AWS for Industries

AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Conversations: Boxever

Dave O’Flanagan, CEO and coFounder of Boxever, joins Steven Elinson, WW Head, Restaurants, Catering and Food Services 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 Boxever as a launch member of the brand-new AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency.

Steven Elinson: Describe your company, the types of travel and hospitality work you do, and key travel and hospitality clients.

Dave O’Flanagan: Boxever is a digital optimisation platform that helps product and marketing teams build smarter digital products and experiences for their customers. They use our data management, decisioning, and experimentation capabilities to optimize every interaction.

We work across a range of different industries, helping digital leaders improve and enhance customer engagement and customer experience across marketing, sales, and service.

My co-founders and I came from a travel technology background and in 2010, we realised this market was underserved in terms of big data and personalisation solutions. Over the years we expanded our industry focus but a large part of our customer base, our heritage, and our thinking is still focused on travel and hospitality.

We’re proud to work with terrific brands like Emirates, Ryanair, and Jetstar. Our clients are forward-thinking – they see the opportunity to use data and digital to differentiate themselves, by putting the customer at the centre of everything they do.

Some of our clients purchase Boxever to enable an organisation-wide capability for real-time data, decisioning, and experimentation, as part of a digital optimization strategy. Others are looking to optimize a particular aspect of their digital business, like website conversions, or app-generated revenue.

SE: 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 managed through them?

DO: 2020 was truly a year like no other and sadly the travel and hospitality industry was on the front line; the very first to be impacted by the global pandemic. However, many of our clients saw this time as an opportunity to invest in the eye of the storm, so they came out the other side stronger than they went in.

Our initial focus was to support them in dealing immediately with the crisis on several fronts. They had to communicate operational schedules that were continually changing, manage rescheduled bookings and refunds efficiently, and rethink how to best invest their marketing budget.

We then had the opportunity to look forward and find ways for our clients to use their data and personalisation capabilities in smart ways to support their bounce-back plans. One way we did this was to look deep into the data to predict the new behaviours of different customer cohorts (business, leisure, families etc.) and design digital experiences to match the anticipated needs of these groups.

We’ve also been working on a next-gen merchandising product. Travel and hospitality brands need to become much smarter retailers and there is so much more opportunity to be realised when they can leverage rich customer data and powerful AI models to construct optimally priced products.

SE: 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?

DO: Whilst the travel and hospitality sector has faced many challenges over the years, the pandemic of 2020 felt very different. The world has undoubtedly changed because of it, but the fundamental desire to travel, to explore, to dine out, to meet new people, to see the world and to conduct business face-to-face has not gone away. If anything, there is an abundance of pent up demand – and we want to help our clients meet that demand with better than ever customer experiences.

Whilst Boxever has diversified into new sectors over the last few years, travel and hospitality remain at the heart of who we are and what we do. We believe we have a product that will enable clients to make that transition to the new normal and grow to meet the changing desires and demands of customers. Travel companies will evolve and new ones will be born and find new opportunities. It feels daunting, but I’m 100% sure this sector will survive and thrive.

SE: 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?

DO: We’ve taken a positive view on this year and used the opportunity to invest in our product in ways that will help our clients going forward. We have new analytics and dashboarding capability that allows clients to understand, at a really granular level, the different paths their customers can take and new journey orchestration tools to be able to design highly personalized customer experiences.

We’ve also doubled down on baking AI and ML into every element of the platform. We want to make it super easy for clients to leverage the latest tools and techniques to innovate, recognising they are likely to be facing cost constraints and have fewer resources.

We have also built a new product for our airline clients who can no longer rely on their traditional tools and approach to Revenue Management. COVID-19 has meant historical booking models are useless in predicting future demand; the only way to work at this time is to react to what you see right now in terms of customer demand. In response to this, we have built a surge pricing solution allowing airlines to react quickly to changing demand and maximise every revenue opportunity wherever and whenever it presents itself.

SE: 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?

DO: This is exactly what Boxever was built to do and has always been our focus when working with our clients. Despite the challenges the market and our clients are facing we see them wanting to invest in the areas they know to make a positive impact on the customer experience and at the same time serve the customer more efficiently.

A good example is call centre deflection. At a time when travel and hospitality companies are facing unprecedented inbound calls from customers, there are real efficiencies to be achieved by understanding the current customer context and intent on the digital channels and serving them 1:1 personalised messages that allow them to self-serve. These use cases are genuine win-wins for the brand and the customer.

Looking forward, I think we’ll see our clients using our technology in subtly different ways, reacting to new challenges and changing customer expectations. They’ll want to communicate to customers to reassure them that it is safe to travel, to stay, to dine, they’ll want to keep customers updated on local restrictions and guidelines. With Boxever, these conversations are always personalised, always relevant and always based on a deep understanding of the customers wants and needs.

SE: 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?

DO: Leveraging best-of-breed AWS technology enables Boxever to deliver cutting-edge product features and allows us to build transformative products that differentiate us from our competitors. Being built from the ground up on AWS means we can scale to meet our clients’ demands whatever the new normal looks like for them. They don’t need to worry about resilience or security, they can be laser-focused on designing great experiences for their customers.

We’re excited to be part of this new Competency and finding new clients in the travel and hospitality industry. Airlines in many ways have been ahead of the curve in exploiting their data and personalising the customer experience but the rewards for hotels, airports, cruise companies, and restaurants are just as great and the Boxever platform is ideally suited to them. Another benefit we’re anticipating as a result of being part of this new Competency is the opportunity to work with other AWS Partners and bring new product and service offerings to market.

SE: What makes you excited for the future of travel and hospitality? As a traveler or guest, where are you looking forward to visiting next?

DO: Whilst the world has recently gone digital and we’ve all learned to do business and deliver projects via video conferencing, there will always be a place for face-to-face meetings and building relationships in person. I’ve been really lucky to have spent the last 10 years travelling the world meeting customers in Melbourne, Dubai, Bogata, and everywhere in between.

I miss everything about travel and the second the restrictions are lifted, I’ll be on a plane. I can’t wait for my first face-to-face meeting, I can’t wait to see my team again and my family, can’t wait to pack a bag again with the prospect of some sun and someone else doing the cooking.

Dave is CEO at Boxever – a market-leading personalisation platform that uses data and AI to make every customer interaction smarter. Boxever is recognised by Gartner as a leading player in personalisation and ranked by Forbes alongside Google, Apple and Amazon as one of the most powerful examples of AI in use today.

Learn more and team up with AWS Travel and Hospitality Competency Partners.

See more Partner Conversations and industry insights on the AWS Travel and Hospitality Blog.

Steven M. Elinson

Steven M. Elinson

Steven M. Elinson is the Head of Worldwide Restaurants and Food Service, the global industry practice for Amazon Web Services (AWS), with a charter to support customers as they accelerate cloud adoption. Today’s restaurant must deliver a personalized and seamlessly connected guest experience while being operationally efficient with optimized assets, high utilization, predictive analytics and quality, health and safety standard compliance. As a trusted advisor, Steven utilizes his broad knowledge and 30 years of experience to drive these guest experiences (top-line) and to increase operational efficiency (bottom- line.) Before joining AWS, Steven held various leadership roles in restaurant and restaurant technology businesses. His experience ranges from operations, training, supply chain, technology and new concept creation having created and sold a restaurant concept. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management from Purdue University, and a Master of Business Administration from Florida International University.