The Expedia group today unveiled its first ‘Expedia Innovation Lab’ in Asia, with a view to using its proprietary scientific methods to capture consumer online and app travel search and booking behaviour, and to inform future innovation and technology development globally.
Jonty Neal, Chief Executive Officer, Expedia Asia said, “Asia’s emerging position as a leader in mobile application and technology makes it as an ideal location and testbed for us to solve business challenges with new solutions. We have a commitment to growing Asia suppliers, partners, travellers and team, as well as investing in technology and innovation, much of this driven by insights from Asia. The launch of the Expedia Innovation Lab in Singapore reinforces our strong partnership in the travel and technology ecosystem in the region, that we’re very proud to play a significant role in.”
Located in its Asia regional headquarters in Singapore, the lab deploys two primary technical capabilities, which when combined with real-time questioning, uncovers how travelers engage with Expedia’s family of websites:
- Electromyography (EMG) technology: Expedia researchers track the changes in the EMG readings of traveller-participants to better understand the real-time impact that the experience is having on the subject as he or she navigates the site or app booking process.
- Eye tracking technology for site and app: when paired with eye-tracking, researchers with unique skills in cognitive psychology and data analytics are able to get a sharp read on exactly where the user was looking, what actions they took as a result of emotional responses to what they were seeing, and explore triggered the respondents’ travel-search or booking decision, be it delight or frustration.
While each individual has a unique experience while booking a trip, collectively this data reveals trends that inform future site and app innovation, in this case, specific to Asia Pacific travelers. In this way, Expedia makes the change that really matter to customers, which helps both them and its partners.
Based on this information, Expedia then implements a scientific ‘test-and-learn’ approach to trial site and app improvements. The ‘scientific method’ is at the core of Expedia’s test-and-learn approach, with 1,450 tests (based on traveller insights) implemented in 2016 (up from 1,375 in 2015).
“At Expedia, we put people at the centre of our research efforts. Each piece of data we capture is actually a person making a decision about travel. The Expedia Innovation Lab brings us the ability to better understand why people make those decisions,” said Arthur Chapin, Senior Vice President, Product and Design for the Expedia group.
“Extending Expedia’s in-house research capability to Asia builds on our existing research and data-driven approach to innovation, and allows us to explore why a traveller makes decisions in interviews that support eye-tracking and emotional responses when booking a trip.”
The Asia Pacific Travel Landscape
Asia Pacific’s travel sector continues an upward trend and is expected to reach USD392 million this year (*Phocuswright report) with online travel market expected to make up over one-third of the region’s travel spend. This exponential growth in online travel also means that travellers now must make decisions amidst overwhelming choices and information overload. In fact, a recent study found that 81 percent of travellers abandon travel bookings online, and 13 percent cite long booking process or complicated checkout as reasons for abandoning their online travel booking.
Using Scientific Methodology to Address the Complexity of Travel Planning
With EMG, small sensors are placed on the cheek and eyebrow of test subjects, and the sensors record tiny changes in the user’s facial muscles. Expedia’s researchers then track the changes in the EMG readings to understand the real-time impact that the experience is having on the subject as the person navigates the booking process. When paired with eye-tracking, researchers will be able to get a precise read on exactly where the user was looking and what actions they took as a result.
Testing New Product Innovations and Transforming Travel Booking
As the world’s largest online travel company with over 200 travel booking sites, the Expedia group is committed to experimenting with new technologies and learning from customer insights to develop innovative solutions for travellers. In addition to gaining a more nuanced understanding of how consumers behave when making their travel bookings online and apps, Expedia’s research and design teams will also analyze the data to test new products or make better product decisions.
One of the product innovations developed out of Expedia’s Innovation Lab was the Scratchpad, an intelligent personal assistant to help travellers record the searches performed or results found, replacing the need for taking physical notes. The feature also automatically updates flight or hotel prices along with the latest information, eliminating the need for travellers to start over their search. Since its launch, Scratchpad has evolved to include price trends and price prediction functionality.
This is the third Expedia Innovation Lab for the company; one in its Bellevue headquarters and the other recently launched in London; and the first for Asia Pacific.