The gap between how suppliers and buyers sourced and made use of data was a recurrent theme during Business Travel iQ's Smart Travel Management conference. As easyJet explained how it uses from data from a suppliers' point of view buyers were prompted to think about how they too can use information to their advantage.
How one supplier uses data: the easyJet case
During his keynote speech Alberto Villaverde, head of revenue management at easyJet, explained how an ecommerce business is taking strides to use data more effectively. He said the carrier had built its own tools to decide on strategy across the business including how prices are set. The airline makes around 80 million price adjustments on 500,000 independently-priced flights every day.
"Data supports changes in the current market conditions and we started to use machine learning as traders weren't making smart decisions and the algorithms weren't picking up everything," he revealed. "I think we are far away from machines that think for themselves but they are more intelligent. Machines pick up the data, learn from it, spot patterns and get a programme from that."
As a result the carrier has become more dynamic and can react quicker to changes, with data focused on being prescriptive, diagnostic, predictive and descriptive. Alberto believes some of the power in data does not come from price at all, but behaviour and practicalities. "The critical parameters are the date, time and how far in advance; you can get a lot of insight from this. As the legacy and low-cost airline models get more similar, it will be an arms race to get the right price," he said.
Buyers in the room agreed that they should look at other forms of data to help shape the policy and drive compliance. For example buyers could consider if the airline has a product that complies with the travel policy, or the timing of routes might work for traveller preferences compared to another carriers'. It might also be worth checking who is on which loyalty schemes so you know what airlines are preferred, as this will naturally drive compliance.
Panellists in the next session at our Smart Travel Management conference agreed that buyers could use data more effectively to match those when they get to the negotiation table.
The panellists' view: more openness = better benchmarking
Johanne Young from Opteva believes analysing behaviours in shopping and booking processes is more powerful as buyers can learn from behaviour. Alberto confessed that even easyJet does not yet effectively analyse some of its search data.
According to the panellists, buyers also need to improve and expand on their data sets to benchmark and get the total picture of their travel programme.
Graham Ross from FCm said the quality of data from buyers is still poor although he is unsure if there is an imbalance with suppliers, it's more about using the information more effectively.
Paul Broughton from Travelport agreed that data and intellect drives value but there is strength in numbers. "The challenge in Europe is that it relies on a critical mass agreeing to share data to do effective benchmarking and that's not here at the moment. Buyers need to work out how to share the spend data together," he said. When one buyer called for more open conversations between TMCs and airlines, Paul urged buyers to look at other means of getting the information they want. "Suppliers don't want to share data because it is leverage for their own means. There are other ways and companies that can help obtain what you need," he said.
In response some buyers said they felt travel managers needed to take more ownership of data and start fixing the holes by approaching other firms, depending on what they needed to know.