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Hotels.com: Exploiting big data to upgrade customer experience

Clare Simmons — November 2015
In our exclusive video interview, Thierry Bedos, CTO of the online reservations portal, highlights how the use of big data can enable market-leading CX.

Big data must be part of everyday activity across the entire organization if it is to fulfill — and even exceed — customer expectations in the new digital era. That’s the view of Thierry Bedos, CTO of Hotels.com, who is leading the Expedia-owned global booking site on a journey to fully leverage big data.

Customer expectations have risen exponentially over the past few years, both in terms of services and the speed at which those services are provided. “They want an instant response and if they don’t get that they go to the competition, which is just one click away,” Bedos warns. Customer experience has been the greatest driver of investment in big data at Hotels.com — in fact, “it’s the very reason we went into the big data space in the first place.”

The successful capture and analysis of data offers Hotels.com the potential to truly tailor the customer journey to each and every user. As Bedos points out, although there is now more data available than ever before, data collection in itself is not new; it’s the analysis and exploitation of data that now enables Hotels.com to better understand and provide value to its customers. The growing use of multiple devices provides just one example: “More than 30% of our mobile users start on one device and end up booking on another.” Thanks to big data, the technology team can now ‘stitch’ those multiple sessions together to create a unified experience across devices — and ultimately, to ensure the customer journey is completed at Hotels.com, and not a rival site.

“Big data should be part of everyday life, useful in everything we do.”

Bedos stresses that big data isn’t relevant in all use cases  “you need to use the right tool for the job,” meaning more traditional technologies are still the best solution when working with smaller data sets. And even when big data is the right choice, it brings its own challenges. Educating the rest of the business on the benefits of big data is one of the greatest hurdles, according to Bedos, and there is a shift in mindset required among the technology and development teams, too. “The development community needs to understand that big data systems are designed in a very different way to more traditional systems.”

In the past, finding the right technology staff has also proven challenging, but Bedos believes that the industry is now reaching a level of maturity where the right skill sets are more widely available. He notes that at Hotels.com, no single department owns big data: his technology team, the data science department and the company’s business analysts are naturally all involved; but increasingly, the numerous business units work with big data in the day-to-day running of Hotels.com.

So far, big data has provided benefits to both the consumer and Hotels.com through new functionality in social proofing and cross-selling. “But it’s a journey, and we’ve not reached our destination yet,” says Bedos: the next phases will center on greater personalization. To achieve this, Bedos wants to see big data become “business as usual” right across the company — “it should be part of everyday life, useful in everything we do.”

• Image: Matthew Stylianou
First published November 2015
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