Import.io: The use of alternative data to compete in the sharing economy

Worldwide: ShortTermRentalz speaks to Gary Read, CEO of web data provider Import.io, about how travel companies are using alternative web data to compete with the largest players in the sharing economy.

“Property management companies (PMC), online booking sites and software vendors (e.g. market intelligence, revenue management, etc.) currently rely on primarily two types of data to drive business decisions; internal and external. Internal data is the data that you currently have access to, e.g. within your property management systems. External data is data that is sourced from external websites.

“For the vacation rental industry, gaining insights from web data is critical to improve competitive standing and help to increase market share. PMCs and OTAs who currently utilise market intelligence are already seeing major benefits from the insights driven by web data.  The proliferation of the web has opened up a higher level of data transparency to both travellers and hosts, with the former often making decisions based on available inventory or price. For example, as a PMC, it’s possible to index, track and analyse your competitor’s forward-looking prices to gain a clear understanding of the current dynamics that you face.

“Clients have access to near real-time web data that gives clear insight into changing market conditions and also the pertinent data needed to feed and optimise dynamic pricing models.

“There is so much data available on the internet with insights deeper and broader than what is currently supplied by any existing software or intelligence vendors. Some of the business questions you can answer with web data include:

  • Which vacation markets have the best metrics: occupancy, average daily rates and revenue per available night (RevPAN)?
  • Which booking sites have more properties in my target markets – is the depth of my inventor too weak?
  • How can I identify the relative performance of my vacation rental properties across different booking sites?
  • How do I get visibility into inventory availability based on season and location?
  • Which PMCs are running promotions in my locations?
  • Where are travellers going, when are they travelling and where are they staying?
  • Which PMC/OTA has the biggest share of bookings in my target markets?
  • What are the travellers’ reviews of the properties and are travellers reviewing the same property differently on different web sites?

“The answers to these questions can provide you with insights to identify new market opportunities and optimise the performance of short-term rental listings. The more information you have around your customer and competitors, the bigger your competitive edge. To attract a customer, you’re not just trying to gain a one-time booking, you are gaining the opportunity to engage with a customer throughout their travel experience to build a deeper relationship, and ultimately, to win their loyalty.

Understanding Web Data And Why It’s Important

“For the short-term vacation rental market, data is one of the primary drivers for competitive intelligence, market insights and revenue management. Instead of getting just data points from a few listings on a particular site, you can now get a complete view of all properties in the marketplace. 

Here’s some of the different types of data you can collect:

  • Property details: a list of all vacation rental listings and their associated attributes: descriptions, images, number of bedrooms etc
  • Availability and pricing: undated and dated pricing with forward-looking availability 
  • Location data: property location information
  • Total booking cost: base price and any guest fees which include service, VAT or other fees
  • Traveler reviews: what are travellers reporting as their experiences

“For PMCs, market intelligence and revenue management tool vendors, web data gives them insights into competitive offerings so they can optimise occupancy and average daily rates while maximising RevPAN.

“For booking sites and OTAs, having the highest inventory and availability is a crucial component to maximising site and brand loyalty. Collecting and aggregating property data can help them identify whitespace or gaps in properties compared to their competitors.

“The traditional method for extracting data from a website and making it machine-readable is known as web scraping. Web scraping projects are complicated, expensive and labour-intensive. They require organisations to employ engineers to write custom software for every type of web page that they want to target. In addition to engineers, subject matter experts are needed to conduct quality assurance checks.  Web scraping projects also break easily due to the rigid custom coded rules that are created. Invariably, traditional web scraping projects leave organisations with data that is incomplete, inaccurate, unreliable, and out of date—while introducing high costs and business risk.  

“Web data integration is a new approach to acquiring and managing web data that focuses on data quality and control. It treats the entire web data lifecycle as a single, integrated process, eliminating the need for multiple tools to acquire and prepare the data for analysis – and zero technical expertise is needed from the customer.

“Sourcing web data from a web data integration provider is by far the best way to start working with web data.  With a web data integration provider, you can get data that is:

  • Scalable to your needs
  • Unique to your requirements
  • Meets your quality standards
  • Timely so that you can take action
  • Relevant so that you can focus on your core competency

“Web data integration makes it possible for PMCs, OTAs, and software vendors looking to reliably leverage high-quality data from the web at scale.   

“Import.io is committed to providing businesses with a competitive, data-driven advantage. Many online travel companies rely on our leading solution to deliver timely, comprehensive, high-quality web data to fuel insight and drive business decisions – not just for short-term rentals but other areas of the travel industry such as hotel rooms, flights, rental cars, events and more.” 

For more information, visit the Import.io website here.

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