|Stephen Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor|
More than 280 million individuals visit its website every month to read from the 170 million hotel and travel reviews, and post their own.
Like most of the digital disrupters, it simply came from a decision to create something that didn’t exist, that would be valuable to community and that allowed people to share. Today it’s hard to imagine booking a trip without it. It now employs more than 2,300 people, is publicly listed and generated revenues of $950 million last year.
Stephen Kaufer, the brainchild of the firm and CEO, says: “The idea for TripAdvisor came about a year before I started building it, while I was planning a trip to Mexico and struggling to find the information I needed.
“It was easy enough to find glossy marketing brochures and guidebooks published a few years earlier, but what I really wanted was feedback from people who’d recently been there and experienced it. At the time, no such information source existed.”
He adds: “So I started off by speaking to travel agents. Each time I was recommended a destination and hotel, I’d go online and search high and low to find more information and, each time, I’d find a problem – the hotel wasn’t up to par, the destination was unsafe, and so on.
“It took an enormous amount of time to research these places properly and it was through these endless searches that the TripAdvisor concept was born – I wanted a single place where I could get the real scoop on a hotel, not just the marketing blurb from the property or a travel agent.”
Kaufer put the idea on hold for a year and then began to gather together a group of people to create what would become TripAdvisor. In 2000 the site was up and running, albeit slightly different from what it is now.
“TripAdvisor has seen a lot of changes over the last 14 years, but from the get-go we’ve always aimed to be the best source of information for travellers,” says Kaufer.
What TripAdvisor pioneered was the power of network. It has made it easy to share information wherever you are in the world, and information that is verified and voted on as useful by the readers. That produces a multiplier effect – if you find a review useful, you will come back. If you don’t and submit your own review, you are also likely to come back to the site.
“With 100 new contributions posted every minute, the amazing thing about TripAdvisor is that it keeps getting better, more useful and more valuable to our community every minute of every day,” says Kaufer.
It’s a model that has been replicated beyond the travel industry, he says – healthcare being one example.
“Whenever there are products and services, and a considerable amount of choices, consumers want to know if they are making the best decision,” says Kaufer. “Online reviews are a powerful tool illuminating the good, the bad and the ugly of these options to help consumers choose wisely.”
|Digital banking: Lessons|
from the digital disrupters
The firm continues to innovate, adding booking systems to enable readers to click through to book restaurants and tickets – namely through acquisitions of firms such as Viator and LaFourchette. It also recently announced a partnership with Uber that allows travellers to reserve a ride with the taxi service to restaurants, attractions and hotels in more than 40 cities worldwide.
Says Kaufer: “For TripAdvisor, innovation is a continuous process of testing and learning. As a matter of fact, we have a weekly release cycle and we’re constantly iterating on new and existing products and features to see which win with our community of millions of travellers.”
One large takeaway for banks is that firms such as TripAdvisor, which have innovation at their core, are always looking forward and thinking about how to innovate next and improve the customer experience.
Kaufer points to two things on his mind: “There is a lot of opportunity to streamline the booking process for travellers. To that end, we’ve launched our instant-booking feature to remove friction on mobiles and allow travellers to make a hotel reservation through one of our hotel or online travel agency partners without leaving the TripAdvisor experience.
“There’s also room to improve travel planning for travellers on mobile devices. We have launched an offline mode for our app that helps travellers access TripAdvisor content and maps without incurring any expensive roaming or data charges.”
How to disrupt an industry
See how digital companies have reinvented areas such as travel, music and education. What can financial services CEOs learn from new, tech-based companies that have successfully disrupted other industries?