AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Conversations: Algonomy
Atul Batra, CTO of Algonomy (formerly Manthan) joins Florian Tinnus, Worldwide Partner Leader for AWS Travel and Hospitality, for a broad-ranging discussion around how AWS Partners are helping customers build resilience and prepare for what’s next in travel and hospitality.
During this unprecedented time for the industry, we have been inspired by the innovations that have been born out of disruption and will impact and improve the way we fly, eat, stay, and experience our world for years to come. Now more than ever, AWS wants to help customers succeed by connecting them to AWS Partners with deep AWS technical expertise and proven customer success to help travel and hospitality organizations build a resilient business and accelerate innovation. That’s why we’re honored to have Algonomy as a launch member of the brand-new AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency.
Florian Tinnus: Describe your company, the types of travel and hospitality work you do, and key travel and hospitality clients.
Atul Batra: Algonomy (formerly Manthan) is a leading algorithmic experience personalization and customer engagement platform for retail and quick-service restaurant (QSR) businesses. We excel in the application of decision sciences and AI; our platform uses machine intelligence to process decision contexts and responds automatically with algorithmic activation thereby improving conversion, loyalty, and customer lifetime value (CLTV).
Specially crafted for QSR businesses, Algonomy’s menu of products promises to help QSRs be the most preferred brand among customers and best run business in the QSR market. Our menu of products includes:
- Customer Data Platform enables real-time audience activation by creating a unified customer profile and Golden Customer Record from a wide range of offline and online data.
- Personalization product creates relevant and seamless shopping experiences across all digital touchpoints by using advanced AI algorithms to personalize recommendations, content, promotions, browsing, search, and other aspects of customer experience.
- Omnichannel Customer Engagement delivers omnichannel orchestration capabilities enriching every customer touchpoint during their buying journey.
- Restaurant Analytics democratizes data and insights providing real-time BI and dashboards covering sales, operations, HR, and digital teams.
FT: Many companies across travel and hospitality have been managing through a period of unprecedented disruption. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced during this recent period and how have you helped clients manage through them?
AB: The industry is experiencing extraordinary times with dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour. This has impacted the way QSRs are run. Customers, their tastes, and preferences have changed and much of this shift may persist in the long term. The sudden exodus to digital posed a challenge of staying connected with customers and personalizing their experiences by keeping tab of their changing needs, tastes, and preferences.
Adding to the complexity is the lack of visibility into business performance. There is an unexpected spike in the adoption of digital channels by customers, necessitating the re-evaluation of density and spread of physical outlets. A change in customer basket size and its composition requires menu re-engineering which impacts operations and labour. Supply chain disruptions impact inventory, availability, costs, and margins. These abrupt and dramatic shifts have left QSRs scrambling to effectively serve their customers and efficiently run their operations.
Algonomy, with our AI-based platform, enabled QSR marketers to get a 360-degree view of customers, understand their loyalty drivers, and engage them based on individual propensities. Using deep customer insights, we enabled them to orchestrate personalized engagement across touchpoints – drive-thru, in-store, or mobile app in real time. This resulted in enhanced customer experiences which translated to increased revenue. For example, our platform personalized menu based on customer’s past purchase, recommended relevant add-ons based on product affinities, and sent push notifications on nearest outlet using geolocation for a global QSR brand.
With real-time, on-the-go access to business intelligence such as sales forecasts, menu engineering, labour productivity, food cost, expiry and wastage analysis, delivery and cook time analysis, and more, business leaders could make quick, insight-driven business decisions to improve operational efficiency and the bottom line. For example, our Restaurant Analytics helped a pizza chain identify the next 20 stores where online ordering needed to be introduced and helped reduce cost by planning menu and staff better.
FT: It’s been an incredibly difficult time for travel and hospitality companies, but we’ve seen many companies investing for the long run. With all the uncertainty, why has your company chosen to invest in travel and hospitality at this time?
AB: Within the travel and hospitality industry, QSRs have been resilient. While many lagged behind in digital adoption in comparison to the restaurant industry, they have been making small yet steady investments in transforming digitally. With the pandemic, they were compelled to accelerate the pace of transformation driven by customer demand. ASMAC (AI, social, mobile, analytics, and cloud) enabled QSRs achieve the speed and scale required to ride the change wave and emerge successful.
The global QSR and fast-food market size was valued at ~$257 billion with a compound revenue growth rate (CAGR) of 5.1%. Though these figures saw a downward trend due to the pandemic, they seem to be coming back up fast and furious. QSRs have been lucky in one sense that convenience and their ability to build trust stood them in good stead during these tough times.
The restaurant industry has witnessed a surge in innovation in the area of food ordering and delivery with the emergence of aggregators. With the proliferation of ordering and delivery channels and the resultant increase in customer touch points, restaurants found it challenging to gain a deep understanding of customers’ product, channel, and time of day preferences in order to personalize their offerings, due to lack of an end-to-end data analytics and decisioning platform.
Algonomy recognized the gap a couple of years ago and built solutions that cater to the unique needs of the restaurant industry. Owing to this, the take up of our integrated solution covering Experience Personalization, Customer Engagement Platform, and Restaurant Analytics was high. Today, we are a leading player in this space with world-renowned brands such as Pizza Hut, KFC, Domino’s, Starbucks, and McDonald’s leveraging our solutions to improve customer engagement and operational efficiency.
FT: In the face of the current disruption to the travel and hospitality industry, we’ve observed incredible innovations coming from across the industry. How has your company innovated through these challenging times on behalf of your customers and what are you most proud of?
AB: We have been supporting all our customers through these difficult times within our scope of engagement. There were a few common problems that needed innovative solutions such as the sudden shift of customers from in-store dining to drive-thru, mobile, and online ordering.
Algonomy was well positioned to support our clients to scale digitally. They leveraged our real-time, app personalization capability to drive contextual, relevant engagement with customers thereby winning their loyalty. From personalized menus, localized app banners, email open-time personalization, relevant offers, and promotions, we had it all covered for them with a plug and play deployment. Seamless deployment supported by over 560 out-of-the-box connectors to QSRs systems added to the experience.
On the operations side, we helped QSRs analyse the change in order trends – from weekday breakfast to evening snacks, weekend family orders to midweek dinners. This enabled them to manage their operations better – inventory, staffing, delivery times, and more, resulting in improved cost management. For example, our real-time analytics helped customers to understand kerbside pick-up volumes and plan the store staff accordingly. Our Analytical views helped them identify stores that needed delivery added and those that needed to be closed resulting in improved profitability.
FT: The travel and hospitality industry is incredibly resilient. As you look toward recovery, what role does technology play for your company moving forward? How do you see technology enhancing the customer experience and improving operational efficiency?
AB: We have covered the impact of digital technologies on customer experience and operational efficiency improvements in our previous responses. However, we’d like to reiterate that digital technologies are fast making inroads and they are expected to help the industry to reinvent and get back to business. ASMAC has enormous potential to aid the QSR sector to not only get the big picture of the business but also help in day to day operations. For a QSR, it could be a daunting exercise to on board the right technologies as the tech landscape is vast with newer technologies mushrooming often. A digital roadmap for QSRs is the not-so-secret sauce to future proofing their business.
FT: How does building on AWS allow you to prepare for whatever the “new normal” in travel and hospitality will look like? How does the new AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency help companies do the same?
AB: Data and insights are going to be increasingly important for QSRs to survive and thrive in the new normal. Algonomy solutions on the AWS Cloud will enable the required agility and scale in managing the wealth of data generated across systems within QSRs, which are fast transforming into technology companies.
Algonomy brings data across customer, sales, marketing, HR, and operations systems together to provide a single source of truth. The data is ingested into a central cloud platform running on AWS for quick and easy retrieval that also supports data unification and enrichment.
Our lake house implementation harnesses the potential of a data warehouse in Amazon Redshift and data lake in Amazon Athena and Amazon S3. The process is robust and seamless as most recent and frequently used data is kept in Amazon Redshift and high-volume data in Athena providing automatic switch between them as per data requirements. The in-house implementation provides cost benefits and is easier to implement as well.
We are glad join the AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency, which provides comprehensive support to build, market, and sell our offerings, to grow a successful cloud-based business. Being chosen for the Competency Partner program is testimony to our demonstrated technical proficiency and proven customer success in the QSR industry.
FT: What makes you excited for the future of travel and hospitality? As a traveler or guest, where are you looking forward to visiting next?
AB: The travel and hospitality industry has suffered a setback and we hope that it is a short-term one. We believe that these challenging times will result in a burst of innovation powered by digital technologies changing formats, business models, marketing, and operations. To be a part of this change enabling the industry to ride the wave and emerge successful is most exciting for Algonomy. We are focused in investing on research and innovation to help our customers lead the way in the segments they operate in.
When these challenging times are behind us, I’m looking forward to meeting my customers across the globe. Over the last few months, we all adapted well to the new normal of working remotely and jointly made significant progress to steer both our customer organizations and Algonomy towards digital adoption, data-based decisioning, and built mutual trust. I look forward to celebrating these successes with them.
Atul is CTO at Algonomy, a global market leader for SaaS based analytics and AI products used by retail and consumer businesses in over 25 countries to drive better decision making. He is also Chair of NASSCOM Product Council.
Atul’s career has spanned across analytics and AI, enterprise software and middleware, consumer internet and search, as well as enterprise mobility. Prior to Algonomy, he held leadership roles at Yahoo!, Good Technology, Motorola, Sun Microsystems, iPlanet, and has advised start-ups in Silicon Valley and Bangalore.
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