In advance of EyeforTravel’s Digital Travel Summit, on May 21-22, we caught up with Ctrip’s CEO of International Train Ticketing, Amy Wei, to discuss the role of personalisation, automation and dynamic pricing in travel.
EyeforTravel Digital Travel Summit, London, May 21-22
Limited tickets are still available to attend and hear Amy’s presentation on “The Product Is the Marketing: Discover how a good product will save excessive marketing spend”. Find out more here.
Can you give a little background about how you came to be CEO of International Train Ticketing for Ctrip, and what your current role entails?
In 2015, I joined Qunar, a Ctrip Group company, overseeing international air ticketing. Since August 2016, I have spearheaded the international train-ticketing unit at Ctrip Group, developing new products and supply chains. Now, I am the Chief Executive Officer of International Train Ticketing at Ctrip Group.
Firstly, how does Ctrip International Train Ticketing engage and personalise customer messaging using technology?
Starting out, we had to understand the major pain points for customers. At Ctrip, we are determined to provide the best possible service to our customers, ensuring that the “C” in Ctrip continues to stand for “customer.” When I booked UK train tickets, I found it was very complicated since there are more than 20 rail companies. Moreover, the train fare is quite expensive. Ctrip’s international train ticketing business or “Trainpal” therefore devoted itself to developing an innovative solution: the result was our unique split ticket algorithm that allows consumers to get cost-effective paper or electronic train tickets for all routes where operators offer them without a booking fee. However, a good product by itself is not enough and we realized we needed to engage with our consumers in the UK with marketing and branding. One of our strategies was to partner with the Gadget Show on Channel 5, a highly rated show that introduces gadgets that help users save money. That paid off handsomely for us, since the show explained to the British viewers what Trainpal offers in a fun and engaging way.
How has that benefited the business and of course, the customer?
By April 2019, the ticket sales on the Trainpal mobile app had increased 150-fold from the app’s soft launch in February 2018. Moreover, we helped our customers save an average of about 40% per purchase on UK rail ticket fares.
Personalised and dynamic pricing’s use in travel is set to be discussed at EyeforTravel’s Digital Strategy Summit, where you of course are a speaker. In your experience, what sort of uplift can a business expect by employing dynamic pricing?
Dynamic pricing is a commonly used strategy in the travel industry, especially in the hospitality and aviation sector. It is applied to adjust to supply and demand in the market.
Rail ticket prices in most countries are decided by operators and there is not room for dynamic pricing. What Trainpal can do is to help find the best fare or provide a cheaper option by splitting tickets. Whether it is price sensitive users or time sensitive users, they are able to find train ticket options to meet their needs.
Finally, a little crystal-ball thinking… Ctrip is renowned for being a proponent of using rigorous data analysis in key decision making – with the advancements in AI and automation, do you think we will ever reach a stage where we can remove the human element from decision making around pricing and customer engagement?
Advancements in technology does make our life more convenient. However, the purpose of development in AI and automation I believe is to provide better and smarter service to customers. So actually, the human engagement of customers will improve advancements in AI and automation. At Ctrip, we always believe that customer comes first.
About Amy Wei
Amy Wei is the Chief Executive Officer of International Train Ticketing at Ctrip Group. She has accumulated extensive experience in product management and international market expansion over the past 15 years. Before joining Ctrip, she worked at leading global technology companies including Amazon, Motorola and Nokia. In 2015, Amy joined Qunar, a Ctrip Group company, overseeing international air ticketing. Since August 2016, Amy has been spearheading the international train-ticketing unit at Ctrip Group, developing new products and supply chains. Amy’s team launched TrainPal, a mobile app that offers international train tickets booking services in UK in February 2018. By February 2019, ticket sales on TrainPal grew nearly 100 times year on year. Amy holds an MBA from China’s Tsinghua University and a bachelor degree in economics from Beihang University.