Global reviews giant TripAdvisor says it will become more empathetic and place a greater focus on brand and loyalty at it turns 20 next year.
Speaking at Web in Travel in Singapore this week, Lindsay Nelson, president, core experience, said the site will rediscover its human side.
Nelson joined TripAdvisor a year ago from Vox Media after the brand announced a significant switch to become more of a social influencer platform.
She said TripAdvisor started to re-examine the brand and what it stands for and in doing so has realised that it had changed the travel sector forever.
“You have to believe one thing about TripAdvisor to believe in the promise of our future and that what [founder] Stephen Kaufer did 20 years ago has fundamentally changed travel.
“If it did not exist then an industry we all work in would not look the same. Time and money are the most limited commodities.
“That decision on how to spend your money is a really important one and people have been able to get to the truth.
“And it has been powerful for all business owners who have been able to play on an equal plane to the big guy next door.
“The thing I was able to do over the past few months is to go into the company and ask what makes us great.
“When you’re as large as we are you have to believe there’s something still relevant.”
Nelson said scale used to be what was celebrated about TripAdvisor because that seemed to underline its objectivity.
But she said it was now moving to being more relevant, something which its scale allows it to do.
“What we understand is that people don’t care that there are 10,000 reviews, they care about the 10 from people they have something in common with.
“We have to make it easier for people to find the content they want. Scale is essential but it becomes about search and discovery.
“It’s our responsibility to create an experience that’s fast and easy and personalised and does some of the heavy lifting for you.”
Nelson said we are now in an era in which trust is a currency and TripAdvisor has the product and innovation challenge of figuring out how users who put in get value out.
She said this revolves around human empathy and indicated that although TripAdvisor will continue to assist people who want to book it is shifting from focusing on driving conversion and performance to brand.
“I have only worked in travel for about a year now. I learned very quickly we operate in a see of sameness. Everyone is selling the aspiration of travel and deals. There is technology that all looks the same.
“In order for us to drive forward we cannot continue to fight other people’s fights. We need to be as close to the traveller need as possible. You cannot tinker your way into change. You have to take bold steps.
“My job was to come in and be a transformation engine, to transform the brand and how we think about monetising it.
“Brand marketing is strangely absent in the travel category. We have been really focussed on conversion and performance. But if you do not have any emotional attachment with people you do not have any brand loyalty.
“The best guides are not algorithms, they are not rankings and they are not deals. The best guides are people who have real experiences you can benefit from. You need to know enough about the person to understand whether they are like you.”
Nelson added: “We are going to be much more focussed first and foremost on driving travellers engagement and helping people stitch their plans together in a way we do not think anyone else is doing a great job of.
“What will come out of that is monetisation opportunity. How do we start to monetise influence and engagement rather than just driving people downstream?”
“We have the ambition to be the world’s largest travel guide company, to help you find things whether you are three months, three weeks or three hours out.”
Asked about combating fake reviews, Nelson said TripAdvisor cannot do it alone and business owners need to be reminded that there are penalties for paying review farms to create fake posts.