The impact of mobile was a main topic discussed at CWT Digital’s third-annual BrightOn Travel conference last week. Travelzoo’s Richard Singer explained how it has fundamentally changed its approach. Lee Hayhurst reports
Travel firms ought to be considering how they can piggy back on popular multi-purpose mobile apps as they face the challenges and costs of marketing their own.
Travelzoo Europe managing director Richard Singer said that in China the firm’s development resources are focussed on working with Wechat, a generic app widely used by the Chinese.
He told delegates at the third annual BrightOn Travel conference last week that partnerships of this sort could become key for firms looking to have a dedicated presence on consumers’ mobile devices.
“You can market your app, but it’s so expensive and personal to get in to people’s phones,” Singer said. “You have to think about how you can build partnerships, how you can get in someone else’s app.
“It’s a far more considered decision to be in someone’s phone, it really makes you think about what your value proposition is.”
In August Travelzoo reacquired its Asia Pacific business covering Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia that had been independently run by Azzurro Capital.
Singer said the Chinese use Wechat for everything, whether communicating with family and friends, paying bills, ordering taxis, online banking or seeking travel and leisure recommendations. He said no one collects emails addresses any more.
“Everyone is doing everything through this particular portal. People are frustrated with having to move from app to app, everything has to be within the one app. All our development in China goes in to development with Wechat.”
Singer said the shift to mobile has changed the core of Travelzoo’s business. Mobile is driving 60% of the firm’s traffic today and sees a deal sold every one-and-half minutes.
Travelzoo has quadrupled its development team to support mobile and to ensure the firm continues to be successful across all channels.Singer said the mobile approach was no longer simply about offering a stripped down version of the desk top site.
“Things have moved on completely,” he added.
The problem of passing customers from a deals email on a mobile to a non-optimised partner site has seen Travelzoo develop its own search and book functionality.
Its hotel booking platform is already launched in the US and will shortly be rolled out to the UK and Europe as it works towards a search-based user experience as opposed to a push marketing deals provider.
“We have had to take ownership of this whole process. We are seeing more and more people searching on our site. If we had no deals we would be surfacing nothing.
“We have been excellent in push marketing email campaigns. But people are coming to us and saying do you have anything. How do we manage the user experience, how do we surface content when people are coming to us rather than us coming to them?
“This poses some challenges. One is user experience of the site and the other is depth of content. We need to make sure we have partnerships in place to have that depth of content.”
Singer said becoming the merchant of record opens up opportunities for Travelzoo to create more tailored CRM campaigns based around the much richer customer data it has access to.
“This changes us massively from a media publisher to a business that has data at the core of it. We have always been good at inspiration, with booking we now see the transactional element.
“We have a lot of work to do, but the underlying business is changing at a tremendous speed because of mobile.”