Case Study: How We Developed a Contest Marketplace for the Travel Industry
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Travel marketplace owners face many obstacles on the way to healthy profits and competitive advantage. Their most daunting challenges are:
- Establishing trust between travelers and agencies. It’s often an uphill task to make users feel comfortable dealing with total strangers online while purchasing and selling travel services.
- Meeting the expectations of a diverse audience. The travel industry has a vast target audience ‒ people of different ages, marital statuses, and preferences. So it’s hard to offer something that will satisfy the needs of everyone and make them advocates of your travel marketplace.
- Providing personalized travels. Based on market research by Euromonitor International, a lack of personalized services online is why almost half of all travel agency bookings still come through offline channels.
Having fallen in love with traveling, our partner, Lucas Rix, came up with a great solution to address these challenges and provide unique experiences to travelers. Lucas gave us a large scope of work that included the following important tasks:
- UX – Design simple navigation, create minimalist yet informative pages, address the needs of the diverse core market, and develop an effective and easy-to-use tool for creating itineraries.
- UI – Build a responsive web design that fits all screen sizes, adopt a color palette that’s a good fit for the target audience, and design an intuitive user interface.
- Development – Make a full-fledged app from scratch that’s equipped with numerous integrations and that provides seamless map navigation and a convenient payment system.
This is how Wanderist began.
What is Wanderist?
We all know the struggle of making a list of worthy places to see while traveling. You’ll especially know this struggle if you’re a neophile who can’t stand the sights found in every travel brochure. You can scroll dozens of websites and still fail to find rare sights. Wanderist solves this problem from a new angle.
Wanderist is a contest marketplace that connects travelers with local experts. It lets nomads forget about trivial sights and experience cities as only natives do. Users can arrange their own contests to get unique, custom itineraries from local experts who share their interests.
The main goal of Wanderist is to enable interactions between users ‒ to build a sustainable environment where travelers and local experts can repeatedly exchange values with each other.
Waderist focuses on matching the right itineraries and contests with the right users based on parameters that the marketplace determines in real time.
If you still think that planning a journey is burdensome, have a look at Wanderist. With this app, it’s as easy as ever. Once an adventure lover comes to the Wanderist marketplace, there are a few steps they can take:
- Discover ready-made itineraries ‒ Travelers get access to a whole variety of itineraries that have been carefully designed by the curious minds of local experts. Travelers can drastically save time compared to planning a journey themselves, view already created itineraries for destinations, and pick the itinerary that’s best for them.
- Launch an itinerary contest ‒ A traveller can either use an existing itinerary as is, launch a contest and ask local experts to adapt an existing itinerary to their preferences, or create a totally new contest to come up with an itinerary from scratch. When setting up a contest, a traveler outlines their vision for the trip, describes important details that local experts should keep in mind when planning the itinerary, and launches a contest that’s visible to local experts who share the similar interests. Contests usually last 7 to 14 days.
- Get lots of suggested itineraries ‒ Local experts compete to plan the winning trip by submitting their proposals. The traveler who created the contest reviews itineraries and then gives feedback.
- Pick the winner ‒ After examining itineraries, the traveler chooses the itinerary that best matches their criteria and sets off on the journey.
Make money by proposing unique sights
From the perspective of local experts, Wanderist is a great place to earn extra money by simply suggesting unique places in their home towns or in distant locations they know well. With Wanderist, experts are able to:
- Create itineraries ‒ Local experts can plan standalone itineraries and sell them on the marketplace as well as create routes for specific contests. When responding to contests, experts can view contest details and look for a place that will meet the traveler’s expectations. Experts are free to add places to their itineraries, upload images, and choose forms of transportation.
- Submit itineraries to contests ‒ Local experts get notifications about contests and have seven days to prepare their offers. They can propose itineraries they’ve created earlier or plan new ones, which can then be saved in the marketplace to capitalize on them in the future.
- Win contests ‒ Once a traveler has chosen an itinerary, the local expert who created it gets paid. Wanderist takes a 15 percent cut from the expert’s earnings that goes toward maintaining and securing the system. Local experts can view their balances and transfer money to their bank accounts.
Design solutions provided by RubyGarage
Our design team put extra effort into delivering a marketplace that would fully realize our client’s vision and be user-friendly. We started with developing the united profile form.
One account, many options
We developed the united profile form so that users don’t need to scramble between different accounts, log out, and register again. Users can act simultaneously both as travelers and as local experts.
The user profile includes a brief personal description and information about work, interests, and locations the user is familiar with. Local experts can even add a travel blog if they have one. All of this information helps users understand each other better and make the most relevant proposals. Users can add and update profile information any time they want.
Delivering a personalized experience
The travel industry deals with a vast audience, from newlyweds to spouses with children to people traveling alone. Some travelers love extremes, others prefer comfort. We developed a system of advanced filters in the form of slider bars travelers can use when creating a contest to indicate their preferences according to:
- Level of activity
- Type of activity
- Type of places
Travelers and local experts can also add special tags to their contests or itineraries and sort them by interests:
- Kid and pet-friendly
- … and more
Users can even tack on their own tags to describe their trips. What’s more, we created special forms where travelers can set expectations and describe their ideal day to help local experts better understand travelers’ needs.
Filling the trust gap
Trust is key for any marketplace. If users don’t trust each other, they won’t exchange values within a marketplace and will abandon it, resulting in zero revenue for marketplace owners and even a negative return on investments. This is why providing a secure environment should be a high priority.
To build trust, we developed a rating system and empowered users with internal communications tools. There’s a field beneath each contest where local experts can inquire about details.
Users can also communicate with each other via private messages. When a traveler buys an itinerary, the system makes a copy of this itinerary that’s visible only to the buyer and the expert who created the itinerary and then opens a chat between them. Communicating via chat, the expert can change the itinerary in accordance with the traveler’s desires. The original itinerary remains in the marketplace unchanged.
To make buying itineraries more transparent, we added an overview option so travelers can preview itineraries they’d like to buy and see what they’re paying for. Previews show key sights along with images and short descriptions.
Once a traveler has used an itinerary, they can rate the local expert who prepared it on a scale from 1 to 5 stars as well as leave feedback on the trip and interactions with the local expert.
Simplifying the user journey
We didn’t want to overwhelm users with too much information or interfaces overloaded with graphical elements. Our aim was to provide as seamless and pleasant an experience as possible. So we divided itinerary creation into several steps:
- Local experts fill in general information about an itinerary, such as name and overview.
- Local experts add places. They can upload images and choose special graphical elements that visualize information and convey the atmosphere of the journey.
- Local experts can see the final versions of itineraries they’ve created, make any final changes, and submit them. Itineraries are submitted within 24 hours.
This approach helps local experts focus on one task at a time, making the creation of itineraries more efficient.
Travelers don’t always have access to personal computers. Therefore, we needed to ensure that users would be able to interact with Wanderist no matter what device they’re using: desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone with various possible screen sizes and orientations.
A responsive design approach let us adapt Wanderist’s layout for all these devices and display all screen elements and parameters in the original form. With web pages that are optimized for smartphones and tablets, users don’t need to zoom, shrink, and pinch their screens. A convenient UI leads to lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates.
RubyGarage development solutions
Our development team fixed its attention on implementing multiple integrations to help users get the most from their favorite services.
Google Maps integration let us provide users with reliable real-time information about locations throughout their trips, including contact information (phone numbers and websites), types of transportation they can use to get to places, and approximate travel times.
The Google Maps API also offers geotagging. Local experts can tag places in itineraries they’ve created to give travelers a deeper look into where the sight is and how far is it to the next location.
Sometimes it takes ages to write a whole address, and users can forget or misspell place names. This results in wasted time. Google Place Autocomplete forms save time by helping users select locations. When a user starts typing a place name, the system provides live predictions.
Instant image synchronization
With Foursquare integration, local experts don’t need to search for images. Once they’ve tagged a place on the map, an image of it is uploaded to the itinerary automatically. Travelers can see verified, current, and realistic pictures of places they’re thinking of visiting to help them decide on an itinerary.
Stripe integration enables travelers to fill in their credit card data and pay for itineraries. Plus, Stripe allows local experts to transfer money directly to their bank accounts without third parties and commissions.
Stripe supports a variety of payment methods (AliPay, Android Pay, Apple Pay, Bitcoin, ACH, and so on) and various types of credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, and others). Stripe handles multiple currencies to cover the needs of users from different countries and runs a fraud monitoring program to protect users’ money.
Users are prone to share their positive experiences. According to Esteban Kolsky, 72 percent of users will share a positive experience with six or more people. Given that, we needed to design an effective algorithm to let people share their special moments. Wanderist generates a unique key for each itinerary so that users can privately share travel details with friends and relatives.
Here’s a full list of the tools we used to create a fully functional contest marketplace for the travel industry.
Unique as a growing trend
RubyGarage helped turn Lucas Rix’s ideas into a fully functional, competitive marketplace that understands the needs of travelers and serves customized trips. We believe that offering unique experiences is the only possible competitive edge in the current and future global travel market.
Do you have ideas for a new travel marketplace? If so, drop us a line; we would love to bring them alive.
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