As Netflix and others have realised, the most accurate way of predicting how people will behave in the future is by looking at the way they behaved in the past.
In the case of the streaming giant, AI-powered segmentation of content and users has produced a hugely effective recommendation system that keeps viewers hooked. You liked ‘Black Mirror’? You’ll probably like ‘Stranger Things’ too. While the algorithm may be complex, the end-result is simple, creating a user experience that is comfortable and familiar, where decision-making is easy.
For brands in the travel sector, this is an eye-opening insight. Airlines, hospitality brands, and DMOs (destination marketing organizations) are all competing in a sector that is high on options, low on commitment. Even the holy grail of a booking is often just a once-off as the customer continues on their journey.
Maintaining travel relationships
Dublin-based travel tech specialists LikeWhere has found a way not only to inspire bookings, but to add value and maintain a relationship throughout the entire life cycle of the travel experience.
They do this by connecting a few basic dots, Netflix-style, that allows customers to discover and plot their own personal best version of a particular destination. You liked Shoreditch in London? You’ll probably like Williamsburg in New York too – here’s why.
“Most brands just focus on the core booking,” says founder and CEO of LikeWhere, Simon Dempsey. “They work their audience until they’ve got that booking, whether it’s flights or a hotel room, and then a lot of them stop there. Meanwhile, the customer moves on, straight into the arms of powerful third parties who are only too happy to take over the relationship.
“We help brands to engage for longer and we facilitate a more personal relationship that extends beyond the booking, right up to the point where the customer gets to the destination,” he says. “Companies that work with us can utilize their audience for longer and grab a piece of the pie that Google are keen to have. Ultimately, it’s a more holistic offering over the whole cycle.”
The secret to all this is a simple but clever fusion of mobile technology and human storytelling. LikeWhere integrates story-based content within a brand’s own digital domain, allowing them to engage with customers beyond the ‘lobby’ and into the destination where they’re spending their money.
Back-end recommendations system
“The product is a back-end recommendations system that I describe as bringing together the best of tech and the best of human communities,” says Simon Dempsey. “The technology does all the analysis of cities, breaks them down into micro areas, and defines how a district or neighbourhood feels in human sensory terms or meta-data.
“In tandem with the data, we also have a publishing stack with a network of about 600 content creators,” he says. “We give them the location data and ask them to turn it into something meaningful, something attractive, based on the 40 or 50 different areas that we think make up the city. We then curate the words and the images and plug it all into the brand’s own digital domain.
“Take [global hospitality giant] Hilton as an example of one of our clients,” says Dempsey. “While they are working on a direct booking, we can look and say ‘OK we know who this person is, we know their home city, we know the destination’ so we just plug in our feature which makes the most relevant recommendations and provides them with short-form content stories that aligns with those interests.
Generating brand revenue
“Then peppered throughout the entire content experience are bookable components such as tourism experiences – again aligned with the interests of the person – and content sponsorships from other third parties who aren’t in conflict with the primary brand,” he says. “And all of these offers generate revenue for the brand in the destination.”
The LikeWhere feature is completely turnkey and baked into the brand’s own digital infrastructure. In addition to Hilton, the technology has been embraced by the likes of Airbus, Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines.
“We mainly partner with three types of clients: hospitality brands, airlines and DMOs,” says Simon Dempsey. “We work really well with DMOs because they’re marketing people like ourselves, they have a clear understanding of the power of neighbourhoods and the way that neighbourhoods can help somebody see a clear reflection of their travel interests.
“We did an event in Orlando earlier this year that was a real eye-opener for us,” he says. “We spoke to more than 300 DMOs from the US alone, the likes of Visit Atlanta and Discover Miami, and they all instinctively got what the product is about, so the potential there is huge. That’s going to be a big focus for us this year.
“In addition to the US market, we are also focusing on building the momentum we have in the UK, France and elsewhere in Europe,” he adds.
LikeWhere: an IATA innovation finalist
Even though the company is less than five years old, LikeWhere already has a stellar track record. The firm was identified by Enterprise Ireland (the national trade and innovation agency) as a high-potential start-up, winning a number of local enterprise awards before finishing third at the 2015 IATA Passenger Innovation Awards.
LikeWhere then took part in an international collaboration between Hilton and [promotional agency] London & Partners to find the best new technology serving the hospitality sector; the Irish company made the final pitch and won the coveted Hilton Account.
Growth has been “steady”, according to CEO Dempsey – whose background is in multimedia design and content – with innovation a constant factor as the team refines the product.
“Innovation is all we are, it’s our life blood,” he says. “As we get bigger, we want to retain that heart of improvement to keep servicing customers. We’re always looking at doing the tiny things slightly better or slightly faster and that’s the culture we want to protect as we go out into the world.
“Competitor-wise, our advantage is probably that we’re strong on both tech and content,” says Dempsey. “Also, there’s nothing else out there that has really sought to define specific areas or neighbourhoods within cities. We’ve found a niche in telling micro-stories within cities.”