The Constant Search For Better Search - SilverRail Series Event
Written by Frederic Kalinke
On Thursday 4th April, we hosted another SilverRail Series event called “The Constant Search For Better Search”, where we heard from five organisations who are pushing the boundaries of travel search. Fuelled by Killepitsch, Dusseldorf’s finest export, the audience were treated to talks about revolutionising the global addressing system (Lily Christensen from What3Words), the power of mirroring and caching technology behind travel ecommerce (Daniel Poerschke from Peakwork AG), the history of London maps and the magic of travelbots (Alex Konecki from Transport for London), the importance of speed in enabling better customer experiences (Andrew Whiting from SilverRail) and the two faces of search (Tim Hatton from AND Digital).
In this blog post, we want to summarise each talk for those who were not able to attend. As an aside, the format of this SilverRail Series event (5 bitesize talks + free food + free drink) was very well received so we’ve many more planned in the pipeline. Stay tuned!
What3Words – Lily Christensen
What3words is a technology company that has developed an accurate and simple way to talk about location by dividing the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and by assigning each one a unique 3 word address. Lily Christensen, Senior Partnerships Manager, gave us a whirlwind tour of the huge problem they are solving in street addresses being imprecise or non existent in many countries making it hard for people to find each other and difficult for businesses to reach customers. In fact, she remarked that 75% of countries lack a reliable address system or don’t have one at all. She showed how the W3W platform is also built for a voice-activated world; a future in which we will all speak to our devices to find what we want. It’s not surprising that Airbnb, Ford and Mercedes have partnered with this fast-growing technology company.
Peakwork AG – Daniel Poerschke
Peakwork is a German business that provides advanced travel technology solutions to help travel websites increase revenue. Daniel Poerschke, Technical Project Manager, discussed the importance of dynamic packaging to the modern ecommerce customer and how their proprietary mirroring and caching system enables OTAs, Airlines, tour operators to offer thousands of travel options to their customers at lightning speed. They have an enviable client list including Emirates, Vueling, Google, IBM and Kayak. We also want to thank Peakwork for recommending we stock the SilverRail bar with Killepitsch, a liquor from Dusseldorf, which was very popular with the crowd.
Transport for London – Alex Konecki
No Londoner needs an introduction to TfL. It’s the organisation that runs all of the public transport systems in the capital. Its website and search functionality is also hugely popular with commuters who use it daily to plan journeys and check on the status of their trains / tubes / buses / boats. Alex Konecki, Senior Product Manager, gave us a fascinating historical review of London transport’s information architecture, starting with a physical map that they offered to travellers that went largely unchanged until 2002 when online journey planning entered our screens. Alex ended her talk by discussing TfL’s investments in chatbot technology, powered by Natural Language Processing, that is increasingly helping their millions of customers find what they’re looking for.
SilverRail – Andrew Whiting
Our Director of Product Management, Andrew Whiting, was up next, laying out the argument for speed as an enabler to brilliant online customer experience. He started by outlining the complexity of UK rail and the need to simplify the route and fare experience for customers. He then showed some statistics showing the impact of speed on online conversion / revenue per user rates. The BBC, for instance, have found that for every additional second a page takes to load, 10 percent of users leave! He then showed how the speediness of SilverRail’s journey planning engines enable significant CX innovations, like displaying cost-effective train routes via colour coded maps (see Weekend Getaway for a prototype that has a similar UX).
AND Digital – Tim Hatton
Last but not least, Tim Hatton, Squad Lead and Head of Insight at AND Digital, took to the stage and discussed the two faces of search: satisfying the requests of the customer and satisfying the commercial objectives of the business. The second dimension is one that is often overlooked, although not by the European Commision that has recently slapped a 1.4 billion Euro fine on Google for imposing a number of restrictive clauses which prevent its rivals from placing search adverts. He listed several best practices for getting search right for both the user and the business, including making sure search results are returned for queries that are misspelt or items that are not in stock.
In summary, it was great to host such a lively and informative event, reviewing both the importance and the challenges of getting online search right. It really is a constant search for better search – solving the needs of the customer and the business in an ever-changing, complex world.
To read more on the subject, we’ve written a piece about the importance of getting search right in the rail industry.