Metasearch engine Skyscanner was one of the first travel sector brands to introduce conversational search interfaces.
In March 2016, Skyscanner made headlines when it released a voice skill for Amazon’s Alexa, making it the first travel search engine on that platform. Users talk to Skyscanner on the Alexa device to find the cheapest flight options for their preferred routes and dates, but booking still takes place through Skyscanner’s app or website.
A few months after the Alexa release, Skyscanner debuted a bot for Facebook Messenger, followed by a Skype chatbot in August 2016.
While it is similar machine learning that powers all of the interfaces, the Alexa connection is the only one that's fully based on voice input – the others are primarily text-based, although users may opt to dictate their query into their device.
Skyscanner has now drawn more than one million unique interactions across its chat interfaces. Vice president for product management Filip Filipov says one thing it has learned is that pure voice communication is very challenging.
And even with that complex database of information, Filipov says it has still concluded that - at least for the next few years - voice interfaces are best suited to assist customers with discovery and inspiration rather than purchasing.
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