November 21, 2015

Data-driven mind-sets pave the way for future start-up successes

In this day and age, the word ‘digital’ has become a universal adjective. With each and every waking moment, we – and our devices – generate a wealth of data that forms our very own digital footprints, covering virtually all aspects of our connected lives. These digital footprints are in fact so extensive that industry research firm Gartner expects them to be the driving force behind the reinvention, digitalisation, or even elimination of 80% of processes and products that had been in use since the last decade. 

“But what about new businesses?” I hear you ask. To put simply, today’s start-ups face an entirely different set of challenges from those who set out on this digital path a decade ago. Instead of overcoming limitations in data gathering and market opportunities, the big data landscape offers so many insights and opportunities that identifying the right ones to act upon becomes the real challenge to overcome. And for those who succeed, they are able to respond to their customer needs with unprecedented agility.

As a start-up ourselves, Skyscanner has embarked on the same journey once before. Our business took shape 12 years ago from the personal frustration of our CEO Gareth Williams in finding the most affordable flights for his travels. With this data-focused vision, he, alongside two other friends, Bonamy Grimes, and Barry Smith, were able to turn their personal side project into a full-fledged travel search engine.

Powering online travel

As a technology pioneer in the travel industry, Skyscanner quickly came to realize that there is more to data aggregation and by cross-layering data sets on top of each other, we can gather insights to help solve the complex problems that exist in travel. For the consumer: How, when, where should I go; how do I plan and book my trip easily? For the travel industry player: Who is my customer, where is he going, how often is he travelling, how do I capture his demand for travel?

Today, data has become the driving force of Skyscanner, propelling us to continuously innovate and opening up new opportunities – not only for ourselves but also fellow industry players.

Start-up businesses, whether a travel publisher, a retail site, a travel planner, are enhancing their value to consumers by easily integrating travel search functionality using Skyscanner’s Travel API solutions. These complete solutions help budding businesses scale the traditional barriers to entry by not having to develop functionality from scratch, thus allowing them to focus on their own core strengths.

Industry partners such as airlines, airports, and tourism agencies can benefit from Skyscanner’s Travel Insight – comprehensive data that provides real time view of forward-demand travel trends.  This data is collected from the millions of searches done globally on Skyscanner each month, from the over 50 million unique visitors looking at hundreds of national  and low cost airlines as well as online travel agents that are searched on Skyscanner.

Using Travel Insight, airlines can glean insights on popular flight routes, preferred travel days and times, locations that travellers are searching to and from, where they are booking and which routes they’re interested in travelling to. Meanwhile, tourism agencies can delve into the trends and make better data-driven decisions around the timing and relevant markets to launch their promotional campaigns.

Today, our Skyscanner for Business suite of products – Travel API, White Label solutions and Travel Insight product are in fact helping over 300 businesses. These range from established brands such as MSN Travel, Lonely Planet, Softbank JP, Groupon Singapore as well as burgeoning start-ups such as multimodal trip planning services like Rome2rio (Australia), Stubbyplanner (Korea), Traveldoor (Singapore) and more. 

A foundation with purpose

By opening up access to our travel data, we have created an ecosystem of information that works in all directions. Data generated by Skyscanner and our partners is fed back into the system to help inform decision making and strategic processes, which in turn lead to new initiatives and actions that are more effective and reflective to the lives of today’s travelers.

This data-driven ecosystem reflects one of the key tenets in our approach to big data management: ensuring that the right data is available to all the right people.

Maintaining mentality

In many situations, a start-up’s greatest asset is its agility in responding to uncertainty and users’ needs, so it is important that start-ups retain this mentality as they grow in scale.

From a data perspective, this requires the key data-centric teams to develop not only new and better ways to glean insights from ever-growing amounts of data, but to also communicate their learnings in a way that is quickly digestible to the rest of the organisation and ultimately actionable for stakeholders.

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