Skift Take

In this video from Skift Forum Europe, CEO Gareth Williams explains why his travel price-comparison is finding inspiration from Chinese online retailer Tmall. He says brands need to be able to stand out better from their competitors in search results.

Gareth Williams is in a great mood these days as it’s only been late last year that Skyscanner sold to Chinese online travel giant Ctrip in a £1.4 billion (or $1.74 billion) deal.

As co-founder of Edinburgh-based Skyscanner, Williams is focused on providing a more sophisticated price-comparison interface — one that helps brands differentiate their products, as Williams told Skift in an on-stage interview with executive editor Dennis Schaal April 4 at Skift Forum Europe in London.

Williams says he has been inspired by Alibaba-owned Tmall, a China-based online retailer, which allows brands to differentiate themselves from their competitors with distinctive marketing within the search results and listings.

Williams explains: “If you search for a phone, you’ll see a common search experience. But if you search for an iPhone, you’ll get a result that will have a look that’s more like Apple’s branded website.”

He thinks the same dynamic should happen for travel suppliers on Skyscanner.

The genesis of the concept came from what Williams calls “the moment of my greatest business embarrassment” as a chief executive. He says he had been meeting with an airline CEO, and the CEO said, “And where, Gareth, on your site can a customer tell that my airline has spent $7 billion on new planes?” That was quite cutting, he said.

Williams also speaks in the interview about how Skyscanner is experimenting with voice-enabled search. He also discusses how mobile adoption — with Skyscanner having 60 percent of its activity happening on mobile devices — changes consumer expectations and is behind the company doubling its customer service team to help ensure customers get answers from airlines and travel agencies it lists.

You can watch the full discussion below.

Note: Initial planning is in full-swing for our flagship event Skift Global Forum, which will be held September 26-27 in New York City. We wanted to make sure our most loyal Skift readers were able to purchase their tickets early and were rewarded for doing so. That’s why we’ve re-opened up our previously sold out early bird discount for an additional 35 tickets. Attendees can now save $800 per ticket on the largest creative business conference in travel.

Read more coverage of Skift Forum Europe 2017.

At this year’s inaugural Skift Forum Europe in London, travel leaders from around the world gathered for a days of inspiration, information, and conversation on the future of travel.

Visit our Skift Global Forum site for more details about 2017 events, including our New York City event September 26-27.

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Tags: metasearch, Skift Forum Europe - 2017, skyscanner

Photo credit: Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams (left) is the rare Western executive to have played his cards right in China. Here he is, post-acquisition, talking at Skift Forum Europe in London on April 4, 2017. Skift

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