2020 HEDNA LA – Post Session Full Interview – Rob Torres, Google.

2020 HEDNA LA – Post Session Full Interview – Rob Torres, Google.


Rob Torres, great to have you here Thanks for joining us Thanks for having me You just finished your fireside chat at the HEDNA LA conference 2020 Would you like to give us perhaps just a recap for those that weren’t in the room some of the main issues that were touched on by the audience What are the questions that you got from the audience in relation to Google and travel? Well I think ah – yeah absolutely, I think, you know the biggest question that I get from many and that were on – certainly this group’s mind was, really What is Google doing in travel? Why are they in travel? And why is it so important? And I shared with them that, you know it really is no different than Google’s mission to organise information and make it universally accessible We want to do that in travel because travel is one of the most queried areas that we get And so, because of that we learned early on that we need to continue to improve the answers that we deliver you know the answers that we give to the users And so We always talk about “it’s not all about 10 blue links anymore”. You know, people want relevant information in the time, and so we’ve – We’ve begun to aggregate more travel content to actually helpfully deliver better, more relevant answers. And so our mission in travel is really to provide, useful information, for travellers. To make trusted decisions effortlessly And really, hopefully Simplify that very Difficult Decisions that people have to make around travel there’s so many options, and if we can help make that simpler We help more, we get more people travelling which actually helps all of our partners that we XX The other thing is you know, I think people ask, you know Who are you trying to be? And at the end of the day we’re really trying to Support all areas in travel and all partners in travel Whether it be OTAs Metas Or it be Brands Hotel suppliers direct, or Cars or cruise, or Destinations We want to help and support all of them and helping provide more qualified leads for them better efficient and effective And so that’s really the platform that we’ve developed I mean that OTA question did come up and you yourself said “no that’s really not our agenda, that’s not what we want to do” I wanted to ask you though in relation to the Book on Google piece Because that’s such a – I mean, I personally am a big fan of book on Google For a number of reasons But I can also see how some people might be in some ways skeptical of it Book on Google in my opinion is perfect for anyone in the long tail that is struggling with their own personal pref – or personal representation of their product online Booking engine Whether it’s mobile or even on desktop environment So I think that fills the gap wonderfully But I think what’s really important is that hotels also understand that they can diversify their distribution and that they shouldn’t be so focused on one particular channel or one particular area So what would be your advice to a hotelier at that level? Yeah I couldn’t have said it better in terms of They shouldn’t be focused on one channel and I said that to partners all along, I said “I don’t expect you to use only Google I don’t expect you to use only an OTA You need to have a good mix and You need to actually really monitor that mix over time because it’s gonna change based on the needs of your property or whatever you are. And it’s important they look at that In pure need times you may be willing to pay more because you just need help and you should be able to Wide stroke of help and opportunity I would share to even individual properties Google can certainly be a support But that the reality is You need to make sure that you are really really looking at All of your options And you don’t feel like you’re tied to one I think a lot of partners that I speak with feel like they’ve gotten to point where they really really invested in one or two channels they don’t know how to get out and that’s where we really come in and say “hey we think there is a new channel for you” with Google To help Driving more direct business Because it is direct Because again you go back to it We aren’t the merchant We are passing the facilitation – We’re facilitating and passing it on And so you own the customer information and data immediately You do pay something for that But, you know, certainly We hope that it’s efficient and effective and so You know, we’ll see, but We definitely believe, and we’re continuing to improve on products that help the whole swathe The long tail as you said As well as upper funnel But we really – We want to be a platform that’s agnostic That really supports everyone Because we think that’s good – I go back to “we’re all about the users” I think that helps the users if The more we have on the platform and the more options we have It helps our users find what they want and it helps the partners out even more So just over a year ago you really expanded the availability of Book on Google as well through the European market especially How – How’s the pickup been? How’s the response been from the hotels? From your perspective? Are you satisfied with the way that they’ve actually started to use it or do you feel that they could be using it more than they could be? I honestly feel like they could be using it more I think it’s fine It’s done its purpose It’s- certainly for some – It’s been more valuable than others There hasn’t been a ton, I would say a ton of transaction through there yet. But I think it’s only gonna grow even more What you said is it really could support Some of the partners that really don’t have the time Effort Resources To Beef up their own Sites to help convert This is a great way to do it without having to do that. It does take a little bit to get – you know you gotta do a little bit to get connected But once you do It should really help support that So, you know Great choice hotels They’re a little bit bigger, but they But they’re smaller hotels But the brand itself embraced it Globally They’ve seen great returns They’ve seen a huge increase in conversions Through Book on Google That’s a good case study for us, that we’re sharing with others saying “Hey This is something that we believe is really gonna help You see higher conversion Because we’re gonna make it simpler And at the end of the day, if you’re already a signed in user on Google and you’ve already provided all of that information You feel that there’s some security Behind that One of the things that I find a real advantage is that with the Book on Google process The hotel gets to keep the guest data Yeah That you give that to the hotel It’s all their data – That they can work with that for future Absolutely, and I think that’s one of the misnomers that people think that for somehow with Book on Google that we’re capturing some data and we’re doing something with it No no no They own the data It’s their data, they get it all. We’re just facilitating and hopefully making it easier and hopefully driving more transactions is really what it’s all about Exactly, yeah Ok good. Let’s change gears a little bit Could you give us some insights on how you see Consumer behaviour shifting Based on upcoming trends say for the next 12, 18 months? You know – So it’s interesting because Obviously we’ve seen over time How people, certainly in travel the journey, the journey has not simplified it’s gotten even bigger. The number of touchpoints people hit now before actually purchasing something can be in some instances up to 300, 400, 600 touchpoints People move fluidly from searching websites direct intermediaries To review sites To videos All over the board and trying to keep track of that can be somewhat difficult. But it’s a trend that we’ve seen and so making sure the partners are aware of that is really part of our job is saying “here is this journey that’s now taking place that’s much much different But throw into that some other trends of – and I shared a little bit about this with the larger group today- of Voice search and what that’s going to do in assistance and how that’s gonna help hopefully drive different experiences How people search is so different now and so ubiquitous when it comes to the mobile device But what happens when the mobile device is – you don’t even have that? We just have – We’re pretty much connected everywhere because we now pretty much – we get in our car the connection picks up We connect to – we get to the office is picks up But we see very different search behaviour depending where you are We see At night A lot more Might not make sense – We see much more mobile device search history during the day than when at night We see people picking up on desktop, etc. if they have one because of the time and the larger format that they want It’s just – a big – How people search has really changed is a trend we’re really seeing move over time. Personalisation and relevance is really changing over time as data helps us provide better answers Used to be that reviews were the only thing we really had and we would go to reviews and we check and see ok this sounds like what I want Now there is so much more – People still go to review sites Let me tell you that’s another one – But They also look for information on Instagram and in feeds and all of the stuff that even sometimes are more relevant That’s a huge trend That is completely different than before, that Actually people are making decisions on where to go next Through an Instagram feed That they saw Or an Instagram post that somebody of some location that looked amazing to somebody and now people are making decisions on where to go next I don’t think that was fathomable a few years ago That there’s people that would literally choose based on that Those are definitely Different ways of thinking And it’s pretty – And what’s next – Who even knows but I mean those trends are really really changing But what hasn’t changed, which is great for Google Is, people continue to search So they continue to come – A lot of this is being driven through search And I’d shared – Somebody had asked a question about our app We had a trips app for a while And we basically shut that down because we incorporated the features back into search So you can find all of those features that you love before, in the app, now through search So you can certainly get it on your mobile But also you can get it anywhere else I think it’s just really changing the way We as marketers or we as Supplier partners or whatever have to think about How we reach the customer Jan Freitag was here yesterday in his keynote he mentioned, or he predicted That Amazon will At one stage in the next 2-3 years Make another run at Travel How do you see that possibly playing out? Do you think that they may do an M&A? Or an acquisition at some stage? And how do you – within Google – Feel about that, prepare for something like that? I mean, you know, you can’t Fully focus on something that you have no idea How the endgame will play so From that perspective you know We don’t – we’re not up at night thinking about “What move would they make?” But We also aren’t naive To think about How successful they could possibly be Because of the data and the information they have about such a large group of people Even if you just look at the Prime membership people How much information Amazon has about them And how they’ve basically turned all your normal Your daily shopping into one-click shopping Why wouldn’t they be able to do that with travel? My own summation of why it hasn’t happened quicker Is it’s A much more difficult purchase than buying a book or camera or some shoes There’s so many more nuances that come with purchasing a vacation That makes it a little bit difficult That you can’t just box it up And they did try And they tried vacation packages in deals They kind of – boxed up specifics – But at the end of the day I think they found that that didn’t scale necessarily And there was a lot of customer service issues That came with that And that they had to deal with And so I think at the end of the day Do I personally think that they will get into travel again? Absolutely I think if they do decide they want to get into it in a big, big way They will do it through some sort of acquisition I think that’s how they would step up the game Quickly Do I think it’s gonna happen any time soon? I don’t necessarily think it’s gonna happen this year No, no – But I think they will continue to To evaluate the space And I think they, they should And we will – you know we watch We watch carefully, but at the same time Like I told the group, we are really focused on Product improvement on our side So that We don’t get caught offguard We still have gazillions of people coming to Google And the information in the search history And the intent signals that we have Based on search activity Is pretty profound, and so We should be able to continue to do a great job in the travel space and if we just focus on all of these different opportunities that are out there To actually make it easier There’s so much more information — my Assistant’s wanting to search — There’s so much more information out there But it’s not any easier to make a decision It’s almost made it a little more difficult because you know it’s out there So you’re a little less willing to Jump on it because you don’t know what you might be missing out on Exactly I mean I see them really as a sleeping giant In many ways they’re just, a sleeping bear. Eventually they’re gonna wake up. But you guys have got the jump on them when it comes to travel and I think that’s strongly in your advantage Well and I think that’s probably why I say An acquisition would be the way to go Because then that would, give them a step change of where they’d go With that, because you’re right They don’t have the history and they don’t have the experience and We actually got there through an acquisition through ITA 10 years ago And that really helped us jumpstart Our airline and our flights business If we hadn’t done that I highly doubt we’d be where we are today Because that product has really Such a terrific product I don’t just say that because I’m there I mean it’s just become, just this Amazing product I remember using it before you bought it actually And it took that and so we’ll see where that goes It’s fun to watch, and I think Competition is good You need that, because it keeps us on our feet People always say Why are people complaining about you? When I talk about some of the other partners Why are they complaining and blaming Google? And part of me is like “well they shouldn’t be They should be looking internally and thinking What are we doing to innovate? What are we doing to actually build a better experience for our users? What are we doing to focus on making sure that customers wanna come to us and continue to come back to us?” Vs. trying to Complain about things that aren’t much in their control Final question What are your goals for this year? Our goal is to continue to grow our partner’s business profitably We really do Our products and services are so measurable You put in what you’re gonna get out We’re really really focused on Especially – and I tell my teams this all the time – Just because Google’s doing great doesn’t mean all your partners are doing as well And never go in and think that that’s the case Many times, especially as – I think a lot of people are worried about 2020 in terms of a recession or what’s gonna happen and “is our business slowing?” And I’ve told my team, you know you need to be really conscious of this and really understand how you can be there to help them through some of these periods, because Because we do have a platform that can be very very efficient If you utilise it right, so Number 1 goal is really continue to grow obviously our business and our partner’s business I really want us to hopefully Number 2 is really help people understand How we’re continuing to stitch together All of travel Vs. the the disparate products Because I don’t think people really necessarily In this room and if you’re in travel, you get it, but The users themselves don’t really understand that these are travel products that Google’s creating Stitching some of that together a bit more so that people understand that they If they’ve come to Google Flights and loved it That maybe looking for a hotel wouldn’t be such a bad thing on Google as well So we’ll continue to do that And I think – you know There’re just really, you know – We talked a little bit about video and YouTube but I think I’d love to see more of my partners that work with us Understand the value that video is I mean it’s such a changing – You talk about trends that are changing – The number of people that don’t watch traditional television anymore is staggering and video really is the place where a lot of people go to get their content But very few travel partners really have embraced That platform, and so We’re trying to change a bit of that We’ve got some pretty steep goals in video Internally, in 2020, to get At least educate, and I’m hoping get people to test try out the platform So we’ll see, but, it’s always fun! That’s for sure It is isn’t it Rob Torres, thanks so much. Great to have you here. Nice to meet you. Thanks again for having me.

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