First Published on 18th June, 2018
Ai Editorial: Travel e-commerce players need to optimize their respective APIs, assessing aspects such as user experience, design, usage guidelines etc. to come up with the desired results, writes Ai's Ritesh Gupta
API connectivity in the arena of travel e-commerce isn’t new but airlines still need to dig deeper while working on technical considerations and designing of APIs.
This is a significant issue considering the fact that airlines, like other travel suppliers, have been widening their distribution reach over the years, letting B2B partners access their inventory and sales systems via APIs to step up the average order value or target the “second wallet”. If a passenger is on an airline site or app, and there is an opportunity to cross-sell a product by showing images/ videos of the ancillary offering and make the shopping frictionless, then it would end up benefiting all the stakeholders – the passenger, the airline as well as the B2B partner.
Boosting conversion rate via UI level API
If a B2B partner has an API to offer to airlines, there are a couple of possibilities. For one B2B partner, API could be an XML level interface that can be handed over to airlines for implementation from this partner’s systems to the user interface (UI) staff of the airline. Certain players don’t go along with this approach when working with airlines or any other partner. Rather they offer a combination of both XML or server side request and UI widget. This means full UI all the way down through the technology stack is provided. The reason: when the UI and code associated with it enables one to continuously optimize the business and improve upon the attach rate along with the revenue metrics for that business which can be airline or any B2B partner that is taking the booking from travellers. In case, airlines use their own UI and only use B2B partner’s API, the partner may not able to influence the optimization of that UI.
An example of the same would be CarTrawler offering UI level API rather than extending XML or JSON level API.
So, for example, in case of Ryanair’s platform, all of the options related to car-hire, pre-booked taxis, coaches etc. that a user comes across is based on CarTrawler’s code running on the airline website. CarTrawler ensures a seamless experience for the visitor by working in conjunction with the Ryanair team to connect the B2B travel technology platform’s coding to the airline’s shopping cart. So if a customer adds a car hire into the shopping cart on Ryanair.com, it would be CarTrawler’s code implementing the user interface and the same is working in the background on the airline-owned platform. Eventually CarTrawler uses the airline API to put the product into their basket.
Other technology specialists, too, acknowledge the efficacy of UI level APIs.
“It is user interface friendly as all business logic is handled server side by our API layer - API and backend layer. Users of the API can concentrate on UI and presentation. This allows less travel-centric developers or developers who don’t have a background in the travel industry to spend less time trying to figure out how travel technology works and more time on creating a better customer experience,” shared Slone. Overall, the company is focused on producing tools in a modular format via API or UI that will enhance the user experience for an airline.
Slone added that XML is not very UI friendly as it is hard to parse, it is more resource intensive so should be avoided client side.
“Usually you need to have some kind of translation layer to translate the XML into JSON for better integration (on the) client side,” he said.
“So the airlines using NDC XML should invest in some translation layer like our API layer that would help them build great UI/ UX with short time to market and sound client side performance.”
There are other areas, too, that demand attention. For instance, deriving business intelligence from search and booking streams and transactions or while working with several intermediaries, ascertaining what sort of requests are coming from a particular intermediary. All of this has to be looked into during the designing stages of an API and this will only propel the distribution initiatives of an airline.
How can airlines and travel companies make the most of their respective APIs? Hear from experts at the upcoming Mega Event Asia-Pacific (Ancillary, Loyalty and Co-Brand Conferences) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand (28-30 August, 2018).
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