Tee Chayakul, Traveloka’s country manager for Thailand
Tee Chayakul, Traveloka’s country manager for Thailand

Big data to serve up fresh choices to online shoppers

Economy February 19, 2019 01:00

By THE NATION

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IN THAILAND in 2019, a transformation of the consumer market will be led by global e-commerce businesses, giving businesses both new opportunities and challenges.



Tee Chayakul, Traveloka’s country manager for Thailand, says that Thai consumers are especially savvy with respect to online shopping and adept at seeking out bargains for their favourite brands online. They are famous for bringing a haggling culture to the table and knowing how to evaluate sales channels and understanding payment and delivery options.

“As a result, e-commerce is growing at double-digit rates in the country – almost equally among urban (27.2 per cent), suburban (21.6 per cent), and rural (20.8 per cent) consumers – and roughly 40 per cent of online purchases in categories such as phones, clothing and cosmetics are conducted through social media sites – with Thais spending an extra hour online per day compared to the regional average,” he said.

With the rapid rise in e-commerce, the challenge remains how best to harness all of the information being accumulated, using the data to provide improved and more personalised experiences, he added. 

“Using big data analytics to gain more complete keywords can facilitate users by providing information to rapidly match their requirements. This also includes providing an easier search tool using the users’ native languages. Together with their identified location, it enables further possibilities to get more precise and correct answers.

“For example, if a user types ‘ba,’ possible answers may be Bali, Bangkok or Bangsaen. However, if more users are typing ‘Bangkok’ online, some information about Bangkok will appear. If the user’s location is identified as Bali, big data analytics will imply that the user is searching for pertinent information about Bali,” said Tee. 

Tee said that some people may have a soft spot for travelling to smaller or secondary cities. Providing relevant information about these cities can be linked with marketing activities that are taking place. This will broaden options for users while local operators will likewise benefit. Another option is to provide services and offers to particular groups of people including the elderly, female travellers, and first-jobbers. 

Traveloka’s human-centred technological solutions, supporting by Artificial Intelligence and machine learning strive to enrich lives by empowering people to discover the world around them, he said. 

With the growth of online usage, big data conjures up a complex image of something overwhelming cool and amazing, said Tee.

However, it’s nothing more than a large collection of multi-dimensional, semi-structured and unstructured data dispersed from both internal and external data sources that may or may not be useful, depending on what is discarded or retained, depending on customer profiles and preferences. 

The rate at which data is created is increasing exponentially. For instance, 40,000 search queries are performed per second (on Google alone).

Every minute Facebook users send roughly 31.25 million messages and watch 2.77 million videos.

The data gathered is no longer text-only. An exponential growth in videos and photos is equally prominent. On YouTube alone, 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

Clearly all of this data is not useful for all businesses, organisations or individuals. What makes it valuable is how we interpret and find ways to make sense of the data, or a multiple of them, and generate real insights and impact.

By analysing big data through four lenses – volume, velocity, variety and veracity, Traveloka can see, sort and classify customer patterns, preferences, behaviour and trends to better provide customers with products and services that are not only the best option, but also more personally suited to them and tailored to their specific needs and tastes.

“Our overriding goal is to locate and prioritise the most relevant and popular results first, from the fewest number of keystrokes, while making the whole integrated process location specific,” said Tee.

These objectives are both achievable and necessary as market dynamics and consumer choices and behavioural changes accelerate, along with stunning growth in the overall online booking sector for both hotels and airlines. In Thailand alone, this sector was valued at US$3.9 billion (Bt121.7 billion) with estimates projecting a rise by 2025 to nearly $20 billion (Bt624.3 billion).

With this growth and no let-up foreseen in the essential process of categorising the relevance of customer-centric data, online travel agencies will continue to track their customer preferences and proactively offer diverse offerings including personalised packages at very high speeds – ideally just one click away.