Expedia Group Research Summit

Tammy Snow | Senior Director of User Research, Expedia in Bellevue

Sometimes, all it takes is a small spark to ignite something incredible.

Last fall, one of the researchers on my team suggested that a get together with the Vrbo, brand Expedia and Lodging Partner Services (LPS) research teams might be a good idea. I agreed but envisioned something even bigger.

My dream was to bring together all researchers—user researchers, brand insights & market researchers—across Expedia Group, so we could information share, learn from each other and most importantly, discover ways to collaborate across the platform. I raised the idea with Sarah Gavin, Expedia Group’s VP of corporate communications and she was immediately on board.

The rest was history.

On June 18-19, the first annual Expedia Group Research Summit took place in San Francisco with over 70 researchers and research groupies across the globe coming together to fulfill the objective of creating a sense of community and trust across Expedia Group’s research discipline. From all indications, the event was a massive success!

Here are my top 5 takeaways from the Summit:

  1. We have an amazingly talented, passionate, and diverse group of researchers at Expedia Group. I’m willing to make the claim that we have the best researchers in the travel industry! On Day One of the Summit, there were 12 breakout sessions where researchers from each of the brand teams presented their work. We heard about a broad range of topics including trust, neuroscience in ad testing, the influence Generation Alpha has on travel decisions and more.

    Every one of the presentations contained incredible content and were delivered with polish and professionalism. On the second day, we split into 6 cross-brand groups to workshop actions that we could take to solve 6 distinct problems that align with Expedia Group’s strategic imperatives. Each team gave an 8-minute pitch to explain their ideas, methodologies and suggested actions to our panel of executive judges.

    All of the pitches were incredible. In the end, there were two winning pitches. The runners up suggested actions Expedia Group can take to attract and delight lodging partners with research. The winning pitch was delivered by a team that defined collaborative actions we can take to test brand creative from concept to live.

2. We needed an event like this to establish a foundation of synergy and trust across the Expedia Group research discipline. Two fun facts for you readers: First, those of us with research as part of our role make up only .3% of the overall Expedia Group employee base. Second, researchers are sort of funny about trusting other researchers until we’ve had a chance to work together. It was inspiring and rewarding to see every researcher at the Summit embrace the idea of operating as one team. We made great progress in collaborating during the event and have clear next steps that we will take as a unified group of researchers over the next several months. All of these steps are focused on helping Expedia Group be more customer and partner centric.

3. There is an appetite and need for researchers to continue sharing information and best practices. It was clear throughout the course of the two days (and particularly when hearing the workshop pitches) that we have a need to find ways to better share research best practices and insights.

One of the key actions coming out of the Summit is to find or revise an existing repository for sharing all of our research insights. Another key set of actions relates to aligning on approaches for measuring site and app experiences as well as brand creative. As we make progress on alignment, the quality and cost efficiency of our research efforts will undoubtedly improve.

4. Technology companies known for customer centricity are pervasively obsessed with putting their users at the core of their decisions. On Day 2 we hosted a panel with representatives from three customer-centric organizations: Slack, Poshmark and Pinterest. Each of the representatives have roles in their organizations that are related to – but not part of research.

One of the more interesting titles was the storyteller from Pinterest whose job it is to share stories about their users (better known as Pinners) to ensure that customers are at the heart of everything Pinterest does. What stood out from this panel is that each of these organizations have customer obsession as part of their corporate DNA. One of my favorite anecdotes was from our guest speaker from Slack, who talked about how they were getting frequent requests to add a “like” feature for Slack posts. As this feedback was considered, the Slack team decided to go the extra mile and instead of offering a “like” feature they decided to add emojis. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the Slack emojis!

Expedia Group leadership is committed to making customer centricity a reality. We were fortunate to have executives from each of the brands attend the Summit and participate as our executive judging panel for the workshops and in an executive panel later that day.

5. Our CEO, Mark Okerstrom, was our closing keynote speaker. The fact that our leaders were willing to take time out of their busy schedules and attend this event with our researchers, the people at Expedia Group who spend all of our time observing, listening to and understanding customers and partners, is a testament to their commitment to our strategic imperative to walk in our customers’ shoes. In addition to our fearless leader, Aman Bhutani and Arthur Chapin from Brand Expedia, Tina Weyand from Vrbo, Josh Crossick from Hotels.com, Neha Parikh from Hotwire, and Jay Fluegel from GCO helped make this vision a reality. It was clear from our executives’ feedback that they value the role of research and are fully committed to continuing on our journey of being customer-centric.

Finally, the Summit would not have been possible without our group of amazing research leaders and their commitment to making the event a success. I want to give a special thank you to: Adam Smolinski from Brand Expedia Group, Chris Matthews from Hotels.com, Karen Swanson from Brand Expedia Group & LPS, Karl Steiner from Vrbo, and Rachael Wussow from Hotwire.

The research team weren’t the only employees who came together as a platform for the Summit – I must give a huge thank you to the amazing team who did all of the planning, programming and organizing for the Summit: Sarah Gavin, VP of corporate communications; Mallorie Mach and Alison Kwong Vrbo’s PR and communications team; Carolin Fuller, Hotwire PR; Carrie Adams, Executive Admin for BEXG UX and Research teams; Dave McDowell, Lab tech for BEXG. And finally, Victoria Cagliero from the EG corporate communications team who took the lead in planning and coordinating this entire platform initiative and made our dream a reality. You are amazing!