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Expedia spends big money on predictive search engines

Derek du Preez | Oct. 28, 2013
Expedia is spending over $500 million a year on its in-house technology, most of which is being ploughed into new platforms that allow the company to better predict itineraries for those searching for travel options on its website.

Big data = personalised search

In addition to the rigorous testing, Expedia is using the platform to improve its predictive analytics.

Morrison believes the 'daily deals' that have dominated the online travel industry in the past are not targeted and lack structure. He is now keen to create 'meaningful recommendations' by analysing how people navigate choices that are offered to them on the website.

"For us, this is what we call big data. If you take myself, I am a father with three kids, but when on Expedia I may be going on a family vacation, a golfing trip, a business trip - the ability to figure out whether personal recommendations are relevant to me really depends on what I'm trying to do," he said.

Expedia is analysing, in an anonymous fashion, how people interact with all of its products - across the website, mobile app and tablet app. It is also integrating data collected from over 10 million reviews, which are relevant to hotels, airports, and points of interest.

"So if we analyse how people choose what is offered and what they book, integrate that into our algorithms, we can start to identify patterns. If we can then relay those patterns back to the next consumer that comes on the site, it is going to be that much more useful, people will book more," said Morrison.

"Our focus isn't on collecting personal data, it's on what people research, what they ultimately book, and then identifying the pattern."

He added: "Once that pattern is identified and we start relaying those searches to consumers, we end up with a much better product. It also allows us to work with suppliers to see if we can get some preferential rates on bookings."

Last year Expedia complained to Europe's competition regulators about Google, which is accused of using its search engine to direct users to its own services (ITA) and reducing the visibility of competing websites and services. Expedia says that Google's flight-search service, which was launched last year, "excludes any link to online travel agencies."

 

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