Innovative Travel Service Ideas on Vacation

February 13, 2009

dominican-republic-natureI find myself thinking about travel right now.  Maybe it’s because, even as this post goes live, I am probably sitting on the beach in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.  But nevertheless, it is an important subject to think about because there a lot of untapped ideas out there.

First, I still believe that the online travel sites leave a lot to be desired. Planning a trip is not as easy as it should be, considering how far we have come in the spread of ideas and access to information.

In college, my roommate and I were planning on starting a social networking site for travelers.  How has this not been done yet?  How have one of the big players in online trip booking not added this feature to their website.  It does not have to be much, just a place where people can record their trip with photos, blogs, etc.  Also have them set a profile with details about what they look for in a trip, destination ideas, a wish list, and travel history.  Allow them to “link up” to other profiles, search information to find photos, blog posts, and travel ideas from other users.

If you put all of this on the same site that we can use to plan a book a trip, it would be much more complete, and much more helpful.  It is what the people want, who is going to give it to us?

Second, in a tough time for the travel industry like this, what can companies that service that industry do to entice travelers?  Are there any hotels that offer better packages when the economy is bad?  Are there open hotel rooms that companies could be giving away dirt cheap to gain customer loyalty and spread brand awareness?  There should be. If you own or operate a business that caters to the travel sector, now is the time to focus on what your customers need, and give it to them, no questions asked.
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Third, how can the airlines continue to compete? Airlines are probably some of the most complained about companies out there.  It’s a tough job.  People don’t like the hassle of traveling, the time it takes, the uncomfortable feeling of it all, etc.  Many of the airlines are trying to help out people by eliminating delays, offering cheaper deals, and more locations.

But the companies that are performing the best are concentrating on making people more comfortable. It’s like admitting the act of travel is annoying, but telling them that while they have to go through it, we will make it as pleasant and convenient as possible.  This can be done with things like comfortable waiting areas, better cabin service, wireless connectivity, better food and beverages, etc.

I will leave you to ponder all of that as I enjoy a few relaxing days on the beach.  Add your thoughts here…what are some ways that “travel” could be better?

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Ad Market Down, Innovate to Increase Value

January 23, 2009

logoseamlesswebboxIn a down economy, many things take a hit.  One market that is hurting right now is the advertising market.  Advertisers are spending less money, pulling ads that they don’t necessarily feel good about, and eliminating all ads that do not convert.  This means that websites that rely on advertising revenue to survive must respond in any way possible.

The two most important things that you have to consider when selling ads are website traffic and advertiser relevance.  Since advertisers are going to need to see real results to continue to advertise in this economy, websites need to be able to produce those results right away.

  1. Increase the value of the site. Increasing the value of a website will help drive more traffic.  The more traffic you get, the more ads you can serve.  This will help you reach more advertisers, and charge more for each ad.
  2. Increase the quality of your ads. Increasing the value of your ads means analyzing what it is that your users are looking for while they are on your site.  If it is a free service, most likely there is information that your users are looking for.  Nailing down the right ads to fit with the user experience can increase your click through and conversion rate a great deal.

For a quick example, take a look at two very similar websites, Seamless Web and Menu Pages.  Both sites are designed as online directories of restaurants in New York City.  Both serve the same purpose: I want to order food but I don’t know where or what.  On both, I can narrow down my search by location, value, type of food, etc.

The major difference is quite simple, Seamless Web allows you to order directly off of the website, while Menu Pages does not.  What does this mean?  Seamless Web has created an enormous amount of value to their site by making it more useful to its users.  And while Menu Pages is a great service, and possibly more popular, they fail to meet all the needs of their users.  For that reason, Seamless Web is set up to get more traffic, and more traffic can lead to greater ad sales.

One final example is Plenty-of-Fish, a free online dating site.  Plenty-of-Fish creator Markus Frind created the site with a simple concept, find an industry in which all competitors are charging, offer the same thing for free, and sell ads.  The idea has flourished.  By adding value to the site (making it free), he has made it one of the most popular online dating services in the world.  With all the traffic he gets from members and potential members, he can serve more ads than similar websites.  And if the average click through rate of an ad is constant, more ads means more $$$.

These are a couple of things to consider as you begin to create or redesign a service.  Websites that show real value to advertisers are going to get the advertising money.  And in this type of economy, it’s something that you need to do to survive.

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