BOOT: Your site starts of with a time based search rather than destination based search. You need a lot of data to provide consumers with information on every event and activity around the world. Where do you get the data from and how do you plan to get more?
Jared from Joobili: We started off by creating it in house with a team of writers scouring the web, collecting events and writing up. We needed to do this to get us started, however clearly there is a scalability issue with approach. Now we are partnering with local tourism offices to access their content. In this area there is a big advantage is being in
BOOT: Where are you in the evolution of the product?
Jared from Joobili: Very early. We only became visible to Google in the last month as we were so focused on the front end. I am not worried about this as I feel this is pretty common with start ups.
BOOT: A challenge with a discovery and inspiration site is to decide how to balance up front searching and refinement. How much to you request from the consumer before a search is conducted versus how much to you move the consumer information collection to the post search refinement stage. I could not help but notice that in a random search I have just conducted for Nov 11-18, the number one recommended event is the Raben-Chilibi Turnip Festival in Richterswil
Jared from Joobili: It was a big internal debate and am not sure we have found the answer yet. We made the decision to err on the side of simplicity by having only a date search at the beginning. You might seem more filters on the front page in later versions but for launch we erred on simplicity with just time search up-front.
We will need a much need larger content base before pushing the filter angle and profiling. Paraphrasing TripAdvisor’s Marc Charron– when it comes to profiling “rather than figuring out who you are, it is about figuring out when you are”. Completely agree with your EveryYou idea. We are saying to the customer – “tell us when you are and then filter who you are”.
BOOT: Another challenge for a discovery and inspiration site is building customer loyalty. Getting the customer to use the product more than once. How have you through about the challenge of customer retention?
Jared from Joobili: According to Google, the online travel research process is 29 days from inspiration to book. Therefore we are planning to introduce a save search parameter. We know you want to go on holiday on a certain date – so we will let you save that search. We can then provide email notification any time a new event is added to the database. Or eventually build a recommendation engine based on that search parameter.
The next part will be integrating price into the results through partnerships with other sites. One other trend is that price is no longer the sole motivator as discounting becomes permanent. For example we have been working with Wizz air [Low cost carrier in
BOOT: What else in online travel has you excited?
Jared from Joobili: I am so focused on the discovery space that I have not thought about other areas. Everyone is talking mobile and Augmented Reality which is going to going to be great and interesting. But there are fundamental issues with online travel that we have not yet figured out and discovery is one of them
BOOT: How radical do you think the change will be in how we search and book travel online? Are the big four Online Travel Agents facing the same sort of radical change and industry shift that the offline agents faced in the 1990s and if they are not careful the OTAs could be in real danger?
Jarend from Joobili This period of change is not exactly the same [as the 1990s early 2000s were for offline]. The big OTAs will not be the innovators in the industry but have such a controlling part of the pie. Joobili can innovate the discovery process but need the big guys to make the booking. We hope we generate more interest in the discovery stage.
This will be more than just about content – as consumers have to know what you are searching for. All of these sites are throwing in content for SEO benefits but still asking consumer to type in what they want. Is not about the content it is the interface or experience to help the consumer to discover something new.
My take and summary
I enjoyed this chat with Jared. Not least of which because it was good to get a European perspective on the travel discovery market. Joobili is still in seed stage so we need to be a little bit forgiving on the “turnip” result but it highlights that there is a lot of data collection and back end refinement/recommendation work that Joobili needs to do before the product is ready for any dramatic marketing investment. I think Jared knows this. For more on the challenges in starting a content company see my 3 rules for starting a UGC business.