Monday, June 04, 2007

Hotelscombined joins the meta-search wars with a difference

Caught up for coffee today with Yury Shar of Yury is a fellow ex-Cendantite and former super-star from Travelport owned FlairviewTravel. He and his fellow Hotelscombined founders were the creators/builders of some of the best pay-per-click bid management systems I have ever seen. They are now back in the online game with two meta-search products - and Hotelscombined.

As the names indicate ProductReview is a broad product site (much like PriceGrabber that I commented on earlier) and Hotelscombined is hotel meta-search.

The Hotelscombined product is fighting in the same space in Asia as other meta-search players Bezurk and They are also happy to take on the big guys - Sidestep & Kayak. They are trying to build a global business from Sydney. Yury tells me that currently 60% of traffic is coming from customers outside of Australia and they hope to raise that to 70% by the end of the year.

But Hotelscombined are more than a me too play. They have taken a different functionality/UI approach than the other players. They are keeping the traffic on their site for longer than the others. The typical meta-search player (if there is such a thing) sends the traffic over to the partner site relatively early in the search - just after the sort order results are displayer. Hotelscombined keeps the traffic for a click or two more. It sends the traffic over after the room type selection has been made.

The result is that they should:
  1. have a larger number of page views per visitor producing interesting monetisation options; and
  2. be sending traffic that is more qualified than the typical player and therefore producing higher conversions for partner site.
The major downside is that the searches take a little bit longer to complete. It also means that their layout looks different to the others. Sometimes difference can be good, but it can often confuse consumers getting used to a new model.

With their history and expertise expect Hotelscombined to be very aggressive and targeted in paid search. Well done Yury on a great product.


Anonymous said...

get photos of naked women as im still waiting for hotels here in Melbourne to display and ive already had to beers waiting .......................

Mike said...

Tim, what do you think about the long-term viability of these metasearch businesses vs. the OTA's and suppliers? Will they continue to gain traction or start to fade? Sidestep and Kayak seem to have done fine, and surely they provide value, though I've read enough about the troubles of the metasearch model that I have to wonder.

Tim Hughes said...

Mike - thanks for comment. Have a look at my post on Pricegrabber Travel. In it I make the following comment about meta-search -.

"At the core it [meta-search] is about traffic arbitrage - buying in traffic at a cheaper rate than advertisers will pay for referrals. There is plenty of room for error in execution but also the potential that there is not a wide enough natural gap between the untargeted search costs of Google and the targeted charges that meta-search needs to levy to survive. I don't believe that- I think the model should and will work but if a big brand and company like PriceGrabber can't do it, we need to stop and think about the market as a whole"

To succeed at arbitrage you have to be very smart and have a fantastic product. Too many people have entered meta-search that many will not be smart enough and fail but does not mean that the market is flawed.