The online travel industry is both competitive and complex, with many different vendors, aggregators and review sites vying for people’s attention.

Travel comparison site Wego is attempting to cut through the noise and gain market share in Asia and the Middle East.

I spoke to CMO Joachim Holte to find out more about Wego’s travel app, which is available on both Android and iOS.

This interview is the latest in our APAC Insights series, which has also included these posts:

And for more on digital marketing in APAC be sure to download our new report on The State of Social Media in South-East Asia.

Now, on with the interview...

Joachim, when did you launch the Wego app? How does the development process work?

We launched in mid-2014 and the initial build was done really quickly, but really we are constantly launching new features and doing continuous improvements.

Although we don’t disclose our exact user numbers, I can say that millions of people use the app each month and we’re a popular travel app in the APAC countries we care about.

Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore tend to have really well connected populations that are largely underserved by global travel providers.

How have you set about growing your audience in APAC? 

The biggest thing for us was consistently improving our product based on feedback and adding features we think will work. 

We’ve also done loads of brand marketing on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. 

The thing about app marketing is that it’s a bit fragmented, you can’t just rely on Google for example, so we have to advertise on smaller networks as well.

One other thing we’ve done is to jump on every new beta or initiative. 

  

We were very quick to begin experimenting with material design, the Apple Watch, and app indexing.

It’s important to remember the huge increase in smartphone penetration in a lot of our target markets. 

People in Indonesia aren’t buying desktops or laptops, they’re going straight to mobile, and it’s the same in a lot of APAC countries.

How has the app helped you to grow your brand presence in APAC?

It’s definitely helped us in that regard. It’s a conscious choice to install an app on your phone, which is very different to using a mobile site.

Mobile real estate is quite small, I think on average people in APAC have 39 apps on their phone, two of which are paid for and the rest are split between pre-install and free downloads.

We have to ensure someone has a great experience, as they’re then more likely to become a brand ambassador.

It also allows us to reengage them with push notifications and messaging.

By offering both flight and hotels we’ve almost managed to become the default travel app, as a lot of our competitors just offer on or the other.

How have you tried to gain market share in such a competitive market?

App marketing is far more fragmented than desktop and mobile web marketing. 

For example, if you’re smart about which channels and tactics to use then often you’ll be the first brand in your industry to try it.

It’s basically about iterating and trying different things. If it doesn’t work turn it off, if it does then reinvest.

Also, we try to be very responsive and quick to respond to our audience. We listen to user feedback and release updates every four weeks.

Localisation has also been massive for us. A lot of companies are doing a half decent job but few people are doing it really well.

We have the same basic app everywhere but the UX and content is localised.

For example in the Middle East the text has to go from right to left. We have local teams and translators who take care of that.

One of the most important factors for us is having relevant local partners in each market, not just the global travel companies and airlines.

Finally, this means we can provide the correct payment options in each market.

The population of Indonesia is around 340m, internet penetration is around 70m people, but only 15m people have a credit card.

Indonesians expect to be able to pay by bank transfer or even in their local 7/11, and if you can’t offer those options then you won’t make any headway.

What work have you done to localise content?

We have teams in markets we care about, that’s the most important part as they know about local holidays, traditions, etc.

I would definitely advocate hiring local staff as there’s really no such thing as the ‘Asian market’, all APAC nations are unique and have to be approached differently.

Businesses have to get people on the ground. It can be a local agency, but local staff have been really important for us.

Which marketing channels have yielded the best results? Why?

It varies quite a bit by the market, by the month, seasonality and other factors.

We work with Google, Facebook, Twitter, and inMobi, but we’ve found that there are a number of smaller players that also work well.

Consistently we have found that we achieve better results from high-end devices than low end ones, and we have good success with remarketing campaigns. 

I always refer to my app marketing triangle. The three factors are lifetime value, cost per install and scalability. 

A marketing channel has to hit all three of these to be successful and one we want to continue to invest in.

How does app usage differ among APAC countries?

The differences are extreme. In Singapore people will typically make 2.4 international trips each year, normally high value journeys to Australia or Europe. 

Whereas in Indonesia it’s a domestic-focused market, there’s a lot of back and forth inside the country.

David Moth

Published 23 September, 2015 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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