A video from CarCloud outlines the dilemma: consumers used to book by phone or agent, then started doing everything via the web, but now want to use their mobiles.
The Australia-based startup has created what it hopes will be a range of software and hardware so car rental providers can get bookings via mobile devices as well as service customers at airports and other locations.
The company, with just two employees - Chris Seymour and Daniel Jarrett - and self-funded so far, was created in 2011 and released its two products - Kiosk and Mobile - in the second quarter of this year.
The Mobile service is essentially both a mobile web and app system for car rental suppliers, allowing customers to take bookings and other functionality from devices, while the Kiosk system is a touchscreen-based technology which can be deployed at an airport, hotel, travel agency or car rental desk so customers book or organise bookings.
Revenue for the business comes by way of a transaction fee on bookings on the mobile service and the number of users for the kiosk system.
Q&A with CEO Chris Seymour:
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
We’re passionate about improving the “customer experience” in car rental – and through this we measurably increase a supplier’s revenue and promote their brand.
Existing car rental software providers have traditionally targeted back-office and efficiency.
We leverage the cloud to provide rich consumer-facing solutions for a low on-going cost. The consumer-facing landscape is constantly changing so we want to give car rental suppliers some easy answers for that.
With CarCloud Mobile they get a rich mobile site that increases their revenue and also keeps pace with technology, whatever happens with smartphones and tablets next year - and the year after.
CarCloud Kiosk is different to existing car rental kiosks, which are generally large expensive units that do a great job at speeding up check-in at premium locations such as airports.
Our kiosk is a sales and marketing solution that suppliers can deploy to hotels and other partners, promoting their brand and taking instant bookings onsite.
We also provide supporting services to customise solutions as required.
The car rental industry hasn’t really seen offerings like ours before – the solutions we provide have previously been delivered by internal IT teams or external agencies, requiring significant upfront investment and on-going maintenance.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
For car rental companies without a mobile site, we’re the quickest way for them to get up and running with a beautiful solution that will make them and their customers happy.
If you don’t go with us you can either ignore your increasing mobile traffic – or do a custom build, which is expensive, risky and requires constant reinvestment.
For larger car rental companies that already have a mobile site, we give them specific niche mobile sites co-branded with their travel partners, or for their large corporate clients.
Our kiosks are a unique sales and marketing solution that give great brand-exposure while generating revenue. Compared to paying commission to brokers/aggregators, we’re pretty cost-effective.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
I’m a big believer in a partnering approach. Last month we formed a partnership with Thermeon, one of the world’s leading car rental software providers with clients in 51 countries.
Our Mobile and Kiosk solutions compliment their products offerings very well. We’re also starting to get more prospects contacting us as industry awareness grows, though being pure B2B we’re also able to identify and target prospects directly.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
We have signed client contracts and a healthy funnel so I believe the demand is there. Our focus will remain on bringing consumer-facing car rental products to market.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
I spent a number of years delivering custom solutions in the consumer-facing space - across touchscreens, mobile digital signage, web, etc.
While people are really excited about the opportunities, the upfront investment required makes it inaccessible for many businesses.
I finally came to the understanding that businesses need product vendors that are prepared to wear the cost of this innovation – so that they can instead focus on their core business, which is where they should be innovating.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Mobile traffic is growing quickly – and in many ways travel is the poster-child for mobile. There’s a lot that’s going to happen in this space over the next few years that will have a big impact on car rental suppliers.
They used to process most of their bookings over the phone – now it’s over the web and in a few years, mobile will become the dominant channel.
We want to give car rental suppliers the best set of tools to continue reaching their customers, whatever happens with technology.
Two neat and valuable services from CarCloud here, presumably with an eye on expanding into other areas of software and hardware in the future.
That the company has come this far with just two full-timers ("other resources are used as required") show either how focused the company is on early goals or how easy it is to develop the products.
The former illustrates a sound business, but the latter potentially shows where the company will face its biggest challenges: competition from those doing exactly the same.
The founders admit internal IT teams or other development agencies will also be geared up to provide mobile platforms and applications, so perhaps the kiosk and hardware element of the business will be where it gets greater traction.
Certainly a few early wins will go some way to validating the products around the car rental sector, a market which some estimate has a combined annual revenue of $40 billion.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.