Originally published as a Linkedin post. Reproducing here for easier access and retrieval.
One of the secrets to Traveloka’s early growth in 2014-2017 was “honest pricing.”
All-in pricing differentiated from competing OTAs, which were more opaque. However, competitors eventually copied.
Growth slowed down.
Here’s 3 expansion levers Traveloka used to keep growing:
Geographic Expansion: Vietnam
Traveloka grew to new markets for two reasons: revenue & supply.
Revenue is obvious, but for supply, as an OTA, expanding markets was important to negotiating better rates on various flights.
When Traveloka Vietnam launched in 2016, Agoda was the market leader. But Vietnam was not as high of a priority for their competitors vs other markets. They had some lead time.
Within this market, they started with younger, price-conscious travelers.
Product Expansion: Hotels
Traveloka Vietnam launched a Hotels product. Growth was initially slow.
Supply was key to great customer UX: critical to get 70%+ of 3- or 4-star hotel market supply before they could convince users to search for hotels.
Merchant UX slowed supply growth: The B2B merchant portal was not designed for Bahasa Indonesia speakers. Onboarding hotels with quality photos was hard.
Conversion was low due to customers using Traveloka to search and then booking directly with hotels for better rates. Improvements made after channel expansion.
Channel Expansion: Influencers
The growth team’s experimentation led to many failures, but finally led them to the right top-of-funnel strategies: influencers and hotel curation.
Influencers: Young Vietnamese were just starting their youtube channels in 2016, so they borrowed Tier 1 influencer star power in exchange for free hotel stays. Their initial tests showed 2x traffic for low costs.
Hotel curation: They also started manually curating hotels and setting up attractive landing pages for them. They even built an in-house team (later outsourced) to create youtube videos reviewing these hotels and destinations.
In result, their bookings grew 50x over the span of 8 months. Customers loved the visual format. Hotels all wanted their hotels to be reviewed by their team. In return, they offered better rates to Traveloka, which made consumer prices more competitive vs competitors.
- Growth engines don’t last forever. They erode once competition catches up.
- Traveloka Vietnam growth came from expanding geography, product, and channel.
- Levers intermingle: by building a new effective channel, they negotiated better pricing with supply, and leveraged into more compelling product experience.
- Never stop experimenting: Many experiments failed. But by testing broadly, they unlocked the “one thing” that drove massive growth for Vietnam.