“We were a bunch of geeks who saw the chance to fix a broken marketplace, and then woke up one day to find ourselves booking an average of a million+ rooms,” said Pepijn Rijvers, Booking.com’s CMO.
“We believe we can double or triple that daily volume, and we’ll do it by broadening and deepening our engagement with our customers.”
The brand’s global dominance cannot be overstated:
It works with approximately 800,000 partners, offering an average of 3 room types, 2+ rates, 30 different length of stays across 365 arrival days, which yields something north of 52 billion price points at any given time.
At least 80% of the resulting bookings are done with no/low cancellation fees, and its 600 engineers roll out an average of 40 changed or new code every day to test ways, as Rijvers calls it, “to drive frictionless experiences.”
Booking.com sees this vast platform, and the talent that has built it, as the basis for moving beyond performance marketing, and innovating its engagement with travelers.
For instance, it’s adding review prompts for every member of a traveler’s party, thereby pushing its service to a broader audience. Travelers can get pre-trip tips, welcome messages with recaps of services once they arrive, and use destination guides, customized for their specific hotels and dates.
“People aspire to be better travelers, and that plays to our backend, because we’ve got the mechanics nailed,” Rijvers explained. “Now we’re helping them have great experiences by engaging with them before, during, and after their trips.”
A key component of Booking.com’s innovation approach is its “geek” culture, which puts a heavy emphasis on individual initiative and experimentation.
Rijvers tells the story of an engineer who rolled out code to address some hotels that were cash-only (and therefore didn’t need the fields for credit card info), only company managers didn’t know about it until other hotels complained. Over the weekend, the code was amended to include an opt-in, and now accounts for a significant part of its partners’ business.
There’s also the not-so little matter of its hundreds, if not thousands of channels, which are effective storefronts that help Booking.com constantly iterate its understanding of customer wants and needs.
“We don’t do quality controls.”
“We roll it out on a limited basis,” Rijvers added, “and if it doesn’t break anything, we build it out.”
The company has been doing brand advertising for years, and expects to do more in order to fight an issue Rijvers calls “the commodification of booking.” But whether or not it works may well depend on its capacity to focus its admittedly successful geeks on new services, while never losing sight of the functional delivery upon which it all relies.
If they’re successful, they might wake up again one day to an even bigger surprise.