Holiday rentals website HomeAway has become an investor in review platform Gogobot, as it seeks to enhance the offering to customers.
Brian Sharples, the firm’s co-founder and chief executive, announced the deal during a presentation at the Phocuswright conference in Los Angeles this week.
The $20 million investment round was led by HomeAway and Gogobot existing backers.
Sharples said HomeAway had to become more personalised in the way it operated and “manage more of the experience, not just getting buyers and suppliers together”.
The tie-up with Gogobot will see it integrated into the platform. “We are pleased to be investors,” said Sharples. “This is one of the things we are doing to prepare for the future.”
Another development is to offer an instant online bookability, which Sharples said had seen a lot of resistance from property owners.
It requires them to keep calendars updated, provide accurate pricing and booking confirmation within 24 hours.
Sharples said property owners not prepared to do this should arguably not be in business, or at least ranked highly in search results delivered to consumers.
“We have set a public goal to take our whole marketplace and make it online bookable by 2016. What online booking means for us is it will really change our business,” Sharples said.
“There will be a lot of pain for us because we will push some owners harder than they want to be pushed.”
Increasing activity on mobile devices will see HomeAway traffic from the channel top the 50% mark over the next 12 to 15 months.
Sharples said the firm had to make the mobile experience really good because “the expectations people have about mobile are incredible”.
The HomeAway app is heavily used both before and during trips to find out information about activities, an integration with Uber was announced yesterday for taxi bookings.
Another partnership has been struck with US online grocery shopping and delivery service Instacart. This signals a move to promoting the full experience of a holiday rental.
Sharples said HomeAway would continue to develop this area, allowing property owners to add their own recommendations for customers as well as offering third party services.
“HomeAway has been really owner-centric. We are going to really concentrate on user experience and doing things really well.
“We need to flex our position now and say to owners, you do need a new system because your customers are going to demand it.”
HomeAway’s online booking and payments platform will be “decoupled” to offer a range of payments options.