How Focus Finder redefined Booking.com’s approach to performance advice
The Opportunity Center helps partners identify ways to improve both their property’s performance and their guest’s experience, with tips and advice that range from adding a particular product to suggesting deals to help increase bookings and revenue. Last year, the Opportunity Center was redesigned with the help of sorting and recommendation engine Focus Finder. Product Manager Pippa Wilson walks us through the in-house development, roll-out and testing of Focus Finder.
Blog: What was the genesis of Focus Finder? What makes it unique?
Wilson: The model was developed by our data scientists, based on the journey guests follow when they use our website. It was built to compare how each partner performs against their competitors at each step in that journey so we could identify areas where a guest was dropping off - and then help partners focus on areas that need improvement.
The interesting thing about Focus Finder is how it is tailored to each partner; we can give personalized, comparable advice to everyone.
Blog: How did Focus Finder change how the Opportunity Center works?
Wilson: Originally, the options that appeared for partners in the Opportunity Center were ordered by an entirely different logic. But partners didn't fully understand why they needed to do these things or what they should do first. We asked ourselves: ‘how do we identify which options the partner should implement’? What can improve their performance?
These questions spiked the interest of our data science team, and they came up with this model. The idea was to understand how each partner is performing across the entire guest journey so that we provide the right guidance. Do we need to give them availability advice? Are they struggling with cancellations?
Blog: What kind of research did you draw on to develop this tool?
Wilson: We understood from research that partners weren't always inspired to implement suggestions, and partly this was because they didn't know enough about how it was going to benefit them. So Focus Finder added context that was missing in the Opportunity Center.
We also knew that sometimes people struggle to interpret data, so we needed to make it as simple as possible. How can we take this fairly complex data science model and put it into an easy-to-understand interface that a partner could grasp quickly?
Blog: How did you decide how to organize the recommendations?
Wilson: When we began, we displayed the data in a bar chart. We quickly realized limitations in that approach and changed to data points, which was much easier for partners to quickly understand.
The biggest insight we discovered was around how to order the recommendations. Instead of ordering them as steps in a funnel, we decided to order them by severity, with red ones at the top. These are the areas where a partner is performing poorly against their competitive set that offered the biggest room for improvement.
Partners can look at the data points within each category and see how big the gap is between their property and their competitive set, then dig into the following recommendations to see if that advice - or any particular product - can be implemented. If they can, it's likely to improve their performance.
Blog: How long was the testing period for Focus Finder before rolling it out to everyone? What did you learn during that time?
Wilson: We ran a lengthy experiment for six months to closely compare partners who had Focus Finder against those who did not. We were able to see that partners using Focus Finder experienced a conclusively positive result on their revenue and it helped them improve their overall performance.
Blog: What kind of feedback did partners provide?
Wilson: When we first released Focus Finder, we asked what partners thought of the new Opportunity Center and saw an 85% positive result. We also received feedback from one-on-one sessions with partners, asking them how it compared to the existing Opportunity Center. Partners told us they really liked how Focus Finder showed an at-a-glance overview of how they're performing so they can identify things they need to improve - as well as areas where they're doing well. They told us they especially liked how the recommendations were backed up with data.
Blog: Is Focus Finder only available on the extranet, or can partners access it in other ways?
Wilson: We’ve aligned with the Pulse Opportunity Center, so partners who use the app will see it is structured in the same way as on the extranet. For connected partners, it's partly available via the Opportunities API, and we're currently doing some integration to make it more accessible.
- Now powering the Opportunity Center, Focus Finder was created by Booking.com data scientists and is based on the journey guests follow when booking accommodations
- Focus Finder’s results are tailored to each partner to see how they are performing against a competitive set
- Advice areas are ordered by the need for prioritization, with areas for biggest improvement listed at the top
- Since its release, partner response - in both surveys and one-on-one feedback sessions - has been positive
- Focus Finder is available on the extranet, in Pulse’s Opportunity Center and connected partners can access partly via the Opportunities API