TripAdvisor is betting big on an area many a travel brand has set out - and failed - to conquer: social media.
At a press event in New York yesterday, TripAdvisor co-founder and CEO Steve Kaufer unveiled “the new TripAdvisor” - a revamp of the platform that allows users to connect with fellow travelers as well as brands, publishers and influencers to share content and receive personalized recommendations.
The goal of the new site is to bring TripAdvisor from “the world’s largest travel site to the world’s most personalized travel community,” Kaufer says.
“Going forward, the new TripAdvisor is a site where you can discover, research and book even better and make it even more personalized for you.”
The key to the social component - historically a tough nut to crack for any travel company, TripAdvisor included (see Trip Friends, which dissolved in 2016) - is surfacing content to users when they need it, or, as TripAdvisor’s Jeff Chow says, in “relevant time.”
“We’re explicitly not emphasizing real time,” says the vice president of product, consumer experience. “We’re just making sure [content] is surfaced when users need it.”
“That’s the big key for this,” he continues. “The problem we’re trying to solve is tying the inspiration of when [content is created] closer to when the user actually needs it - that might be nine months later or six months later - and also make it actionable.”
How it works
On the new site - which is currently in beta with plans to launch by the end of the year - TripAdvisor members see a personalized feed, similar to Facebook’s, where recommendations and content from friends, brands, publishers and influencers live. (National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler and The Points Guy are among the partners they can follow.)
We’re making inspiration actionable.
Jeff Chow - TripAdvisor
Users can refine the content - including photos, videos and links to articles - by destination, so only recommendations about Rome, for example, appear in their feed.
As they browse content, users have the option to save recommendations to revisit in the future, or to immediately book through the platform.
Since the content is determined by relevancy - and not in real time - any recommendation dating back months or even years is fair game to appear in the feed. The feed, which TripAdvisor bills as the world’s first “travel feed,” can also alert travelers when they’re nearby a recommendation they’ve saved, allowing them to book on the go.
“We’re making inspiration actionable,” Chow says. “Not only are you being inspired, but you can figure out how to act. Every single [recommendation] is integrated into a business page. ... No other place can you get excited by an idea and also fulfill that promise.”
TripAdvisor has also introduced a new “Trips” feature, which lets users create travel guides or wish lists they can keep public or private.
Chow calls the Trips aspect “a little lighter-weight” and something any traveler can use for something as simple as listing their favorite local restaurants. “It’s a little bit more like curation than it is authorship,” he says.
Building the new TripAdvisor
Chow says the idea for the new site was generated in TripAdvisor’s “Core Experience” business unit. “Our group sets out to understand how we connect the dots to all the great things TripAdvisor does - hotels, rentals, flights, restaurants, attractions,” he says. “What are the major, big existential traveler problems that we’re trying to solve, and how do we go about solving that?”
In this case, user research revealed TripAdvisor users - particularly digital native users - were expecting far more value back than the effort they were willing to put in.
“We would see that if they had to do any level of work, they’d bounce,” Chow says. Users liked TripAdvisor and its reviews, but they were still turning to friends and others for trusted information. They were also drawn to inspirational content, but had a difficult time finding that content when they needed it.
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“One of our user research participants said: ‘Research shouldn’t mean re-search,’” Chow says. “That’s really the seed of the idea.”
Importantly, though the new site includes updated features, Chow says TripAdvisor is not expecting user behavior to change. “Users are already on our platform, posting great content, posting photos, reviews. We’re just making sure it’s surfaced when they need it.”
Similar to other platforms, he says, there are different levels of user engagement, and the updated TripAdvisor caters to everyone from passionate content creators to those simply consuming content.
Although TripAdvisor’s last attempt to integrate Facebook ultimately failed (“Timing is everything,” Chow says of Trip Friends), there is “100%” a possibility of Facebook and Instagram integration in the future.
For the brands, publishers and influencer partners on the site, Chow says “there’s a very clean value exchange.” It’s free for them to use the platform, and it gives them access to high-intent audiences and drives brand awareness.
Currently, there are more than 500 partners on the beta site, and Kaufer expects that number to grow to the “tens of thousands.”
TripAdvisor-owned brands, including Viator, SmarterTravel and Oyster, will also function as content creators on the new site.
See below for a video preview of the new TripAdvisor.
Coming soon: The all-new TripAdvisor
REGISTER NOW! TripAdvisor, Expedia Group, Booking Holdings and others speak at The Phocuswright Conference 2018