Unpack Your BING Before You Travel
Bing Travel aims to dramatically reduce the amount of time consumers spend searching for travel information by presenting comprehensive results in one place, and to help consumers make more informed decisions. According to a recent survey by Bing Travel, more than fifty percent of potential travelers search three or more sites before booking their flight and hotel arrangements. By aggregating Expedia, Cheap Tickets, Cheapoair, Priceline and Booking Buddy on the Bing Travel site, travelers can not only search for flights and hotels but book without ever leaving the search engine.
Bing Travel is one of Bing's new verticals, Microsoft's new Decision Engine that launched on May 28. Designed to help people overcome search overload and make faster, more informed decisions when searching online, Bing Travel combines many of the airfare and hotel tools from Microsoft's 2008 acquisition of Farecast with rich news and editorial content from MSN Travel.
Some of Bing Travel's key features provide travelers with benefits never offered by any other search engine. Google will need to look seriously at finding a way to compete in the following areas.
Price Predictor. Bing Travel uses Farecast technology to analyze more than 175 billion airfare observations and predict whether the price of a flight is going up or down. It offers people a recommendation of "Buy Now" or "Wait," including a confidence level and expected price increase or decrease over the next seven days. In this example the Price Predictor is alerting the traveler to "wait" to purchase as their algorithm has determined the likelihood of fares dropping by $36 has a "confidence" level of 75%.
Rate Indicator. How does someone know if the rate for a hotel is a deal or not? The Rate Indicator analyzes historical rate data from thousands of hotels to determine whether the current price is a good deal, or not a deal at all. People can view a city map with details for each hotel, color coded by Rate Indicator data.
Travel Deals. Bing Travel features up-to-the-minute flight and hotel deals for nearly 40 cities around the world. When people choose their origin city, Bing Travel will show the best airfare and hotel deals it has and will even show them why particular flights are considered deals. For example, people will see that flights to certain destinations may be a record low, or more than $150 less than the average for a particular route. People can be sure that all Travel Deals are based strictly on science, not marketing.
Comparison Flight & Hotel Search. Bing Travel makes it fast and easy for consumers to get flight and hotel results and pricing for thousands of destinations worldwide. Finding the right flight or hotel is made simple with tools that allow people to refine results: nonstop flights only, specific airlines, hotels within a mile of an address, and many more. After selecting the hotel or flight, Bing Travel makes booking directly with suppliers or agencies seamless.
Fare Alerts. Most airfare price drops last less than 48 hours, so people need to be ready to jump when a fare falls. Fare Alerts will notify people if the fares for their trips drop, allowing them to catch lower fares.
Original travel editorial content. The new Bing Travel combines editorial content from MSN Travel and Farecast to create an in-house team of experts who write daily articles, features, slide shows and blog posts to inspire and educate travelers on destinations, travel news, tips and tricks. Bing Travel also features exclusive editorial content from some of the world's biggest names in travel, including Peter Greenberg and Pauline Frommer. Bing Travel also licenses content from leading publications such as Travel + Leisure, Budget Travel Inc. and The Wall Street Journal.
Fareologist. On Twitter, Bing Travel is represented by "Fareologist" who will alert you to upcoming "airfare and hotel deals, industry trends, and travel news." While no one individual's name is listed as the host of the Twitter profile, the URL listed takes you to the Bing Travel search engine. Followed by over 2400 followers in less than 24 hours, it appears that Bing's presence on Twitter was a wise move.
Microsoft is hoping to take a bite out of Google's search engine market share. And Bing's $100 million dollar advertising budget is one of the most costly ad spends by a search engine company to date. But the Bing has its work cut out for it. Google presently controls approximately 64% of the U.S. search market, while Microsoft only garners about 8%, according to researchers at ComScore. Yahoo, the No. 2 player comes in at 21% of the market.
Nonetheless, Bing Travel is going to provide a significant benefit to frequent travelers who will be able to conduct their travel plans in short order. And as such, the significant research and development that went into developing Bing Travel just may become the thorn in Google's Achilles heal.