Affiliate Programs in Travel

img src: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1133475

This idea just came fleetingly to me today morning. Large ecommerce companies like Amazon and Flipkart have affiliate programs. You become an affiliate, and the platform lets you create a special URL to advertise products on their platform. You make a sale, and based on the product, and current ‘schemes’, you earn a % of the revenue. This is almost like a micro-store-front.

Large OTAs such as goibibo and yatra have b2b platforms, which they open up to travel agents. They also have APIs which third party platforms can consume and create their own booking interfaces. But these are complicated interfaces. Only a serious large player can invest in these. For instance, in the case of goibibo b2b interface, the travel agent would need to create a “wallet” like interface within goibibo, deposit a certain large amount (depends on the client – but mostly a few lakhs to begin with). Transactions that happen through the travel agent interface (or API) would consume money from the wallet (after deducting the % commission due to the travel agent).

The other class of “agent consumers” are of course, the travel agents who pose as individuals (create regular goibibo accounts) and book through these accounts. These are smaller operators, and tend to do all kinds of circus tricks such as referring their own accounts, playing with the go-cash between the accounts etc. And the OTAs hate these guys. Incentives are given, assuming, these are individual accounts, but they are not.

My question is – why haven’t the OTAs yet brought in the affiliate model for selling flight tickets and hotel rooms yet? This would have two major advantages:

  1. Bring in the above latter set of small scale travel agents to formalize on their transactions. Since they are not a separate class of consumers (affiliate partners), incentives to these guys can be controlled and distinguished from the other individual consumers.
  2. Bring in a whole new set of consumers, multiple thousand micro-store-fronts, who are not really booking tickets, but proliferating links to your deals with their affiliate codes on them, so that they can earn their commission.

The OTAs keep talking about how the online travel agent market has just touched the tip of the iceberg, and how there is a significant majority of our populace who have not even been exposed. This might be one of the ways, by which the net can be widened.

The Supermarket experience

(pic courtesy: yourstory.com)
(pic courtesy: yourstory.com)

Ever since the online grocery guys came into the picture (read as bigbasket in our home), one recurrent topic at my place has been – “would we miss the supermarket experience?” Some common points that would typically come up were:

  • It was a nice once a month outing that we may probably miss out on.
  • We would miss the new product introductions
  • The supermarket experience was always a mind-hack, where you usually went to shop with a 5 item shopping list (which would have totalled to about Rs500), but invariable came out with a cart full of groceries (which would have totalled to Rs1500). This part would not be missed – especially by my wallet.

Yesterday, I went to Nilgiris and Reliance fresh (for two different items that could be got only in these two places), and I realized that, perhaps, I may not even miss the shopping experience. The experience was far from optimal. I noticed that there were more grofers (and other hyperlocal delivery guys) grabbing stuff from the shelves than regular shoppers.

Instead of seeing new products, I saw new hyperlocal delivery company names – I saw a company named Ninjacart. These guys were in a mad rush to get stuff, billed and run out, so that their SLAs with their demanding home delivery customers could be met.

My dad tells me that this is often the story in retail supermarket chains in Chennai too. I do not yet think, this has caught on with larger chains such as SPAR. But it will not be too long, I think. Are we becoming lazier? Are we going to lose out on that one enjoyable outing? I do not know. But time will tell – since we will only know the true picture after the VC funding dries out.

UX review of Instamojo website – part 2

Creating a payment link (continued)

After you have dragged and dropped the digital goods, it would be nice if you could say that, upload would happen later. Since I did not see any upload status scroll, I assumed, but in perfect design, nothing should be left for assumption.

When uploading a preview image, can you probably preview the image immediately – like you did for the PAN card upload? That would be nicer. Else, the same ambiguity/assumption as previous point happens here also.

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I tried making it pay what you want and wanted to put a base price of Rs.5. I got the below. Firstly, I do not understand why the Rs.9 restriction. Secondly base_price seems to be the variable name. You should make it Base price.

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I wanted to do the “Pay What you Want” model. And below is how it looks. It is not immediately apparent to my customer (who want to buy the book) as to what “minimum Rs.10 is”. Is there any way you can indicate what the publisher means by “Pay what you want”? Perhaps by putting a note below the “pay button” saying – “The seller has indicated this to be a ‘Pay what you want’. The seller can pay how much ever he/she wishes to pay over the base price indicated above”.

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I tried finishing up my profile, and I added my photo to my profile. Again, I wish you could immediately preview the pic.

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And oh, after a while, after I finished typing up my bio etc, I got the below. Looks like you were uploading the photo in the background – which is good – but it would be nice if I get some indication as a user.

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Love love love the analytics page. Super awesome. One small pet peeve – please please give me a refresh button. I do not want to refresh my page each time I want to see. I usually have all my analytics page open. And want to be able to refresh on demand.

Hmm. Analytics and Advanced Analytics are the same?? They atleast seem to lead to the same page.

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UX flow issue leading into the app store

Before I click on the app store

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I now click on App store

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Ideally by now, the Advanced Analytics should be ‘de-highlighted’ and App Store should be highlighted and some form of a landing page for app store should have come in the main body frame. However, you see above that two selections are highlighted and the previous (stale?) selection is still active on the right main body panel.

I went into the app store, and I see a bunch of apps there already. One big UI nitpick I have. The cards should all be same size and aligned. insta22

And in general, I feel that the apps concept seems to be a little more of an advanced concept. And perhaps you should have a separate tutorial/documentation for this. Could not find it on the site.

* All of these are on Firefox latest version on Windows.

 

 

UX review of Instamojo website – part 1

I recently tried signing up with Instamojo and gave it a spin. Instamojo is a pretty cool payment related startup. Their moto is to democratize payments. It should be dead easy for anyone to be able to sell (start a business) and be able to set up a payment mechanism for customers. Instamojo would do the heavy lifting of the payment gateway etc.

Following are my thoughts on the UX/UI of the website.

Signup:

In the screen which asks for how I got to know about instamojo, why is social media conspicuously absent?

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In the next screen, your KYC is collected (incidentally, there is no place which gives the full form of KYC – Know your customer – if someone from outside of India in the future tries signing on, they would be clueless). Also, what if I want to sell an ebook for Rs.49 (a fairly common denomination to sell an ebook in India), there is no option for this.

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Then, in the next screen, I tried uploading a PDF (scanned pan card) and this is what I got. Also, there should be somewhere it says, only image files (GIF/JPG/TIFF etc).

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The following also is confusing. Is the status bar saying .. half way through uploading my pan card picture or is it saying I am half way through uploading my documents? If it is the latter, should it not be 50% (1 out of 2 documents?)

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While I understand that by the time he has finished uploading kyc, the user is expected to know about payment links etc, I would still recommend a (?) link here next to the payment link leading him to the support page.

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When I click on share your referral link on twitter/facebook, the below appears when I click on twitter. I would prefer not just the link, but some template text such as : “I am using Instamojo. Are you? To sign up click here -> url”

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Facebook is slightly better, but it could be better.

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Create a Payment Link

I got to the file-picker page (which is awesome by the way! – the options are truly exhaustive).

I dragged and dropped by file. But after dropping the file, I realized that the file was named wrongly (similar scenario to I dropped the wrong file). Now how do I delete this file and put the correct file? No intuitive UX for the user for this action. I would have liked the file (Samkshepa Ramayana.pdf in the case below) to be in a table, with a trash can in a last column, giving me the option to delete the file.

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The only way I could do it was to navigate away from this page (to Dashboard) and then click on Create Payment Link. I see two problems here.

  1. You should warn the user if he is going to navigate away from a page which he has filled in mid-way.
  2. I get this thought that – what happened to the file I dragged-and-dropped, was it uploaded, aborted, cached – where did that go? When I went back to creating a new payment link, it is not even reminding me that I was doing one half-way some time back.

Minor CSS nitpick – spacing between the i,? and the text

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By this time, my account had already been verified – awesome speed. Love it. Is this manual ?

I got the following email:

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While a lot of services do this, I have always liked to be addressed by name instead of my userid. And then I went to the Settings -> Accounts to see if you had been able to capture my name. And I saw that the names were blank.

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I am wondering if you could have auto populated the name somehow – from my name on my PAN card that you collected during KYC.

Phone verification:

The below UI is very confusing. The 1234 is very confusing. That is not the norm. Either put * * * * or – – – – or just blank or put 4 squares.

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Also, I was updating my settings (one by one), at the end of verification, why do I get the option to only go back to dashboard? I want to go back to the settings page.

Profile Settings:

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Minor English suggestion. I would prefer Connect to your Social Networks and “Connect to Twitter”.

Also, why not Facebook and g+. I saw those two in other places along with twitter.

Also, the “We will not post …..” should probably be darker. It is a very reassuring message and should be prominent.

Well, that’s about it. Hope the Instamojo teams gets to these minor nitpics from an amateur UX reviewer. In my opinion, getting these small things right is one of the key drivers to showing your classiness in an already crowded market place (in the case of instajojo – the payments marketplace).

 

 

Food on Order Direct from Rooms

I was thinking quite a bit about whether to write this as a post or to add on to the previous post, but I guess ‘new post’ won.

The one problem that a lot of service apartments face is the lack of a full fledged kitchen. There might be breakfast, but that would still be fairly minimal. In the US, when I go for a business visit, a lot of the hotels would have a menu of a near-by restaurant which would deliver ~ within certain working hours of course. Most times this is a little expensive, but there are days, when you just come back to your room and plop on your room (or the ottoman) and do not want to get up. You just want someone to come and give you the food in your room.

This should be feasible in India too right? A tie up with a nearby chain? In fact, with most of these chains going the app-way or have an online site where you can order, there exists infrastructure to make this more streamlined.

  1. There could be a tablet in each room or with the reception (the first could be a premium room feature vs the latter is a normal room). ipad1
  2. Tie-ups with one restaurant for each of the four categories
  3. These would not redirect to their websites, but to potentially APIs exported by the infra from these restaurants (or an aggregator like zomato). Some restaurants and food service providers already have a good backend such as Mast Kalandar, freshmenu, spoonjoy, etc to which you should be able to link.
  4. Why not a web-site? And why API driven? I would want the tablet to be aware of my service apartment address and room number, and also, have the ability to add the bill amount to my hotel bill. So all, I would need to do is to browse, and click. End of story.
  5. Stringent SLA for delivery and quality of food can be established (failing which – you cease to be a preferred partner and will be swapped out to competition).

I sense a business opportunity here as well. This need not be something that hotel chains like oyorooms or stayzilla need to build. This could be very well be an independent platform. Well, somebody like zomato can potentially build it though.

 

Book Review: Connect the Dots

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  • Loved the book.
  • If you are a wantrepreneur (person who is permanently dreaming about being an entrepreneur), this is a book you should read.
  • Talks about a dozen or so start-up stories. And the variety is amazing.
  • The book is in the form of informal interviews with the entrepreneurs.
  • Most of these are folks who broke away from tradition. Son of a government employee turning into a wildlife photographer, or the son of a business man growing brocolli and iceberg lettuce in India, or the person whose passion it was to making cheese in India.
  • Some stories are those of grit – like the Dosa Plaza story. Some are of the kismat/Junoon type. There are some stories of breaking away of monotony. There is of course, the famous story of Veta (the English training institute) starting from a thatched roof for rent.
  • The tantra tshirt story, the Haathi Chaap (recycled paper from Elephant dung) story – fascinating reads.
  • The exotic story of an economics professor in an university wanting to get into the hotel industry, where he worked 3 hours every night (after teaching the whole day) — Oriental cuisines, which owns several mall food courts and fine dining restaurants across India.
  • Read the book in my Kindle paperwhite. Gave me the edge to skip chapters that I was not too much into (there are a couple of stories about folks who made it big in the theatre industry).
  • Overall good read. Written in a very engaging style. Lots and lots of research.
  • Kudos to the author – Rashmi Bansal.

 

What if Apple bought Tesla

tesla

Nice article on TNW hypothesizing what if Apple bought Tesla. There are several similarities. Steve Jobs did want to build a car and take on Detroit (he had made that comment to a NYT reported before he died). Tesla is loaded with elegant technology. Elon Musk dreams big – really big – kind of like Jobs. Tesla sells only through its own stores. And well, Apple very well has the cash to buy the car company. There is one more nice point made in the article – if this does happen, there is a risk to Tim Cook – a good chance that the investors might want to replace Cook with Musk!

Read the full article here. [link]

(image src: flickr)