Top 3 reasons online travel agencies are jumping on airline merchandising

James Babineau

Distribution Product Line Manager, Airline Merchandising, Amadeus IT Group

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Leading online travel agencies (OTAs) around the world have recognised that travellers want more transparency, personalisation and choice when shopping for travel. This, coupled with fierce competition in the online space, are some of the reasons behind the sharp increase in OTAs implementing airline merchandising on their sites. Actually, they’ve discovered it’s good business too. So, let’s have a look at the top three reasons OTAs have turned to merchandising:

Top 3 reasons online travel agencies are jumping on airline merchandising

Relevancy for users

It all starts with being relevant for consumers. This is why OTAs run thousands of A/B tests—which allow them to compare two versions of a web page to see which one performs better--each year. OTAs often have multiple sites running at any one time - all with the objective of identifying what works, in what situation, and at what time. Online travel agencies know that if their customers are not offered the content, functionalities, or level of service they expect they will go somewhere else.

According to Expedia, users perform up to 48 searches across eights sites, on average, when shopping for travel. Travellers want to be able to compare travel offers, like for like, to simplify decision making. They also prefer one-stop shops that fulfil all of their shopping needs in one go, and on the device of their choice. Online travel agencies have found that intuitive booking flows combined with enhanced retailing techniques that gently guide consumers to the services they value most tends to boost conversion and improve upsell opportunities.

This is what Amadeus is helping OTAs achieve today with Master Pricer. This unique flight search solution allows travellers to compare different flight offers with the price of an extra bag returned with the fare. Through this unique feature—which isn’t offered by any other GDS—travellers can compare apples to apples and book their holidays with confidence that they have full transparency and choice.

New revenue streams

Of course, it all needs to lead to more revenues. And it does. We are seeing various commercial models being deployed and, on average, OTAs are already reporting 10%-15% incremental revenues from airline merchandising. This is a vital uplift on the low margins they earn from base air fares. But this is just the beginning. Our research estimates that merchandising revenues for the industry are set to grow to $130 billion by 2020. With 110 airlines signed up to Amadeus’ merchandising solutions, including 83 already in production, we have critical mass and a very rich pool of merchandising content in our system. The time is ripe for OTAs to improve their profit margin, as opportunities abound moving forward.

Operational efficiency

Finally, technology and automation are essential for OTAs looking for efficiency.  With hundreds of different service codes (checked baggage alone has more than 150!), booking formats, and different connectivity standards, ancillary booking can get complicated very quickly. Amadeus takes that complexity out of the equation for OTAs by simplifying the end-to-end integration process through standardisation and booking automation. By driving more services online for consumers to pick and choose, merchandising also reduces load and operating expenses from OTA call centres.

So, what does this look like in practice? One major European OTA told us that before, they were only selling ancillaries for four airlines, because they didn’t have the resources to do the coding and maintenance necessary to integrate more. By switching to Amadeus’ new ancillary catalogue and booking technique, which automates and standardises the end-to-end integration of airline codes, they are suddenly able to sell ancillaries for more than 50 airlines in a flash. This kind of change can be a huge boon for business.

As the industry moves towards greater traveller-centricity, we see that it’s not just about the cheapest air fare. It’s about value and being able to personalise travel experiences. The world’s leading OTAs have already begun reaping the rewards of the new partnership opportunities with airlines and Amadeus is at the forefront of bringing the two together for a more traveller-centric industry.


Merchandising, Travel Platform