i have revised my post and made it a bit more clear in my explanation. i would love to get your feedbacks on my travel service idea (whether be it an app or web).
The main function is to review an activity/place essentially, kind of like TripAdvisor. But the main goal of it is for users to use the service as a guide to decide where to go/what to do on their travels.
Service Field: Travel
Service Goal: Provide reviews (user experiences) for locations and pertaining activities that the users have visited/done so that other users can plan their travel destinations/activities based on the information they find thru such reviews
Similar Services: TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc
Reason for Service while similar services already out there: Users can instantly see all reviews at once (so that they do not have to read through a long list of paragraphs after paragraphs) and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the location/activity more quickly and thoroughly
Service Description: Users share their experiences of the locations/activities they have done on their local/overseas trips (i.e. eating at a restaurant, visiting historical sites, doing outdoor activities, etc) in the form of descriptive single word/short phrase tags that are personalized reviews, and these tags will be clustered together under similar headings and visualized, then rated (number of likes/dislikes). Other users can view these tags/reviews to gain more comprehensive understanding of what the activity will be like, what kind of experiences they will have, and decide whether or not to include the activity in their journey.For example, if sharing one’s experience at a restaurant (i.e Wakai Thai Restaurant) in Bangkok, Thailand, users can create a subject heading “Chicken Pad Thai” under “Wakai Thai Restaurant” search and tag their descriptivereview words/phrase (like** “chewy noodles”, “mildly spicy with balanced sweet taste”, “hint of lime flavour at the end of taste”, “melts inside the mouth” etc) to the heading “chicken pad thai” and these tags will be visualized (differencees in size/colour/etc). And if other users had similar experiences and** agree with some of the tags, they** can** “like” (or dislike) the tag and the number of “likes” (dislikes) will show as well (or tags will visually get larger in size/change in colour). They can also create other subject headings such as “atmosphere of restaurant” and tag reviews like “authentic traditional interior design”, “vibrant wall colors simulates historical temple” etc. The review tags will not be simple “excellent”, “good”, "tasty", etc. And there will be multiple subject headings (i.e. food, staff, location, atmosphere, etc) that will help users gain more comprehensive understanding of the kind of experiences they will get at the location/activity.
Business Model: If the service grows big, the business model will include services for booking flights/hotels. At a smaller scale, the service will be offering data analysis to the businesses (restaurants, event providers, etc). Also will provide a platform for advertising their product/service.
Design Concept: please see the link
Problems to solve:
1) How to make users to write review tags - My plan is to give incentives for users to write reviews. I plan to "rank" users based on their review tags (numbers, quality, etc) and give them special privileges based on their ranks. Currently, I am thinking of letting these higher "ranked" users to get first notices on newly opened businesses/services (based on their current location) so that they are the first ones to visit/participate before other users get to do so. They will also be able to write reviews in paragraphs that will be posted with their name/profile pic made public and recommend trip destinations. I think these privileges/incentives/recognition will attract users to participate in this service. What do you guys think?
2) How to attract businesses - I think there is incentive for businesses to join as 1) the review tags will provide free data that will help businesses to improve their services/products; 2) their search page will be a free advertising platform. Do you think this will be enough? How should I advertise my service to businesses? Should I go door to door?
3) Guiding users how to review - I have a guideline for reviewing restaurants/food (just the same guidelines that a food critic/columnist should use to write their reviews), but not for others (cultural/historical sites, activities, scenaries, etc). any suggestions? without guidelines, I feel that the reviews will go off tangent.
Future functions - Once this service has enough data (reviews, users, destinations), I plan on adding trip itinerary function so that they can create their travel plans with my service. The main goal is to let users plan their trip with my service without having to spend days searching through internet.
1) Do you guys think this service can compete with already established services (like TripAdvisor) if users actually do use it?
2) Are there other ways to attract users and to write reviews in the initial stage...any suggestions Other than the incentives that i have written above?
3) I am not sure how to promote my service for beta-testing and further down the line. Are there web sites where I can promote my app/web service? How should I attract businesses to join my service?
4) Feedback on design concept?
thank you very much for your feedback!
I had a similar idea for a while now. I think it's a great idea! It would help people if you managed to make it.
On my side, I decided not to pursue it for the moment because of a few reasons (after discussing with various people):
1. Very general & market already taken by Tripadvisor & Yelp
2. Why would people share their experience? Difficult to get the critical mass (you can try to specialize it though)
3. Difficult to globalize
4. Monetization - it's tricky to monetize this type of apps / websites (Tripadvisor's model works because they have a lot of users & even so they had to struggle with negative press on restricting reviews)
The competition is fierce in the travel market. As per my recent study, travel domain has around 5% of all apps available on both Android and iOS platform. Around 61,600 Apps on iTunes store and 64,100 apps on Android market. Except few, domain as the whole is struggling. They failed to deliver exceptional user experience and failed to keep pace with user throughout the trip cycle. I've designed solution to deliver user-centric solutions that drive growth for travel technology startups. I will send you a solution by email if needed.
Now coming back to your questions:
1) Every startup idea has already been created. A seed, planted where other plants exist, has a much better chance of flourishing than a seed planted in a desert. Don't let the fear of another similar product stop you.
2) Travelers love a bargain! According to a recent study on mobile customers’behavior, the main factor influencing users to engage with an online company is whether they can offer incentives such as special deals, discounts, coupons or additional services specifically devised for app users.
3) Have you done your market research? Do you know who your customers are, where they are, their pain points, their hot buttons? If you do, now you can do messaging and positioning on your website, promotional materials, etc.
Reach out via social media and try some things out on folks via social channels. Social Media is a great testing ground.
4) Build it, make it better, and then do it again.
Remember you're awesome!
This is a VERY heavily populated space. The problem with building a content-based application is that you start off with no content. Ideally, you need the network effect to build an application/service that will feed on itself and grow. Your idea is sound, but the subject area domain is way too broad (especially when citing restaurants). Many people have pointed that out. Remember, Amazon didn't start selling everything all at once... they focused on books first, then expanded. You could buy content, but that's prohibitively expensive for a startup. You might want to try picking a very specific, underserved travel need and build your concept on that first. So, start by being the expert in something very specific where you get a devoted set of customers who return time and again for the content and the feedback from other enthusiasts. Since your content is customer generated, you need a way to seed the content. You could pick a specific activity or a city or region. For example, before I go on a hike, I head here:
because I know they keep their information fresh and other hikers comment regularly about the particular trail (tough, long, short, easy, etc.). Maybe focus on personal tours or beer walks? You get the idea.
Gamifying this (rankings, etc.) generally appeals to people who want to be recognized as experts or offer assistance in a particular knowledge area. All travel activities (especially places to eat) is too broad.
Unless motivated properly, otherwise, people generally don't follow guidelines all that well...
Talk to some customers about their travel anxieties and find out what would help them get more out of their travel. The problems you're talking about solving are your problems related to starting the business. What are the potential customers' problems your trying to solve and what about your service would go beyond what sites like Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, Expedia, etc. provide?
You're unlikely to get advertisers if your content and customer population isn't active and engaged. Push yourself to figure out the unmet needs and start off by satisfying that need first, then go on to conquer bigger targets.
I'm building something that has some similar aspects and is with in the travel space among others (MVP now in development) so have done quite a lot of research on this.
Check out travelouder.com who are new and doing something almost identical with their app so will give you some great ideas. Their route to monetization is essentially using affiliate links but to make this profitable relies on very strong traffic levels. Travelstoke is another app worth checking out as is very similar again but more widely used already.
In regards to building traction one of the most cost effective and efficient methods is using social media (facebook, insta, twitter etc) you are targeting a demographic who will avidly use apps to communicate their views so this is the easiest route to them when starting out and not wanting to spend heavy on other forms of marketing.
I worked for several years in a software company in this exact space and have a pretty good familiarity with the practical and technical problems here.
Getting reviews: When you get people to make reviews, you are basically asking them to do work. People don't work for free. You really have to amp up your incentives for people to write reviews. What kind of rewards to people want?
1) Free software. If you give them some amazing software that they need and reviews are part of it then a small percentage will do it.
2) Ego. If they can show off this can work, but they have to have an audience to show off to.
3) Kindness. If we have a desire to be kind to other travellers or to the business we are reviewing, we will do it, but only if we think the audience is big enough. (It works on Yelp because we know people are looking there)
5) Work they're already doing. If you can find people who are already working to create content out of their internal passion, then you could connect to that.
One of the biggest problems you will face is that there are so many travel experiences out there and they don't have any web presence, so you have to create content for them. Many of these people are tech illiterate and getting them online is a problem. Now let's say you successfully crack that problem and have compelling content describing all of these travel experiences. Now you have several hundred thousand travel experiences in your database but no reviews. Without reviews people won't use it, and people won't write reviews unless they are using it.
Incentivizing business: This is really a hard problem. First how do you find them? Then how do you reach them? Free advertising assumes that the advertising is working. You have to prove to them that you have a certain number of qualified leads looking at your app. How are you going to get all of those leads? We had millions of email addresses in our database and that wasn't enough. You can't just tell them, you need to prove it to them somehow. Also most business owners for travel experiences are clueless about software and view it with distrust.
Advertising costs money. You will have to spend a lot of money to provide free advertising. This starts to get into the monetization problem. Of course some businesses will sign up for free advertising, (which will cost you money) but don't expect them to put any work into it until it's proving itself to generate qualified leads. You can burn through millions of dollars of free advertising without moving the needle for these folks.
Technical issues: Don't underestimate how hard it is as a technology problem to tag and organize things by language / concept. It's practically very difficult due to the nature of language. It strikes me that your concept is built on the fact that you'll somehow solve a really hard problem that no one has yet figured out how to solve. It's not a great starting position, unless you already have a proof of concept.
Possible idea: As someone else mentioned, you could specialize. If you can find a small community of people who travel regularly and do some very specific kinds of experiences and like to share with each other how it went then you could make software specifically for that community. The small passionate community would be more likely to drive content creation on their own and it would be easy to incentivize them. You would also benefit from being able to engage with them easily. Once that was proven and you own that niche then you could branch out. Once you own a bunch of niches then you could get acquired by a bigger company or attempt to generalize.
🤔 Each different kind of experience has it's own language for describing itself, so you'd quickly start to see how hard it is to generalize though...
Secondary idea: If you flipped it around and created the world's most amazing travel journalling app first with the end goal of getting data then you could maybe turn that into a data gathering tool. This is working off the idea of incentivizing them with free software as well as connecting with people who are already creating content out of their passion.
Another competitor to consider: AirBnB has local experiences.
My feedback isn't super organized, but I thought I'd weigh in with some thoughts since I have some familiarity with the space.
I would agree with your co-founders. The idea is not compelling on its own- it seems to just seem to be a feature on some existing services. And as you mentioned Tripadvisor and Yelp have too much traction for you to have any ability to draw people with this idea.
But you mentioned this: " a guide to decide where to go/what to do on their travels when they plan one. ". This is a key and complex problem that is not solved today.
Among the number of trips - a significant need to is to figure out what to do over a long weekend in a different city. The special events and places to see, the tickets to buy, the local travel arrangements ( rentals/ hop-on/hop-off buses, trains), the time between places, the restaurants to stop at, etc all have to planned. This is very hard to do for an individual and can take a few days of effort. A single application that can essentially route me through the planning could be powerful. Money can be made by the local bookings and ticket purchases in a third-party model. Good luck!
a travel app should be a like a couchsurfing.org transport app. whom and what will move you from where you are to closer to where you want to be and when. contact Facebook volunteers where you are. ride-share electric bike or bike loan or traffic light beacon. What food / drink are you carrying you'd sell, instantly. I'd invest in this.
I have rewrote my post with a bit more clear explanation and a link to my concept design. I would love to get your feedbacks! Thank you!
@Ju Shim: Then you're attempting to crowdsource the construction of the semantic web. I am highly skeptical. People and subcultures do not all use language the same way. You can't aggregate across this, even with words or phrases.
Guess I have to admit, I'm unclear how this add more benefits than user simply going to TripAdvisor... please advise if you choose...