Some travel brands like Expedia.com and Kayak are moving full-speed ahead on platforms like Facebook Messenger but also acknowledge it’s too early to tell how messaging will fit into their long term plans.
Numerous travel brands, including Skyscanner, Kayak and Hipmunk, have a presence on messaging platforms. Priceline’s Kayak, following its Slack bot launch in March, added a Facebook Messenger bot in June and Priceline Group interim CEO Jeffery Boyd said he’s particularly impressed with Kayak “continually innovating.”
Boyd, who became interim CEO in April following then-Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston’s resignation, also said messaging is still in the early stages and left open the possibility that it could end up being important for the Kayak and the Group. “The Kayak product on Facebook is fairly new as are most of the technology that’s interacting with either with robotic texting or natural language processing with a voice like an Alexa,” said Boyd during the company’s second quarter earnings call August 4.
“…I think it’s terrific for our teams to be innovating on those platforms because it puts us in a position to participate and benefit if those platforms ultimately grow to be meaningful sources of demand for e-commerce like ours.”
During the call Priceline Group CFO Daniel Finnegan said the group’s advertising and other revenue, mainly from Kayak and OpenTable, grew by 22 percent year-over-year in the second quarter. Kayak began using messaging during the second quarter but its revenue increase was unrelated to the launch.
Boyd said he’s pleased with Kayak’s performance and international expansion so far this year. “They’ve done a very nice job of not only building query demand in the United States and elsewhere, but they’re also doing a good job of continually innovating with respect to their product and with respect to mobile in particular, which helps with the flow-through of the economics.”
“So they’re doing a very nice job and their international expansion continues. I don’t have anything to tell you particularly about this market or that market but Kayak continues to, I would say, in a measured way build its footprint internationally.”
Expedia on Messaging’s Promise
Expedia Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi seemed slightly more optimistic about the future of messaging during the company’s second quarter earnings call on July 28, called Expedia.com’s Facebook Messenger bot a promising technology, “I think messaging technology in general, whether on Facebook or other platforms, is something that we’re quite interested in, both in terms of messaging itself and the platform and in terms of [artificial intelligence] and machine learning that we can build in behind it to radically improve customer experience.”
“So at this point, so far so good, but it’s not something that we scaled yet.”
Khosrowshahi, however, also conceded it’s a bit too early to tell how successful Expedia’s Facebook Messenger bot has been and whether it has the potential to gain consumer traction on par with its other booking channels.