Jan 31, 2012

Web 2.0 strategies OR is there life out of Google part 2

Long time ago I talked about web2.0 strategies for tourism companies and destinations. Today is a good day to end up what I left unfinished! As you remember, in this post I explained the importance to know and manage SEO and SEM. Those techniques are especially important when you start a business (or when you want to promote something new) but as you get the trust of your customers, as you learn what is important to them and consequently organize your processes to customize your services  you have to begin to combine web1.0 techniques with web2.0  ones.
One of Web 2.0 techniques is Your Own Butterfly Strategy (already explained in above link part 1), another one is the idea of OUR Enterprise.
Sometimes, I refer web 1.0 strategies as the yelling ones, basically because YOU try to get the attention of potential customers making noise (appearing on search engines, in e-mail or social networking sites ads…). On the other hand, I refer to web 2.0 strategies as the whispering ones, because are YOUR customers who quietly promote your business. How is possible that my customers promote MY business? Because is not YOUR business any more (unless you want to be out of web 2.0 era) is OUR business. 
This is the idea of OUR enterprise that I promise to develop in part 1 post.
All companies are focus on getting
    A steady customer base
    More frequent purchase cycles
    Higher profit margins
    A group of advocates who voluntarily market the firm
    A sense of community among members
Especially for the last two YOU need YOUR customers do things for YOUR company.
Why our customers will do something for us? Wrong question is not YOUR anymore is OUR.
They will do things as long is not “work”. People like doing things BUT NOT WORKING!!!!
Work is doing what others want, in the way that they want. Do things is do whatever you want, as you want and because you get auto realization and respect from the community. Welcome to the world of PRO-AM.
We as a Touristologist must excel in management of Virtual communities for fun or for work.
We have to learn how to gently pass from MY company where MY organization fix the rules and dictate sentence to OUR company where our customer help us to set the rules and decide the outcome!
How can you boost/power up whispering among your customers? You have to build up a sense of community and use or create the space and tools that make a community flourish.
There are basically two ways to achieve that. You can use Social Networking Site (SnS) as a member of your chain of value OR you can create your own SnS.
As you know any website, portal, blog… (if it wants to be successful)  has to provide the 3 C’s (content, commerce and community). Community it’s the start in this post.
The first approach is to use a SnS as a member of your chain of value. It’s very important to remember that you can define a generic chain of value, where the SnS will be also generic (facebook, Twitter…) BUT if your website is specialized you have to use and specialize one. For instance, for businesswomen battling for combine a successful career and a wonderful family you can use workitmom (thanks Maria for the information!!!).
You can make special offers inside facebook. In this way you will provide commerce to one of the leaders in social networking sites. You can also put facebook application inside your web adding community to your content and commerce.
I know that all of you know how to create a fan pages in Facebook but …
and, obviously, you know how to create different landing pages focus on different segments but…

and, I’m sure that you know plenty of hotels with good ideas about this topic but.. here
Remember, you can use Social Networking Site (SnS) as a member of your chain of value OR you can create your own SnS.
Ok! The first approach Use Social Networking Site (SnS) as a member of your chain of value it’s the flavor of the month is fancy, is cool and if-you-don’t-do-that-you-are-outdated! BUT to me the second approach, when you try to create and manage your own community inside your website, it’s business, at least so interesting as the first and the-one-you-have-to-develop-to-improve-your-bottom-line!
You can see this as a case in point or the initiative of starwood hotels here.
You can even sharp up this second approach when you create a portal for the chain of value and you create the 3C’s  (we talked about that here). 

Software selection, its configuration and first steps for this portal’s chain of value will the matter of another post!
Paraphrasing Alan Kay: People (Travel companies ) who are really serious about social media should make their own communities.
I love communities but overall I love the community I’m more proud of…
Touristologists community!

Jan 24, 2012

Welcome to the long-tail and pro-am era! Are you ready to compete in it?

In the last years more and more companies are thinking about how to use social networking sites (SnS in short) to improve their operations and processes. To me is difficult to highlight a great application. Most of them use a combination of you are here, you want to be (or you were) there, I suggest these services for you, and these friends can recommend them. So a combination of location base services (LBS) and user generated content (UGC) customizing the 3 C’s (content, commerce and community) BUT… not provoking a travel.
As you know to me there are several reasons to travel:
For starters:
1) Proximity
2) The possibility to make business (sometimes called Marco Polo’s tourism)
3) Something interesting in the destination
4) Something cheap
5)  But, by far, the most important one is… a Touristologist doing his job! Locking for a segment, discovering or provoking a necessity, customizing the offer and using or creating a chain of value.
Recently, Germanwings - Click here introduce a new application in Facebook. It’s a little bit different from the rest and I see the beginning of something really interesting.
-“Jordi! Can you stop seeing what can be instead of what it is now?” NO! I can’t! Overall, I’m a teacher and that means that I have to see my students as what they can be (real Touristologist, the future of Touristology!)  I don’t see the lack of…. or little signs of bright in… I only see weakness to overcome and strong points to enhance!
I will do the same with this Germawings application! To make a long story short this app basically helps you to find the lowest Germanwings airfares to visit your Facebook friends around Europe. You say I’m here and automatically you get the available flights and the friends that you can see if you choose it.
To begin to play, you can go to Facebook and install the app…

Or… keep reading this post!
When you open the application, a form will ask… Where are you? You say Barcelona/Munich /London…
 And they show the available flights to visit your friends!!!
See the picture…

As you can see you can reorganize the results on the spot (I love AJAX!!!) based upon:
A) Name (alphabetical order of your friends’ names) B) Price of the flight C) Distance to your friends.
Which is the potential I’m talking about?
One step more in the long tail / pro-am approach to create, communicate and commercialize tourism products. I mean, 20 years ago if you have a hobby or special interest you have to follow it in your region and from time to time go to other places. For instance, is you like to practice Kung Jung Mu Sul (an ancient martial art from Korea) you will practice your hobby in a nearby gym and you’ll share your experiences with people near you… Not anymore! Nowadays you have the opportunity to share your interest with the entire world. Doing so it’s just a matter of time that one of the members of the group proposes a meeting.
Tourism companies can use the power of long tail to find specific niches, which in an international market soon won’t be niches anymore. Then using the best pro-am (the most connected, the influencers, the human-bridge between communities, the ones surrounded by people like themselves…) they will have the opportunity to offer their services. Even better, to let this pro-am to create, communicate and commercialize this services by oneself!
Can we combine the ideas described in this  post with  the idea/app of Germanwings? What do you think?
Let’s consider a SnS focus on people around the world who like to play a game in their Smartphone and they like to share tricks and secrets in order to succeed in it. In this SnS there are also programmers learning which are the most desirable features in this game. We also have Business Angels willing to invest his money if they believe that enough players and good programmers can build something profitable. There are also specialized media which talk about this kind of games. Nothing related to Tourism so far, does it? Not related to Tourism? Let’s review the situation… People from around the world with complementary needs able to create synergies, sharing their passion, their time. It’s just a matter of time, somebody will say “What about if we meet together” Not related to tourism? You must be kidding me!!!
A kind of app similar to the one develop for Germanwings could provide the information for the organization of this meeting, the best place to gather together, the possibility of an international route, the ancillary products related both to the travel and to the motivation for the travel…
For instance, you can combine the Germanwings application with something similar to the app developed for Hotels.com click here that I introduced to you earlier on - click here and I explained in detail later on – click here click here  .
Using hotels.com applications (Hotels WithMe) groups can collaboratively choose a hotel without having to sit in front of the same computer together. They are taking the most of the participation of the customers in the servuction process. Not only in the creation of a product but also in its communication and commercialization.

In this way you get an app more suited for the key components of web2.0 I mean…
Where do you meet your friends? Where do you buy your books/music/films? Where do you store your pictures? … Do you really feel a barrier between off and on-line?
2) YOU. Your opinion (UGC) is far more important for other users that the bias opinion of a member of a company, party, union…
3) Syndication. You can get and send 3C from and to internet.
We can even forecast a Cambrian explosion in Touristology… From search plus People Like Me (PLM) recommendations TO the full process of creation, communication and commercialization of tourism products.
With the development, improvement and assembling of this kind of applications,  customers will be able to create, communicate and commercialize tourism services from their favorite site; using their favorite device (Smartphone, tablet, laptop, interactive television..); getting and sending all the 3C’s from any place in the internet.
Wow! There are a lot of things to do!!!!
Believe me this is only the beginning… Tourism, Touristology and Touristologists are entering in a new era! Are you ready to compete in it?
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”  Napoleon Hill
Can you conceive the Business Model and the Technological Scheme?
Can you believe in your knowledge, your attitude, your contacts?

Jan 17, 2012

We have to climb our own mountain. There is always a better view from the top!

This week, twenty years ago… I taught my first class in Touristology. I soon realize that my students in their last year knew more about tourism than myself. I put all my energy and effort to change that! I learn from my students (I still do!), I learn from other teachers, I become a regular in the library, I talk with any professional related with Tourism… The more I learn the more I wanted to become a Touristologist! I knew that the best way to learn something is to teach it. So, I got voluntary to teach any subject: Financial Maths, Business Administration, Statistics, Technology, Economy, Entrepreneurship… anything BUT with always ending up    “TO TOURISM”. Some people make fun of me and call me the firefighter teacher (I gently deny sharing the nickname that I and other Touristologists apply to it/him/her). Anyway, after two years I was absolutely in love with Touristology. When I decided to do my PhD. I chose as a topic … Touristology, what else!!!
Miss Montserrat Caballe recently has celebrated her 50th anniversary as an Opera singer. So, I have a long road ahead! 

In order to be in the fight at least other 30 years this is the present that I asked to the Three Wizard Kings.
“Gods, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Serenity, Courage and Wisdom… those are real gifts! I hope they help me to:
1) Focus on do great things, as Steve Jobs said “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
2) Surrounded myself with young people hungry of doing these great things. Then create a startup with them using both a business model and a technological scheme. We will need people working with the first (business model) here My Touristologists are a fast, lean killing machine perfectly suited for this job! What about the second (technological scheme)? Any of My Touristologists is able to communicate with a technician; many of them are able to create the basic technological skeleton BUT we need a team of people able to focus on the Web-Engineering side, the kind of people more happier talking binary code than English, not so excited when two human begins or organizations make a deal but when the data base (SQL or NoSQL) finally is dealing with the server, the laptop or the Smartphone. If you are one of these people, or if you know them… Maybe we can do big things together!!!
3) Pay minimum attention to mediocrity and envious people. Yes, you have to deal with them BUT never pay extra attention. All your mind, energy, generosity… are for the great things and for the people that help you to achieve them.
We have to climb our own mountain. There is always a better view from the top!
                            THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!!

Jan 10, 2012

Time flies but vision persist OR Don’t mark down the price add value instead!

12 years ago a young Touristologist was reading his Phd thesis… in a nutshell, he predicted that in the future tourists will go to internet basically for two reasons:
1) Searching for the best price
2) Searching for the most trusted and personalized information, commerce and community.
At that time, price was the main reason to shift from the real to the virtual world, nowadays more and more tourist and companies are looking for the second trend. Tourists go to internet to search for content, to connect to other people, to play… but overall they want to do this in a customized way, taking into consideration both objective reasons (price, distance to city center or the beach…) and subjective reasons (personal taste, preferences, deals…).
A few years later our Touristologist represented this idea with something like this…

I can prove it! The proof is in Catalan (Catalonia beautiful language) but maybe you want to see the face and movements of a Touristologist!

As you see in the price approach appears Kayak. At that time the idea of people going to internet looking for content and commerce tailor made and community with similar or complementary taste and necessities wasn’t the flavour of the month. It was before web2.0 era!
At the end of the last year appeared an example of the second trend: Superfly and when far long time ago, young but still Touristologist, read about it, he got a flashback!
STORY OF SUPERFLY…. Superfly.com is a new startup which main competitor is kayak, both use the same engine (ITA/Google platform) to provide basic information. Kayak is focus on offering the best price, that’s all. Superfly, on the other hand, pretends to show all the relevant 3 C’s (Content, Commerce, Community) both objective and subjective. Superfly adds more layers of value. It’s like augmented reality for mobile .
At this moment, Superfly is focus on flights but during this year they pretend to extend to hotels and rent a car companies.
Superfly is to me a good example of a Business Model and Technological Scheme dealing with Big Data and attempting to control /manage all the 3 C’s in a chain of value in order to add layers of value to its customers.
So far, they only provide one layer. You must provide information about your loyalty programs and then when you search for a flight you will get prices and the effect in your loyalty program. See the example:

If you decide to book you are redirected to www.expedia.com where you can finish your reservation process.
I’m sure that you can add more and more layers. Maybe you can get an idea from the following graphic…

To me this is not a big leap into the second approach, but it’s definitely a paradigm shift in the evolution of Data Aggregators. From focus on price to focus on add value.
Mark down the price is a race to the hell of mediocrity, unless you’re a low cost enterprise as Ryanair or Tune Hotels. Add value is a stairway to heaven where every step means happier customers willing to buy your service more often and ready to recommend it to his friends.
In order to achieve that you need to know your customer, be ready to get and send in a customized way all the things that they need (Content, Commerce, Community).
Do you really think that you can do that without knowing web 2.0’s business models and technological schemes? Well keep dreaming Alice in the wonderland!!!  As Thomas Foxwell Buxton said “With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable” Be sure don’t skip the perseverance part!!!
The business model can be something similar to this:
1) Who are your customers and which necessities they have?
In this example we have at least two customers. The tourist, willing to have the 3 C’s  in a customized way at his finger tips. Also the suppliers of tourism services battling to get the trust of the customer.
2) Which necessities you fulfill and in which way?
Tourist: Providing them customized content, commerce and community.
Suppliers: Helping them to offer a better service to their customers, helping to get new ones, but also putting themselves between them and their customers trying to shift THEIR customer to MINE, of course they will highlight the first and they will try to hide the second!!!
3) Can you earn a decent profit? Revenues minus cost or even better investment / revenues/profit = Bermuda Triangle


You also have to describe the technological Scheme both for transactional data and for big data.
For the first one you can use the usual three layers: Visual (HTML/CSS/JS) Business Logic (Servlet/JSP; PHP; ASP…) Data (Relational Data Base Management System) and then expand it to n-layers using webservices and XML.
For the second one you have to take complex and unstructured data (LBS, SNS, UGC…) rely on the flexibility of JSON, save it in a not only SQL Data Base and use NPL to transform information into knowledge. Phew! Obviously, this will be the matter of other post!!!
But first we have to finish the story we began with…from the beginning of his task writing his doctoral thesis our young Touristologist saw clearly that if he wanted to understand, to teach, to give consultancy, to set up his own enterprise… He had to master business models and technological schemes both internet oriented. He knows was a difficult task ahead but he didn’t want to follow the easy path; he wanted to follow the right one.
OK, stop pretending that I’m writing the story of someone else… I was this young Touristologist! As a matter of fact I still am!!! Just older, wiser but equally persistent. I see a bright future for Touristology and still strongly believe that to be successful in our lovely sector you have to complement the basic core of Touristology (1,2,3 theory, strategic triangle, Bermuda triangle…) with Web-engineering and foreign languages (English at least!).
Do you know why rain dance works? Because they would dance until it rains!!! 
I won’t stop, will you? Welcome to a new year!