Travel Tech Startup Entrepreneur, Here’s What You Need To Know About Today’s Travelers

9 out of 10 startups fail. That’s just one of the harsh truths the many entrepreneurs face. It’s also one that they try hard to drown out as they work feverishly towards making their startups survive and thrive.

That being said, It’s this very same awareness of the mortality of one’s startup that can actually drive entrepreneurs to make innovate choices. By understanding today’s evolving travel trends as well as the reasons why most travel startups fail, travel entrepreneurs stand a fighting chance towards getting it right. 

To help make sense of it all, we’ve put together some of the key trends that highlight how travelers are using technology on the go, and how customer experience is changing the future of travel. Startups that deliver value to their customers are the ones that stand a chance at survival.

EXCESSIVE FOCUS ON PRODUCT vs. CUSTOMERS

Most startups are founded by individuals that are passionate about their industry. But many great products simply don’t have the kind of market size or need to turn into scalable businesses. More often than not, founders focus so heavily on building products, that they forget to assess if there’s really a need for what they’re creating in the first place.

Testing a minimum viable product (MVP), getting pre-orders, and in-depth conversations with customers all take a backseat to rolling out feature after feature. We’ve all seen it happen; startups that face that an inevitable early demise due to the fact that they fail to deliver a product market fit.

BUILDING SOMETHING NEW OR 10X BETTER

There’s a cardinal rule to startup success – build a product with a massive need that doesn’t exist or build a product that’s at least 10 times better than its competitors.

Given the friction when it comes to adoption of new products, a product that is only slightly better than existing solutions will find it hard to scale and dominate the market. And yet more than 70% of travel tech startups are trying to reinvent the wheel; with slight improvements, or worse, without understanding how travelers use technology on the go. This again is a quick recipe for failure.

ONLINE TRAVEL AGENTS (OTAs) RULE THE TRAVEL JOURNEY

Originally designed to sell excess inventory in times of slow demand, OTAs have broken the traditional mold of being a travel booking middleman. Instead, they own the journey, encouraging and recommending passengers to take trips based on their profile data, spending pattern and content consumption.

OTAs drive the majority of bookings around the world. They are a primary source of revenue for most hotels. Currently, Four major brands control the OTA market. Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz Worldwide, and Travelocity control about 95% of the market in the United States, according to Forbes. Recently, Expedia acquired Travelocity and announced plans to buy Orbitz.

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Additionally, Google is slowly encroaching the OTAs’ turf with multiple launches that are clearly taking the business off the OTAs and metasearch rivals, such as offering exclusive hotel discounts via its Google One cloud storage platform, “hotel-plus-flight” travel package, as well as a global price insight feature on mobile devices. If you’re building a business in the OTA space, you better come prepared with very deep pockets.

PERSONALISATION AND USER GENERATED CONTENT

As travel becomes more experiential and aspirational, travelers want experiences that are uniquely suited to their tastes and preferences.

Research has found that 97% of millennials use social media while traveling and at least 80% post every day, Instagram is the most preferred platform. With so much user-generated content available, travelers want to move from cookie cutter travel plans to more unique travel experiences which push the envelope. Despite this, many travel brands still struggle to meet the personalization demands of consumers.

SPONTANEITY

Millennials comprise 32 percent of US travelers and are the fastest-growing age segment in travel. Millennials don’t usually book travel more than 3 months out; as spontaneity matters to them. And impromptu plans are very common.

  • Travel-related searches for “tonight” and “today” have grown over 150% on mobile, over the past two years.
  • 72% of all mobile bookings made by U.S. travelers happened within a 48-hour window prior to the booking.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND CHATBOTS

On one hand, travelers are looking for more authentic experiences that make them feel connected. At the same time, artificial intelligence based chatbots and cutting-edge products like Alexa powered concierge services (rolled out at the Marriot International) are becoming more and more commonplace.

Chatbots and digital personal assistants are being used by the hospitality and travel industry to create a more efficient and convenient experience for customers.

70% of requests to Google Assistant are expressed in natural language, meaning that people are getting more comfortable having conversations with computers.

There’s still a long way to go towards making personal assistants a common part of one’s travel journey, however, the opportunities are certainly there.

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MOBILE FIRST

85% of travel bookings are happening on mobile devices. Both millennials and Gen Xers have moved to smartphones as their primary device when it comes to travel. Whether its travel information, last minute deals or flight/hotel bookings.

IN CONCLUSION

The key is for every startup to be passionate about customer behavior and customer insights to the point of paranoia. Only then will they have the product and technology edge required to survive and scale.

These are just some trends when it comes to traveler behavior. Each startup will have its own unique customer patterns and insights based on the travel niche in which it operates.

How Travel Tech Startups Can Break PR Down to a Science

How Travel Tech Startups Can Break PR Down to a Science

As a travel tech startup entrepreneur, there’s certainly no lack of tasks that need to be attended to. When you’re not busy fighting fires, you’re thinking of the next product development cycle, preparing for an industry event, or planning how to scale up your customer acquisition strategy.

In the midst of all the immediate chaos, public relations is something that demands your urgent attention. That being said, you probably feel like you don’t have the time, resources or budget to invest. On top of it all, the travel tech space already has some big players fighting for the spotlight.

So how do you gain the upper hand and increase exposure for your travel tech venture?

In this post (Part 1 of 2) we’re breaking it down into actionable steps your organization can take towards a successful press run. That being said, there’s good news and bad news.

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The bad news is that in today’s world, where over 2,000 active travel and mobility tech startups have been founded globally, and over $31 billion has been invested by venture capitalists, PR is something a disruptive travel startup simply cannot afford to ignore.

Great PR has often resulted in a surge of new users, funding, hiring and sometimes even acquisitions, and is, therefore, a solid PR strategy is a must-have, even at the early stages.

The good news is that all experts seem to agree on one thing. Spending a ton of money on PR simply isn’t the right strategy, especially if you’re in the early stages of your startup.

All you really need is some expert guidance, and your PR strategy can create serious waves, regardless of your overall marketing budget.

Here are some proven strategies that we use at BIGINTRO, and have been used by other successful travel startups all over the world to crack the black box that is public relations.

CATEGORISE AND ORGANISE

The absolute best starting point is to think very carefully about what industry your startup would most resonate in. In other words, what is the area of interest in your startup?

You’re probably thinking: That’s easy, we’re in the travel or hospitality industry. But in most cases, you would be wrong.

Your starting point needs to be thought through from multiple perspectives, ideally as many as three. For example, say your startup includes an AI bot that understands what your user wants from travel on a psychological level, then you probably fall under three different categories.

  1. Technology
  2. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  3. Travel

Immediately this means you may interest two or three different types of journalists and that broadens your PR horizons.

This also means that your story or ‘pitch’ needs to include trends and highlights of those specific industries and how your solution helps solve some of the main challenges. Take time to research your industry, beyond your product or service. Backing up your pitch with facts and data definitly helps push your PR pitch the extra mile. 

BE AWARE

Now that you have a general idea of the writers that would be interested in your story, the next step is finding out who they are. To crack this task, you can set up Google alerts to get updates about articles from your target categories. Another important tip we should mention is to create lists of various words and topics to keep track of within your industry. Think broadly about what keywords would be most relevant for your startup.

This immediately puts the top writers in these niches on your radar. Keep a close watch on the kinds of articles people are writing to give you an understanding of who would be a good fit for your startup and story. As an added bonus, this will also keep you updated on the latest trends and happenings in your sector so it’s a win-win.

REACH OUT

This one is fairly easy; but like all the other steps, needs a systematic and consistent approach. Some writers have their contact information in the article itself. In most cases, it’s an email if not there’s a twitter handle you can follow.

It’s always a good idea to actually build a relationship with journalists and media prior to pitching them a news story, as they will already have somewhat of an idea of who you are.

Create an excel sheet with all the journalists relevant to you. Categorise them based on their niche, size of the site (based on Alexa rank) and on why they are a good fit for your startup.

Quick Tip – One of our favorite Google Chrome Add-ons is SEOQuake which lets you quickly compare the page rank for multiple sites at once. The best way to do this is to copy / paste a list of URLs, and filter them by Alexa rank (smallest to highest).

Once you have a distribution list ready to go, use it to create different email pitches introducing yourself and your startup for each category and style.

MailerLite or Mailchimp (free for initial use) are two of the best platforms to use if you’re thinking about reaching multiple journalists at once, however, in our personal experience, this isn’t the way to go. Creating a personalized email per contact will definitely be far more effective than cold mass emails.

If you don’t have a contact email, follow them on Twitter, try to get them to follow you back and then start a conversation. Linkedin shouldn’t be neglected either. We’re seeing more and more professionals spending time daily on LinkedIn, so you haven’t logged into LinkedIn in a while, now’s the time.

At this stage, the goal isn’t to get journalists to push them to publish anything. Your goal is to introduce yourself and your startup. The idea is to start building a media network and influencers whom you can leverage to your startup’s advantage at the right time.

We’ve talked about how to approach PR in terms of strategy and how to go about setting up a base and building your network.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about the what your PR story should be, how to project the most compelling picture for your company and how to time your press releases launch just right.

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