. There are more airlines to go bust
  2. Growth in domestic travel growth will surprise us all.
  3. Consolidation is not yet finished:
  4. 2009 will not be the year of mobile for the travel industry:
  5. The dinosaurs (traditional offline travel companies) will screw up and come out of the GFC even weaker: and
  6. The last minute model will come back.

With Q3 about to end, I will use this article as a chance to review each prediction and see how they are tracking:

1. Airlines – the list of grounded airline companies is growing each day. So far in 2009 we have lost Myair, Skyeurope, JetAmerica, East Star Airlines, Air Senegal and many others (thank you Airline Closure blog). Might still lose Frontier but on the bright side (I think) Alitalia was saved. The year is not yet over and there is vulture talk around Air Canada, US Airways, United and BMI;

2. Domestic travel – The Google results for “boom in domestic travel” produce a list of some 186,000 results touting the growth in domestic markets around the world including supplier sites, news site and DMO sites. The mashup word Staycation has entered our vernacular (despite its cringeworthiness);

3. Consolidation – We have not seen the consolidation I expected at the start of the year. There as some tuck-in deals but no multi-hundred million dollar deals to talk about. Instead we have seen no slow down in travel start ups raising funds. The WSJ carries a list of ten of the most notable (including Tripwolf, Dealbase, TVTrip and Yapta);

4. 2009 and mobile: This was my most controversial prediction and many did not agree with me. The argument in favour of my prediction is that bookings of travel via mobile phones apps (outside of Korea and Japan) are still very small and arguably inconsequential to the $150+ billion online travel industry. Arguing against my prediction is the near unstoppable growth of smart phone sales (Blackberry, iPhone, Palm etc) (see Norm Rose’s recent post on this) and the amazing display of augmented reality mobile applications recently captured on Mashable including Nearest Tube and Wikitude;

5. Death of the dinosaurs: In my part of the world Stella Travel is half the company it was a year ago and Flight Centre’s profits have fallen dramatically. But it is not their financial results or size that interest me; it is the continued denial by the leadership of those companies that they need to take the online world seriously. Peter Lacaze of Stella is a known online travel sceptic. He is recently quoted on TravelTrends as saying “not in my lifetime” in response to a question about the internet taking over half the market in Australia (despite the fact that this is already the case in the US). Flight Centre’s Graham Turner spoke at length after his FY09 annual results (see TravelToday pdf here) on how little he was worried about online travel companies and that they were not a threat to his business. Instead of taking the chances offered by a downturn to invest in new areas Lacaze and Turner continue to tell themselves that they don’t need to worry about online; and

6. Lastminute is back: This was the easiest prediction to make and have come true. There is data out there on reductions in lead times but the best form of proof is for you to do a search on any major online hotel player for check in tomorrow night and look at the deals that are available. The piece that surprised me was the parallel strength of the advance purchase side of the market.

There is one other thing I have my eye on for the rest of the year and beyond. It is the work that retail sites (like OTAs), search sites (like meta-search), content sites (like review sites) and discovery and inspiration sites are doing to personalise deals, search results and content streams down to the level of the individual. Much like how my twitter stream is different to every other stream because my follow list is a unique combination. Based on a concept known as individuation, I call this “EveryYou” . Stay turned for more on this topic during my WIT 2009 presentation and in later posts on the Business Of Online Travel.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

EveryYou: using Individuation in travel to target a recommendation of one

I have just finished presenting at TRAVELtech 2009 on trends in social media, mobile and my new concept of EveryYou.

There is a concept from psychology, economics and demographics called Individuation. I will dodge the Carl Jung and Neitzche inspired definitions and give you the short one – Individuation is the process in which individuals become differentiated from each other. I am seeing the theories of individuation coming into the mobile and social media space in travel and I predict that we will all have to come to term with this notion as we develop means for capturing consumer attention.

In a recent article in Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science (Sep2009, Vol. 10 Issue 5) called "Individuation: the N = 1 revolution" by P Hancock, G Hancock and J Warm say that...
"a continuing increase in computational power and associated memory storage capacities will lead to circumstances in which each and every single person can be coded as, and treated as, a separate individual and therefore not necessarily as a representative part of any group, sample or population"
This is the concept of Individuation that the travel industry can now embrace to target consumers on an individual level rather than through representative group samples.

In the past we have undertaken consumer planning through analysis of the average behaviour of a group of consumers. Individuation in this context says that once we have the right matching of technology and social trends we can move from tracking the average, generic profiles or demographic groups to at scale analysis of what Hanckock et al call “specific instances of momentary behaviour of one single individual”. This already exists in psychology, neuro science and molecular genetics where the combination of data, technology and social preparedness allows those sciences to be able to track and understand for the first time “how specific individuals perform their own personal and very complex acts of cognition” (Hancock et al again) rather than rely on averages.

In travel we can use these same techniques to classify and recommend at a level of EveryYou rather than Everyone. The reasons I am attracted to this concept have arisen through the technology capabilities that we now have and the community/social environment we are now in. Let me explain how this happened and why you should care.

In the early days of online travel we revelled in the data we were able to collect from customers but really we were only able to see that data in two dimensions – Breadth and Depth. By breadth I mean that we were able to use and collect data on more than one person interacting with the site and sometimes other sites. By depth I mean that we were able to track the different things that consumers did on the site. This allowed us to manage our sort orders. To bias the display based on consumer behaviour to help generate what we think are the best result for a basket of consumers.

In the last few years we have improved on this and added a third dimension to our data collection and analysis. We have added Context. The ability to see the inter relationship between the data we have on one person and the data we have on others. Through our actions, those of the consumer and other consumers we can link previously unrelated data based on the relationship between different people and past collective behaviour rather than one off activity. We have seen this in the complex CRM systems we have all bought and use every day.

The common theme with the first three dimensions is that we have collected the data from consumers “without their knowledge”. That is not as sinister as it sounds because we have regularly asked for consent. The fourth dimension is Community – which is data that is freely given to us by the consumer. Often unrelated to a particular purchase. And not necessarily for a tangible gain. Though there is very often an intangible gain. What are examples – writing reviews, forwarding links to friends, making recommendations to strangers, building online profiles, contributing to forums, writing a blog etc. The combination of these four dimensions of data can result in an individuated experience. An experience in online media, retail, or community that is unique to an individual but also part of a group experience.

We have seen this individuation in media already. Your twitter feed, facebook newstream and RSS reader list is different to any other anywhere. As the Digital Deliverance group said in their post "What are Individuated Media (What are the New Media)?"
"...the most widely used Individuated Media vehicle today is Facebook. Its more than 200 million consumers give it a mass reach that very few of the world’s Mass Media can equal, yet each of those consumers see different content than one another
Collecting four dimensions of data is not easy. It requires technology leaps in bandwidth and computer processing power - which we now have. The technology needed to allow us to capture and process the data is now matched with the desire of internet users to seek answers to open ended questions and contribute into a community process.

For us as marketers, retailers and media people it means we no longer have to be constrained to gear our marketing to EveryOne. Sure we developed demographic cuts and installed CRM systems to improved the targeting but we were still marketing to EveryOne in the hope of catching the individual. Now with the matching up of technology and social desire we can seek to market to the EveryYou.

The four dimensions of data and technology now allows us to do away with 30 years of econometric dependence on distribution, central tendency and variation – you know bell curves – and instead we can envisage the ability to research an individual at scale rather than rely on measuring their responses as part of a group or sample. Instead of seeing individual behaviour as a “variance” or “outlier”, we can aim to target Every combination of individuals. The EveryYou rather than EveryOne.

Here is my definition of EveryYou:
“The development of a specific and targeted recommendation of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time”
The EveryYou concept I am working on says that technology and social change put us in a place where we can work on a recommendation of one rather than relying solely on generalisations.

EveryYou marketing and planning approaches are now available to us because of new developments in:
  • Social trends that favour online interaction;
  • technology innovations that provide organisations with the four dimensions of data; and
  • scalability.
In the travel industry, EveryYou means we can answer the question “where should I go next” with a specific answer. We can answer the question which hotel should I stay in "Rome" with an answer that references past purchase behaviour, past reviews written, friends on facebook, people trusted, media read etc. That takes into account that human beings are a mess of contradictions in the things that they like and want. For instance I love the blues, Byzantine mosaics, bad zombie movies and body surfing. No bell curve can market to that.

Companies can treat users as co-researchers in developing a bespoke solution for their individual requirements. The user's needs are met by conjoining the company's expertise in travel and the user's expertise of themselves, thereby creating a tailored travel solution for one. Consumers are and will be willing to provide information on the understanding that it will eventually be deployed to their benefit.

If we use the technological capabilities and social trends available to their fullest potential then we can conceive of a day where we do away with general principles and customisation for the group and instead market to the apparent contradictions in consumer behaviour and aim for the delivery of specific, unique and targeted answers. We could kill off the head, body and long tail of sales and replace it with a sale of one, a market of one for the EveryYou.

Want to hear more? Stay turned to the BOOT as this will be the major area of analysis and work for me on the blog. You can also see me speak on this at WebInTravel October 20-23 in Singapore.

BTW - sorry to get all proprietary but this concept of EveryYou has been put together by me and all in the IP including copyright in it is mine.

Update - thanks to Paul Baron for a photo of me speaking

pic of @timothychughes at #traveltech - talking bout triporat... on Twitpic

PS - anyone know how to turn it the right way round?