WEGOGO connects travel hosts with Chinese travellers on WeChat

A Singapore and Shanghai-based travel startup has created a business platform on WeChat to enable global tours operators and travel hosts to connect with mobile-savvy Chinese consumers.

Founded in January last year, WEGOGO has launched its services to businesses in Gili Islands and Singapore so far. It is slated to launch in China by the third quarter. Described as a “social discovery AI (artificial intelligence) travel platform for sophisticated Chinese travellers,” WEGOGO focuses on the use of AI to match users with relevant travel hosts, marketing their services directly to them. It uses contextual cues (such as a user’s search history) to model their unique ‘digital imprint’. This information can then help to predict what type of ‘experience’ a traveller is likely looking for. By doing so, WEGOGO hopes to connect smaller tour operators with the booming Chinese outbound travel market (with 200 million outbound travellers predicted by 2020).

“We’re trying to build a platform for understanding the Chinese traveller… anyone (an operator, a guide) should be able to tap into this and make yourself more relevant,” said Wong Toon King (TK), chairman of WEGOGO. It is an attempt to “level the playing field” between smaller operators and bigger players, as strategic advisor Reene Ho-Phang highlighted the reality that many local hosts do not have “the muscle and technology to aim at a global market”.

WEGOGO is backed by a group of private investors led by Wong, who is the managing director of FarSight Capital, and has provided the startup with US$500,000 in angel funding.

WEGOGO Platform | Startup | WIT

WEGOGO will not solely rely on AI to identify what users want. To address the shift in Chinese traveller preferences from being ‘destination-centric’ to ‘experiential tourism’, it will create video content to engage consumers on an emotional level.

Richard Tan Boon Piew, co-founder and COO, emphasised the importance of using storytelling to encourage consumers to go out and discover these unique places.

“We need to go in and find the story to tell… different operators can express their love for that they do. We’re trying to find gems, we don’t need a laundry list of operators.”

WEGOGO also has a “Pathfinders Programme” where bloggers and influencers share their experiences on the platform.

Registration is straightforward and free for travel hosts. Then they are issued a QR code that directs consumers to their micro-site.

Travel hosts can also take charge of their own marketing and promotions on WEGOGO, communicate with prospective customers directly, and conduct all payments online via WePay.

Therefore, virtually every stage of travel (with the exception of ‘experiencing’) can occur within the realm of WeChat.

WEGOGO earns a service fee from providers, but the initial sign up is free. They also use sponsored content.

One critical consideration is how WEGOGO plans to provide quality assurance and a sense of security for its customers, especially as the number of businesses on the platform increases.

Ho-Phang suggests that it can largely be left up to the operators who sign on to WEGOGO, as they are able to share tips and important information with customers before they travel. “This is their area [of expertise]…so they can inform travellers what to look out for.”

Mak believes that the existence of a rating and review system can help customers make their choices. “We can also give some providers WEGOGO verification,” Tan added.

While there are over 630 million users on WeChat (and counting) in China, one potential stumbling block could be how aware international travel hosts are of the social networking app in the first place, as WeChat has struggled in its efforts to go global.

Wong remains optimistic that hosts will readily adopt WeChat once they understand the benefits of WEGOGO for their business.

Source: WEGOGO connects travel hosts with Chinese travellers on WeChat

Flights versus hotels: where is the market for meta in APAC? – EyeforTravel

mainAlthough many established metasearch markets exist in the region, there is real opportunity for differentiation and innovation in Southeast Asia In Asian markets like China, India and Japan online travel – and that includes flight and hotel metasearch – is established, flourishing and mirrors global trends.

China’s Qunar, for example, launched in 2004 as a flight and hotel metasearch but quickly emerged into a more hybrid travel play with a strong focus on the higher margin hotel-booking segment. According to analysts at the Yale School of Management, in the fourth quarter of 2014 there were “66% more direct sales than platform sales in terms of volume”. And in the longer term, analysts expect this to reach 80%, which explains the expansion of Qunar’s workforce from 2,500 to 7,500 employees in 2014.

In India, the country’s biggest online travel firm MakemyTrip has been around since 2000, first serving the travel needs of US-based Indians returning home to visit family. By 2005 the firm had established a local base and after bedding down set to expanding its armoury of travel related products and services in the region. Holding up a mirror to global diversification trends, in 2011 it acquired Gurgaon-based metasearch play iXigo.

Meanwhile in Japan, one of the world’s most innovative and established travel markets,15-year-old Venture Republic operates the largest domestic metasearch engine with domains Travel.ip and Hotel.ip. In 2012, it experienced 50% user growth versus just 15% from players in the OTA space.

Unsurprisingly all these markets have proved attractive for global metasearch firms. UK-based Skyscanner is just one and by 2012 it had established a presence in China through a partnership with search engine Baidu. Later, in 2014, it acquired another – Youbibi, proving that local partnerships are an essential ingredient. Last year, just to tick off another country, Skycanner linked up with Yahoo Japan in a 51%-49% JV.

Southeast Asia: the addressable market?

In Southeast Asia, where many travel bookings here are still made through traditional travel agents there is plenty of opportunity and room for growth. Here there were over 100-million tourist arrivals in 2015, according to ASEAN, the association of Southeast Asian nations, and nearly 50 million of these came from within the region – most notably from China.

Max Kraynov, CEO and founder of metasearch firm JetRadar, which has headquarters in Thailand, has an interesting view. While he sees huge and growing potential for hotel metasearch in Southeast Asia, he is not convinced of the potential for flights, because “there are no real OTAs to metasearch on”.

“For a meta with flights, the addressable market is small as there’s enormous brand recognition of low-cost carriers and a meta needs to do lots of educational work to capture this brand-loyal audience,” he says.

So, although flight metasearch is JetRadar’s game elsewhere in the world, from its regional headquarters in Thailand, today it operates as an OTA.

For a meta with flights, the addressable market is small as there’s enormous brand recognition of low-cost carriers and a meta needs to do lots of educational work to capture this brand-loyal audience

Max Kraynov, CEO, JetRadar

However, not everybody holds this view. Anna Trushkina, commercial manager of hotel metasearch play Wego, for one, disagrees that there are a dearth of OTAs in Southeast Asia to compare rates from.

“If you take Indonesia, by far the biggest point of sale for Wego in the region, as an example, the OTA market is led by local players such as Traveloka, Tiket.com, NusaTrip, and PegiPegi, which have both hotels and flights – and flight volumes are even bigger. What is more, global OTAs and hotel brands are actively acquiring customers online in the region and local media conglomerates have either launched or are launching an OTA of their own.”

To Trushkina’s latter point, last year media investment conglomerate MNC Media spawned Mister Aladin, a hotel metasearch. At the time, CEO Teddy Pun was quoted by Tech in Asia saying that far more differentiation and innovation is needed in the region’s online travel sector – a gap he hopes to fill.

Pun believes that being part of a media conglomerate also gives Mister Aladin the marketing edge – where many local firms’ resources are often stretched. As Kraynov points out, the high cost of paid search makes it particularly tough for aggregators in the region which rely mostly on SEO and rentention mechanisma like email subscription, mobile app installs, Facebook likes and so on.

Local and mobile edge

For Trushkina, Wego’s edge in Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, has come from localised investment in mobile apps that have proved “very sticky for metasearch” where users are being sent down the funnel.

On the localisation front, Wego has also placed particular emphasis on providing users with rates from local and global players, and direct hotel rates on all key points-of-sale.

Trushkina cannot stress enough that Wego’s growth in the region is coming from mobile where usage continues to grow by 15% year-on-year according to digital agency We Are Social. Indeed, mobile connections in the region today now number over 700 million, the agency reports. At the same time, the number of people using Facebook and Twitter in the region is expected to surpass the US in 2016.

With a fast growing digital landscape, coupled with rising incomes and discretionary travel spend growing as a result, online travel in Southeast Asia looks set for takeoff.

Where the real money is to be made may remain a moot point but it’s clear that while metasearch may start with flight search, brands will continue to add higher margin hotels, transfers and other ancillaries going forward.

That has been the story elsewhere in the world, and it’s unlikely to be any different here, says Kraynov.

Source: Flights versus hotels: where is the market for meta in APAC? | Travel Industry News & Conferences – EyeforTravel

Marketing Takes on the Digital World | By Alan E. Young

Digital marketing is a term that is used frequently, but has the time come to stop considering it an entity that is separate from overall marketing strategies?The reality is that all marketing today contains a massive digital component. Today’s strategies must be conceptualized with the digital nature of the modern consumer in mind, as opposed to being an add-on to another marketing plan. People of all ages are increasingly running their lives with digital devices, and there is a growing expectation for the experience to be customized to their personal interests and needs.

mobile marketingAt the same time, there are many organizations that continue to separate digital from other marketing avenues, with segregated teams that do not work together cohesively. While this made sense in the early days of digital, it simply isn’t the most effective approach anymore.

To achieve marketing maturity in an ever-evolving landscape, companies must build an adaptable business structure that allows their team to be unified in working toward a single goal. The need to create high quality messaging is key, and marketers must continue to develop engaging and insightful content regardless of the medium.Although traditional channels still exist, it’s important to create digital cultures rather than marketing silos in order to fully integrate skills throughout organizations as we move into the future. The array of marketing activities need to be interwoven to develop robust campaigns that achieve success across the board, allowing for traditional to influence digital, and vice versa.What can we expect to see in the coming year?

Content marketing has grown exponentially over the past couple of years, and it shows no sign of slowing down in the coming period. While it can be easy to get caught up in the complexities of SEO elements, it’s essential to remember that the key is delivering fresh and relevant content that resonates with your target audience.

A new marketing focus is shifting away from simply creating more content to providing the right content. Consumers now expect personalized and hyper-relevant information that is delivered to them instantly wherever they are engaging, whether that is on social, email or any other channel. The pressure to consistently provide a seamless and enticing experience will increase and marketers must meet this demand to achieve success.

Ad-blocking is also on the rise, which will have a big effect on the future of marketing. The model of delivering free content that is funded by display advertising, such as banners and pop-ups, is therefore becoming less effective. Taking advantage of cleaner platforms that showcase truly relevant content as part of a cohesive communications strategy will help marketers to avoid losing ground from the growing usage of ad-blocking software.

The Gold Mine of DataPredictive analytics is becoming increasingly useful to assist with the efficient allocation of marketing budgets. By utilizing the latest tools and techniques to make sense of the massive amount of data that is being generated with each impression and click, there is a tremendous opportunity to make the most out of every marketing dollar that is spent.

Most organizations are spending marketing dollars across many different channels. The ability to attribute value to each touchpoint in the path to purchase will allow marketers to accurately predict the budget allocation that will perform best. Additionally, predicting the probability of an audience to become a customer allows the focus to be on high value prospects.

Modern consumers expect a high level of personalization. By combining digital experiences with customer data, it becomes possible to predict the groups of users that are more or less likely to respond to different types of messages, offers and imagery. Today’s personalization tools allow marketers to deliver customized content that matches a consumer’s interests and expectations with a much higher degree of accuracy than has been possible in the past.B

eacon is the New MobileConsidering the growing prevalence of mobile shopping, beacon technology usage is expected to increase exponentially in the coming year. Location-based marketing offers attention-grabbing ways to engage with consumers by providing them with discounts and other information on their smartphone when they are in close proximity to a store.A 2015 study by Air Mile operator LoyaltyOne, in partnership with the Canadian Marketing Association, indicates that 62% of Canadian consumers who were surveyed are using their smartphones to assist them while shopping, with this number increasing to 80% among millennials. Impressively, 45% of the respondents said that they have used a device in-store that has led them to make an immediate purchase. When asked what they find appealing about connecting with retailers through in-store beacons, 62% of respondents said that they like the idea of receiving rewards that are relevant to their location, while 56% appreciate receiving alerts that are related to their whereabouts.

Certainly, the meteoric rise of mobile marketing has prompted a growing number of smartphone users to opt-in to location-based deals. Although this requires consumers to expose their personal data and proximity to retailers, many believe that the incentive of exclusive, time-sensitive specials or rewards are worth the sacrifice of an element of privacy. At the same time, it’s important to find the most effective quantity of location-based services to send, as 23% of the survey respondents indicated that they have uninstalled or opted out of push notifications from a retailer’s app due to the frequency of messaging.

We are now living in an era where digital marketing can no longer be considered a stand-alone entity. The organizations that are most effective have removed marketing silos to create unified messaging concepts across all types of media and campaigns. In the coming year, the hyper-personalization of highly engaging and relevant content will be the primary key to ensure successful marketing initiatives in the digital world.

Source: Marketing Takes on the Digital World | By Alan E. Young

Travel industry mobile sales boom nears $100bn – Computer Business Review

Mobile transactions accounted for 12.5 percent of total travel sales in 2014.

According to Euromonitor’s WTM Global Trends Report 2015 report for the travel industry, a total of $96 billion of travel sales were conducted on mobile globally in the year.

Western Europe had the highest spend on travel through mobile, with around $33-34 billion of sales on mobile in 2014.

This was ahead of North America’s total at around $30-31 billion, and Asia-Pacific at around $20 billion.

Euromonitor forecast that mobile sales would see 22 percent compound annual growth between 2014 and 2019.

The future would also see a growth in personalised services.

“A gradual shift to one-to-one marketing in travel will be evident, with each consumer treated in a different way in terms of the overall marketing mix including pricing,” the report reads.

“Beacon technology is expected to take off in the next few years as a powerful tool to provide personalised experiences to consumers on the go.”

Download the report

Source: Travel industry mobile sales boom nears $100bn – Computer Business Review