An Intro to AirportRentals.com
Online Republic operates the car rental brand AirportRentals.com, which generates 2 million rental bookings per annum. With a humble start in Auckland, New Zealand in 2005, AirportRentals.com now covers 192 countries, featuring over 2000 airports and over 500 local and global car rental agents.
Our Situation Beforehand
Sometimes, we have failures that we don’t understand. Other times, we have trouble understanding and replicating our successes.
If we received a surge of car bookings in Warsaw, and then it goes back to its normal level – we want to understand it. If our Australia bookings go down during peak season – we want to know. In both cases, there were external drivers for the good and bad performances. Unfortunately, it takes time to figure out what happened. It’s usually well after the event when we either shout ‘Eureka!’ or slapped our foreheads with a resounding ‘Doh!’.
For the increase in Poland bookings above, the UEFA Cup increased the level of car rental bookings across Eastern Europe. Had we known, we would have prepared to increase our returns even more. In Australia’s case, the country went through a decisive election of a new government. Had we known, we could have mitigated our losses.
Being a small New Zealand player the international market – we probably had much less cash to spend than the industry giants such as Priceline, Expedia and Travelocity.
Being small meant we had to be agile and scrappy. As a result, our PPC marketing had very high conversion rates with miniscule cost per acquisitions. All while touching elbows with the big boys in the same markets.
At the same time, one wrong move in the market could cost us dearly. We didn’t have the financial backing to absorb the blows of a bad performance. There was constant regret of not taking full advantage of new opportunities. We were perpetually on a knife’s edge to stay ahead of the curve.
We had to find a better way to stay ahead of the markets.
How PredictHQ Helped Us to Succeed
There’s a famous quote by Donald Rumsfield:
..There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know...
In our case, we were trying to discover known unknowns. If lucky, those unknown unknowns would be revealed as well!
We knew that events were big drivers of both success and failure, but we didn’t know how to capture them and make them lucrative. Luckily for us, we had access to a better mousetrap.
PredictHQ’s event database opened up 2 opportunities for us:
1. We could manually create and set up upcoming event alerts that we knew about on our search results page.
2. Because of PredictHQ’s smart ranking algorithm, we could also display thousands of other major events programmatically that may have bearing on our bookings within the same alert on our search results page.
Explaining Booking Alerts. We programmed a system to display booking alerts based on a user’s search criteria. For instance, a user searches for a rental car in Denver from 26th to 29th of December, a rotating marquee of alerts appeared above the results. We had the opportunity to create our own (based on our own event knowledge) and also to programmatically display PredictHQ event alerts too.
In the example below: the alert is displaying an event from PredictHQ by using their API for the local Denver Nuggets / Utah Jazz basketball game.
We set up several manual alerts for events we know about; since this was during the Christmas holiday season these alerts were based on Christmas and New Years. For the second part of the test we tapped into the PredictHQ database of events. This hooked in directly to the PredictHQ API. Finally, we had a control group which showed no alerts.
We ran a 31 day alert trial from the 12th of December 2014 to the 12th of Jan 2015. Below are the results:
Our manual alerts did marginally better, performing 2.25% better than our control group. Where the trial really shined was for our PredictHQ alerts. Our conversion rate increased 35.86% from the control group (from 9.34% to an outstanding 12.69%) .
“PredictHQ demonstrated that they could reveal insights better than we could guess with our manual alerts. They were instrumental in driving up conversion rates further than we could imagine.”
Our Future Plans
Currently we use PredictHQ insights to convert customers already on our website, but the insights are also very useful for direct marketing – essentially knowing where to fish where the fish are. We have accrued 2 years of data with PredictHQ so we know which events move the needle for us. This includes all forms of direct digital marketing; with our new insights, traditional marketing has become a lot less daunting.
Evolving Our Business
Let’s revisit a simple example from the screenshot of the Denver Nuggets above.
The average attendance of a Nuggets game at Pepsi arena is over 16,000 for the 2018 season. While we wish we knew that information – we didn’t! When we dug deeper into our booking alerts, new possibilities were unravelled in which we could now effectively target our marketing.
Going to back to the Rumsfield quote, PredictHQ revealed that several ‘known unknowns’ about our target audience. We knew that events drove customer decisions; but our conventional wisdom proved it wasn’t enough to make a big material difference. However, having access to a global event database, in a way that we could implement programmatically did make a difference to our bottom line.
“The appealing benefit of PredictHQ is that we can evolve our business faster than our behemoth competitors.”
Overtime, not only have we been able to define our ‘known unknowns’ but we have had epiphanies into our ‘unknown unknowns’ as well!
Gone are the days in which we worried about missing out on what we didn’t know. Now, our security is taken from the wisdom of making the right marketing choices.