Single product or focused sites are appearing more and more. For example have spoken before about group specialist Groople and then updated my discussions when they raised another round. The concern has always been - can a product specific travel provider stand alone, convince the market to come to it for the single product while happily shopping at the full service and hotel or car only providers for their other needs. The analogy I used before is how often can a single drink company like Red Bull beat down Coke.
With that background, I received in the post over the weekend the supplier/media kit from new product specific entrant - Asdoo. Asdoo are targeting the meetings and events market. While the site has the initial look and feel of a hotel only player if you chosse the "meetings/conferences" search features you see the options for adding conference room types (ie boardroom or conference) then catering, audio visual, rooms before and after (on or off the company account) and more. A step by step path through all of the pieces needed to book a conference or event.
The site is announced in beta but I would call it pre-beta (or alpha). The technology/UI all works (at least from the front end) but they have yet to load the inventory. The pack they sent to me has had a lot of money spent on it with ticket wallets, cds and marketing guides. All targeted for hoteliers and GMs of Sales to entice them to provide inventory to Asdoo.
I understand the business idea here. They refer to a recent PhoCusWright report on the Group and Meetings market to provide support for the model but I don't need that to agree that there is a market for making events and conferences easier to book online. If Asdoo can crack the challenges in front of them then I can see genuine revenue potential. However there are two big challenges that have to be cracked for the good times to flow:
1. Complex Booking for Consumers: Even with good technology and UI, this is still a complex booking. There are multiple variables - start dates, check in dates, conference room configuration, hotel room numbers, audio visual, catering, start and finish times and more. Traditionally online travel has only worked when it is simple for the customer. As soon as it gets complicated - consumers want to pick up the phone. Asdoo will need to ensure it has done all it can to make the booking path as simple as possible and provide customer support/backup in the early days.
2. Achieving supplier scale: Hoteliers love conferences. The food and beverage bill provides high margin joy and sooner or later the boss throws the card behind the bar and the attendees start sucking back house wine and beer at 8-10 bucks a glass. But it will take a great product/sales team to convince a series of hotels to load up the complex inventory types to fill Asdoo with enough to make the site viable.
In this first review of Asdoo and the conference market I think that the business model is a good one and as far as I know Asdoo is the first to market (or one of the first - comment if you know more) but the user interface will need a step up and customer support to be near perfect to drive consumer confidence and booking. Further a killer sales team is needed to drive supplier participation. Mostly however they will need patience (and therefore funding). This model will take time and market persistence to gain traction.
Congrats to the team a Asdoo including boss Arthur Avram on the launch. The materials say they have been at it for 4 years of development. With the site up - the fun now begins.