How we started
I founded Innovative Travel 5 years ago with a modest goal: introduce people in developing travel markets like Israel, the Arabic world and Russia to the concept of hotel metasearch.
The product* we marketed was based on Hotelscombined (who’s been great partners for us till this very day) and we focused on search marketing, doing things in the marketer way: find small cracks of opportunity, work rather manually and stay commercially driven. With time, we refined the target audience from niche to global, and the goal towards: ‘Build the best possible search campaigns for travel, on every language and query, in one click’.
*This is what our first homepage looked like in 2010, as you can imagine, our focus was on innovating in other places
How we solve search marketing for travel
Search marketing (such as promoted ads on Google search) is particularly important in the hotel industry, and roughly 1 of every 4 hotel bookings originates directly from search.
In order to do search marketing right, we need to work across the following domains:
- Getting a quality location feed in place: taking our sitemap and improving its quality;
- Designing a good search structure: a bit of a secret sauce that is built through rapid A/B testing;
- Design rules that can work across a large domain: a hotel metasearch database contains 200k+ marketable locations and 800k+ hotels, so there is no room for manual intervention;
- Design across query types and languages: there are at least 50 commercially viable languages, and we aim to have a consistent quality across each of them;
- Design for scale in deployment: for the solution to have real commercial value, we need to be able to build ~1.000 campaigns (~1m ‘keywords’ each) and do that in a matter of days;
- Price accurately: origins, destinations, devices and seasonality are just some of the factors we use in our pricing model;
- Price vs competition: finding our value is only half the story, as we are in a dynamic marketplace where profit maximization depends on the positions competitors take; with over a Billion keywords, we have a Billion auctions to price.
We recently marked a big step on the campaign building front, and have a tested solution in place, built in the highest quality in the market, with one click, in a scalable way. That’s a big win!
We still have a lot of work around ramping it up and completing executing in the other dimensions, but we are now in a stage where we know we will ‘solve’ search marketing in travel, perhaps being the first one to do it.
The next BHAG: Build a better hotel meta-search experience
Now it is time to add a new challenge to the roadmap: we are going to build the best hotel metasearch experience in the world, to complement our ability to do search well, and to solve a problem that I personally wanted to solve years ago, but didn’t have the means and the right vision.
This is a different type of problem, a ‘product’ problem, with challenges such as UX, devices and language segmentation already at the gates. But we are ambitious and are aiming far further than getting ‘a decent product out there’.
We think that hotel metasearch is a missed value proposition.
We look at most existing solutions, as ‘ad marketplaces’, which offer little more than some ‘price comparison’ checkbox. Consumers in turn, aren’t particularly loyal to these sites. If they have any form of loyalty to an intermediary in the hotels niche, it’s to Online Travel Agencies, where Booking.com or hotels.com have a much stronger consumer value proposition than any metasearch.
Doing metasearch well for hotels is no easy task. It’s about finding a business model that aligns with the customer (ads rarely are), it’s about carving a sustainable large customer acquisition form that allows you to deliver a good customer experience, it’s about using data in order to make hotel discovery work (and this data is formed of plenty of subjective attributes such as location, brand, property size, images, amenities) or competing attributes (is review score more important than star level?). This data then needs to be packaged to a global audience with unknown preferences and done very fast, across situations, in an attractive, intuitive way.
We’ve got (great) room for talented people
So, we’ve got quite some challenges on our hands, and we need really talented, challenge loving people to help get us reach our goal: The best hotel metasearch in the world, marketed to a huge global audience using smart performance marketing. We are building it with love in Amsterdam. Want to know more? Get in touch!