Sojern: Redefining travel marketing

In the travel industry, the shelf-life of any product is often measured in days or even hours. For instance, if flight and hotel bookings aren’t sold quickly, they expire and turn into a loss. To drive more direct bookings and maximize revenue, thousands of travel brands turn to Sojern, a direct demand performance marketing engine. The Sojern Traveler Platform is changing the way brands engage travelers, giving them timely and valuable data to transform their digital marketing and display advertising campaigns.

Sojern stores data on 350 million global travelers without collecting any personally identifiable information. Its platform uses machine learning to process billions of intent signals of travelers’ online behavior and identify more than 100,000 unique travel audience segments.

Sojern’s customers use “path to purchase” data to understand the locations and times travelers will be most receptive to offers and the markets they are most interested in, so they can display the right ad at the right time. Data comes from a wide range of sources, including online travel agencies, search engines, airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and transportation providers.

As demand for Sojern’s services grew, the company was challenged to return big data analytics queries rapidly using on-premises Hadoop clusters. Operational overhead was also a concern. Sojern ingests over 90 million travel events each day, and although the company ran its real-time data processing infrastructure in the cloud, services required constant management and could not scale with the travel industry’s natural workload fluctuations.

Sojern

To scale analytics performance while reducing costs and eliminating maintenance hassles, Sojern moved its entire business to Google Cloud Platform. It now uses Google BigQuery to return big data queries in minutes, giving it the ability to provide more relevant, current data to customers and more detailed quarterly reports to the travel industry.

“Google Cloud Platform lets us offer deeper, faster insights to help travel brands be successful. We’ve seen big growth in our business and data but not in our costs in no small part thanks to Google Cloud Platform. The move to Google Cloud was a smart decision and easy for us to manage.” - Dhaivat Pandit, Director of Engineering, Sojern

Elastic scaling with Google Cloud Platform

Since moving to Google Cloud Platform, Sojern has grown its revenues and overall company size. During that time the company has doubled the number of employees and exceeded new growth targets. In 2016 alone, Sojern served 35 billion impressions, double the number of impressions served the previous year. Even with this aggressive growth, Sojern reduced the number of virtual machines (VMs) in its environment from 300 to less than 100 by using Google Cloud managed services for data warehousing, databases, and container management.

“With Google Cloud Platform, we can run fewer, more powerful VMs that allow us to co-locate multiple apps on a single node and avoid paying for CPU cycles we don’t need. We can scale up and down automatically to match the volume of traveler activity at any given time, with no operational overhead,” says Dhaivat.

Faster travel insights with Google BigQuery

Nearly half of Sojern’s employees use BigQuery multiple times a week to analyze and report on event-level data and identify travel trends, helping them do their jobs better and faster. To store event data for analysis, Sojern uses Google Cloud Bigtable, the same database that powers many Google services.

“We need to provide fast answers to questions like when and where people are likely to book, which markets are hot, and what’s happening with mobile usage. With Google BigQuery, we can get those answers in minutes instead of hours and give our customers the insights to drive more bookings and revenue,” says Dhaivat.

Connecting global employees with G Suite

Sojern also uses other Google Cloud products to drive workforce productivity, such as G Suite—including Gmail, Google Drive, Sheets, Docs, and Calendar—to communicate and collaborate. The company uses Hangouts Meet to connect employees around the globe face-to-face while saving on business travel costs.

“We’ve used G Suite for years, and it’s intuitive, the apps work well together, and it’s easy to enforce two-factor authentication for secure access control. Security is also a major benefit of Google Cloud Platform, because the Google Security Model gives our customers peace of mind,” says Dhaivat.

Keeping services innovative and affordable

By choosing Google Cloud Platform, Sojern is offering customers more value by keeping costs down and giving them new and compelling information. The company is also producing new research such as Travel Trends to Japan and leveraging Google’s deep insight into hospitality and hotel search trends to offer From Search Engine to Booking Engine, a report that helps hotels improve their marketing programs.

“Since moving to Google Cloud Platform, we’ve been able to focus on things that matter and reduce operational overhead on infrastructure maintenance, and we’re using that momentum and cost savings to create better products. That really differentiates us, and the quality of reports we provide with Google BigQuery is a big reason our customers keep coming back,” adds Dhaivat.

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