It’s not all about numbers: how we use research in product development @Booking.com

A product owner, researcher and a UX designer meet in the airport of Tel Aviv and fly to New York for research, sounds like the start of a joke but it’s actually our working culture!

I joined Booking.com a year ago. I work as a product owner within data science at our machine learning center in Tel Aviv. Our goal is to empower people to experience the world using an AI first approach, and we believe that by leveraging the data we collect from our customers we can better personalise their experience and meet their various needs.

Data is fundamental to our working culture; it helps us validate hypothesis’, make better decisions, drive new initiatives, seize new opportunities, and structure new teams. From day one, every employee knows that data is essential at Booking.com.

However, data is not just quantitative… To understand our customers better we also focus heavily on collecting qualitative data, from focus groups to co-creation workshops to in situ ethnographic research. For while quantitative data can easily tell us what our customers are doing, it can not always tell us why they are doing something. Talking directly to travellers helps us to find pain points and creates a richer picture of their needs along the different stages of a trip — it’s the backbone of our product development process.

Talking directly to travellers helps us to find pain points and creates a richer picture of their needs”

Returning to our product owner, researcher and UX designer. In New York, we visited people directly in their homes, and talked with them, their family or friends about their upcoming travel plans. Covering everything from the early stages of dreaming about where to go next, all the way up to making decisions about and purchasing flights and accommodation.

The interviews were exciting and all of them different. One, a 29-year-old woman, energetic and a frequent traveler, used Instagram, Google and word of mouth for travel inspiration and preferred to book her travel at the last minute. She was someone that relied heavily on social proof, relying on the experience of others with similar interests to help guide her.

We also met a 56-year-old saleswoman that loved to run, do yoga, and followed a vegan diet. An experienced traveler, she would easily move between devices and view various websites to compare results. Often traveling with friends with various needs and her own need for places that matched her healthy lifestyle, her focus was more on finding the perfect location at a good price.

“In New York, we visited people directly in their homes, and talked with them, their family or friends”

Another, a teacher, skeptical of the recommendations provided by accommodation websites, preferred to talk about travel with real people. In her discovery phase, she turned to blogs and travel-related facebook groups to get in touch with real-world travellers and find inspiration for her next trip.

“…while the journey they take differs, the goal they all share is the same — the desire to travel.”

What did we learn? The way people discover and plan travel varies greatly. Each has their own approach to planning and organising a trip, their own pathways towards inspiration. But while the journey they take differs, the goal they all share is the same — the desire to travel.

So what’s the next big thing travellers need to make their experience even better? Stay tuned to Booking.com’s next product development to find out.