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Guest Post: What Does the Next Generation Storefront Mean for Business Travel?

The Next Generation Storefront was a topic of discussion at the fifth annual GBTA Ladders Summit, a gathering of the travel industry’s most talented professionals to exchange ideas on how to navigate and lead the travel industry. The discussion was led by moderator Dena Fradette, Head of Travel Partnerships at TravelBank, and panelists Anne Kolodziej, Manager of Product Incubation at ATPCO, Christophe Barbara, Online Distribution Manager at Delta Air Lines, Curtis Willmore, Distribution Corporate Strategy Manager at United Airlines, and Duke Chung, Co-founder and CEO at TravelBank.

With the debut of the Next Generation Storefront (NGS), the online booking experience is getting an overhaul.

Today we’re used to seeing metas and OTAs sorting by the lowest fares first, but as more booking platforms adopt this new storefront display, we’re shifting to show consumers all of the fare class options in a single view. While an exciting move, the implementation gets tricky when you consider the variable nuances of the different branded fares. To tackle this and create consistency, ATPCO and RouteHappy designed NGS and the star system.

A Problem Worth Solving
The NGS was developed in response to the growing variety and nuances in branded fare classes. As each airline further differentiates their products, it’s become more difficult for the consumer to understand what they are buying.

These new branded fare classes introduced fare information that wasn’t originally addressed in the display. Consumers now need to consider and select options like seat assignment, early check-in, boarding priority, and baggage. The NGS creates a structure that can handle all of this information and display it for the consumer.

Building Consumer Trust Through Transparency
Aside from streamlining the data available on airfare products, the NGS helps build consumer trust and provide transparency.

The original ecosystem was designed with the mentality that airlines need to provide the customer with the cheapest options first. Now, there are numerous restrictions involved when booking the lowest fare, and it may not be the best product for the customer and their travel needs, especially when they’re traveling for business. Employees need to be able to trust the services their employer is providing. They want to know how their travel experience is going to stack up in terms of comfort and productivity.

To increase transparency, ATPCO is introducing the star system so airfare products can be displayed across all platforms consistently. This data-driven system allows comparable products to be grouped together, simplifying the shopping experience and standardizing consumer expectations.

While developing this system is a monumental undertaking considering all of the products available on the market, ATPCO looks at this problem as a third party to reduce bias, and instead focuses on understanding the varying perspectives and products at play.

The star system allows consumers to consider productivity in addition to cost savings, which is important for the business traveler.

What is a star worth?
NGS is encouraging industry-wide conversations around the ratings of various products and their associated amenities.

Hotels have long used stars to rate properties. Now, we’re using them to rate a cabin or a seat—and defining what this means is an ongoing process. There’s still discussion around how one airline’s products stack up against another’s in this star system. The star system will evolve as its adopted more widely, but ultimately the goal of eliminating confusion about what consumers are buying and providing more transparency will remain.

For business travel, the worth of a star opens up new possibilities. Today travel policies are often built around hard caps on spend, but the NGS and its star system opens up a new possibility where travel policies could be built around a star rating. This could be more accurate for productivity than a cost cap, and take us into the next era of flight shopping.

Ultimately, the NGS helps OTAs and metas lay out the choices for the customer and lets them decide what works best for their trip. This is key for the business travel use case—when productivity and flexibility is of the utmost important—and could change the way travel policies are defined.

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