What kind of growth has your site witnessed in the last couple of years?
With our newly launched trip planner, and some very exciting apps (On the Way!, Indian rail & trains), we are seeing robust growth. We are growing our user-base by over 15 per cent month-on-month currently. Today, we get nearly 1.5 million unique visitors per month across our website and mobile touch-points. ixigo.com has the most rich and in-depth data on India, today, covering over 65,000 places to visit with great content on more than 29,000 restaurants, 14,000+ hotels, 16,000+ activities and lot of useful tips from travellers.
Are you targeting any particular segment of travellers?
Anyone in India who plans to travel and has access to the internet over a computer or a smartphone is a target consumer. In that sense, we are not limited to any particular segment. Using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and intelligent search capabilities, we recognise all sorts of travel queries and try to provide the most relevant and useful information to the traveller in a user-friendly form factor. For those travellers who haven’t planned yet, or need inspiration, we have ideas for weekend getaways, itineraries, photos, traveller experiences and more. We also have a mobile friendly website with unique features like ‘Near me’ which, once clicked, provides useful information on stay, eat and see options based on the user’s current location.
How are you creating awareness regarding the advantages of searching through a meta search website as many potential travellers are not aware of the concept?
ixigo.com was the pioneer in bringing the travel meta-search concept to India in 2007. We may not be as well-known as the online travel agencies but we take pride in the quality of users that we have built over time and our advertisers will vouch for it too. Our brand awareness has been created largely by earlyvangelists – early adopters who adopt our product for its efficacy and ease-of-use and become evangelists for it, driving word-of-mouth growth. We do some tactical online promotions and have some great partnerships for faster adoption and wider reach. Our mobile apps are driving much of our brand awareness too; with the growth and distribution reach they are capable of attaining. We have also created an extremely strong engagement with users on our social media platforms such as Facebook (4,00,000+ fans), Twitter (2700+ followers) and Pinterest (750+ followers) and have also used innovative content marketing pieces to educate users and inspire them to travel.
Have you seen any interesting trends – in terms of consumer profile/ preferences?
In terms of destinations, we see an increasing trend for offbeat experiences at lesser known destinations, to escape the crowd. People now want to travel to lesser known places than the hugely popular ones. For instance, people are looking at Chail, Shogi, Ranikhet in the north, Wayanad in Kerala and Tawang and Shillong towards the Northeast. Hence the need for information on these lesser known destinations has been growing as travellers want to go informed and planned so that they do not miss out on anything. With increased personal disposable income, international destinations are also benefitting. Also, theme-based travel is picking up. People are looking at adventure trips, luxury holidays, water sports, wildlife sanctuaries and spa and meditation retreats as we continuously observe, from the kind of searches travellers do on ixigo.com.
Please give some information about your technology platform. What has been your focus on new implementation/ upgradation?
‘Trip Planner’ is a first-of-its-kind product that provides extensive, relevant information on over 100 destinations and 64,000 places to visit across India. With an attractive and easy to navigate design and content curated by the in-house team, the tool is aimed at helping travellers make informed decisions about where to travel, what to see, and how to get there, with just a few mouse clicks. The product’s USP lies in its ability to address user queries in natural language. It uses the search bar paradigm to allow users to type in their travel queries in simple conversational style, such as “where can I find street food in Delhi”, “beaches in Goa” or “Mumbai to Delhi flight tomorrow” and provides relevant results with comprehensive information. For those who don’t have a destination or specific holiday plans in mind, the website intelligently picks up the user’s location and provides “Weekend getaway” options along with “Trending Destinations” to choose from. To further enhance the experience of our consumers and drive higher engagement, we have also developed three interactive touch-points; “Add a Photo”, “Ratings” & “Questions & Answers”, which allow users to share their experiences and travel stories with other travellers. Users can simply login using their Facebook account and share their experiences and feedback through these tools. The “Ask a Question” tool allows users to ask very specific travel questions from an expert panel of travellers (panel of ardent travellers/travel bloggers).
How are you leveraging the mobile space?
ixigo.com’s website is mobile-adaptive, so it recognises and delivers an optimised website experience for every type of smartphone or feature phone. Moreover, the mobile website has a unique feature called ‘Near me’ which is a location based service that identifies a user’s current location and indicates places to stay, eat and see in the vicinity. For specific use-cases, we also have three very useful mobile travel apps currently available only on the Google Play Store for Android phones: On the Way! A useful companion for Indian road trips with reliable information on over 300,000 useful places to stop along major routes, highways and expressways; ingoa app is a location and time based app that helps users explore Goa; Indian Rail and trains is a fast and useful train app. The app has seen over two lakh downloads within just two months of its launch.
Do you foresee any new trends?
We believe semantic search technology has the power to change the way travel knowledge is searched and consumed online and we already see that happening with our Trip Planner and more horizontal search engines like Google, Bing, etc. It is all about improving the accuracy of results by intelligently deciphering what people are actually looking for.
We have also seen a sharp growth in ‘event based’ travel. People have started travelling extensively for music or dance concerts or fests, destination weddings, biking or backpacking group getaways, etc. Finally, we see the emergence of micro-communities or groups of enthusiasts for a common passion or cause, collecting and organising themselves on social media, and planning trips together. Harley owners, food enthusiasts, bikers, scuba divers – we expect these communities to disrupt the way travel is packaged and marketed.