Think innovatively about the customer, not about innovation for the sake of it, says HotelsCombined chief executive, Hichame Assi
Innovation… *eye-roll*! Not sure about you, but I’m beginning to get tired of the overuse of this word.
Our industry, like many others, is starting to lose sight of the purpose of innovation and the way it is cited as the be-all and end-all solution to our problems.
Politicians and executives all over the world can often be heard calling for ‘more innovation’.
I prefer to think of it differently. It’s not about ‘innovation’ but more about ‘innovative thinking’, with the end-user as a core focus.
In this fast-paced and competitive landscape, the only way to survive and remain relevant to consumer and stakeholder expectations is to keep thinking innovatively and disrupting yourself continuously.
To that end, innovation can be a series of small incremental improvements rather than a big research-and-development front-loaded project.
At HotelsCombined, we rely on innovative thinking as a survival instinct. It’s in our DNA, and the resultlng developments extend to all the white-label and API partners we power around the world, from Korean search engine Naver to Momondo in the Nordics and TravelSupermarket in the UK.
As a metasearch platform, we want to take the anxiety out of searching for accommodation, helping users save time and money to find what they’re looking for.
We are guided by our users and whether they convert, and stand accountable to that through our commission model approach.
If a user is not converting, then we are not providing value; that is how we look at everything.
Our innovative thinking is geared around providing more value, and we’ll keep testing until any ‘innovation’ is validated by our users converting more.
In metasearch the debate du jour is about facilitated bookings: whether it works, whether it confuses the user, and whether it is subverting from the meta model as OTAs and metasearch seemingly converge.
At HotelsCombined, we don’t really care about the academics of it all. All we care about is whether this approach helps our users convert more or not. To that end, we have been facilitating booking with both hotels and select OTA partners in different ways.
There is a well-documented friction on mobile devices, which really challenges the notion of a streamlined experience. There is also a global aspect in that many OTAs and hotel sites do not support the 42 languages we offer.
We see both these factors as limitations to our users and their ability to find the deal they were looking for.
With OTA partners, we’ve taken the approach of focusing on incremental value. We believe that allowing an OTA to expose and attract bookings from new markets or exposing mobile-only rates on desktop will provide value to our users.
We’ve tested by market and zeroed in and focused on where our users will benefit most and where we will make the most incremental gains for our supply partners.
For hotels we’ve developed a system and booking path, not only to increase the choice on HotelsCombined and our partners, but also to facilitate direct hotel bookings. Both of these developments have been tested aggressively and are constantly being optimised for users’ beneftt.
Innovation? Arguable. Innovative thinking? Definitely.