ixigo.com, a travel planning and search website, launches its first ad film on TV. A quick look at the ad, the brand and the category it operates in.
Travel planning and search website, ixigo.com, has scaled up its operations by launching its first mass media campaign in the hope of adding a new layer to people's pre-travel plans - that of pausing to assess one's plan and compare all available travel options, before actually booking any tickets or accommodation.
Rajesh Aggarwal, founder and managing partner, From Here On Communications, says about the campaign, "In the crowded space of travel advertising, our cue was simple -- demonstrate the peril of 'travelling without knowing' in a quirky manner to create a sticky visual metaphor for the brand." The campaign, though primarily TV-led, also includes other relevant consumer touch-points such as 'digital OOH screens', 'digital walls' and campaign motifs at airports; social media (videos and contests); and radio (contests and trivia-based activities).
Over the past five to six years the company has grown organically and has focused on aspects such as consumer behaviour research, and testing and validation of the basic product. In the words of Saurabh Srivastava, vice-president, marketing and product strategy, ixigo.com, "We are 'product ready' and want to go mass and get people to sample the site." The brand has been using social media to reach out to frequent travellers but has never used any mass media properties such as TV or print so far.
So, what did all these years of research show? ixigo's Srivastava responds, "Over the last few years we've taken customer development on the product front very seriously. Our entire hypothesis was -- people love to travel across the world but a lot of them do not do so, often because of the fear of the unknown. So we reasoned that people will travel more if there was a product that gives them information that enables them to travel more. Our product is like a partner or buddy for their travel needs."
And that's not all. ixigo's consumer research also threw up some interesting pre-travel habits shared by most Indians. "We've seen -- through our research with our users as well as non-users -- that typically, people visit about 15-20 sites to complete the pre-travel information gathering and fulfilment process. This includes visiting general sites about the travel destination of interest," Srivastava says.
Basically, once the need for information about the place to-be-visited is satiated, comes the fulfilment part, which is a two-step process. This stage typically entails visiting 8-12 websites before a decision about the actual travel is made. At this stage, two questions dominate: 'How to go there?' (queries about different modes of transport) and 'Where to stay once I arrive there?' (hotel related queries). "Our research validates this broad process as 'typical traveller behaviour'," says a confident Srivastava.
At what stage does a site like ixigo.com, that doesn't offer any actual booking procedures, enter the chain of events? Ideally, after the user has zeroed in on a destination and before he/she has made any bookings. "Our role kicks in when one has decided on the destination at least. That's when comparison of prices and options begins," he says, adding, "We do not book anything on our site but we do help you close the loop through our partners." So while traffic to ixigo.com comes through search engines, users who directly type in the URL and social media references, the website, in turn, diverts traffic to its front end partners including OTAs (Online Travel Agencies like MakeMyTrip.com), and leading airline and hotel brands.
Another area where products like ixigo kick in is when someone wants to get inspired to travel. "Many times, people want to travel but just don't know where to go next. So they log onto the net actually looking for inspiration," he says, citing this as the reason ixigo.com provides vignettes about travel destinations that are trending, off-beat destinations and weekend getaways.
Low awareness, high demand
While this does shed some light on consumer trends, one question still lurks. How many people in this market actually stop to search and compare options before making travel-related bookings? In fact, do people even know that 'online travel planning and search' is a product category in itself - one that is different from OTAs? "You've hit the nail on the head," says Srivastava, "One of our biggest reasons for 'going to market' through this campaign is to educate consumers and inform them about what we are."
Interestingly, though Srivastava admits that "the online travel search category is almost non-existent in the market today" he has reason to be hopeful. Even though the need gap is not a clearly articulated one, the company's research figures indicate significant demand for sites like ixigo. The brand's research on global, travel-related web searches shows that information-based searches outnumber pure price comparison-related searches by 7X to 10X. "The universe of people searching for information about places, restaurants and things to do at a particular destination, is seven to ten times larger than the universe of people looking for price, deals and booking-related information," Srivastava explains.
"In India, meta-search engines (web pages that aggregate and curate information from other sites) are fairly new as a concept, so typically, a user goes through six to seven sites to just compare travel prices -- that's the pain point we're targeting," he states.
The TG for ixigo.com, afaqs! learns, is broadly anyone who loves to travel. More specifically, the TG comprises people between 18 and 45 years of age, who are online savvy (that is, those who log on to the net frequently for their needs/purchases), and have a smartphone (as that's where the brand's apps become useful.
OTAs as competition?
Nowadays, OTAs offer not just bookings but travel packages as well. Isn't that a threat to sites like ixigo? "OTAs tend to offer packages to common destinations like Shimla, Manali or Coorg, not offbeat ones like, say, Cherrapunji or Coonoor. Also, we're increasingly seeing a trend wherein people are moving away from group packages and prefer making their own travel packages. Many of the pre-set travel packages are very time-bound (the travellers have to wake up/board a bus at a certain time) so people prefer making their own plans," he answers.
How long before travel search offerings like these become as popular as OTAs in India? Srivastava believes the gestation period for this product category will be much shorter than what it was for OTAs because the initial part of warming up to digital as a medium for travel-related research, planning and transactions has already taken place in this market.
In general, the belief is that OTAs, other travel-search websites (like Wego.com) and portals like Tripadvisor.com that are skewed towards travellers' accommodation plans, can be both, "competition or partners to us."
Established by Aloke Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar in 2006, ixigo.com is an investee company of SAIF Partners and MakeMyTrip Limited. ixigo receives over 90 per cent of its traffic from people who are either in India or from Indians outside the country who're coming to India.