How the gift of travel has plans to become a disruptive force in the industry

By listening to customers and staying focused, one relative newcomer believes it could do for online travel what Apple did for music.

There is still plenty of room for innovation in the travel space and EyeforTravel.com keeps tabs on surviving and thriving startups. Mytab.travel launched back in the US back in May 2011 with what it believes is a unique and disruptive solution. Recently they have kicked off their ‘global expansion plans’ with a UK launch. We caught up with the company’s founder, Heddi Cundle to find out about their global expansion plans, why social proofing matters and why big data really could turn the industry on its head. 
 
EFT: So tell about what has been happening in the US since your launch? 
HC: Well we launched our travel gift card, www.mytab.travel in the US in May 2011 and have experienced a few learning curves along the way. For example, when you visit any OTA, you have the destination in mind but for myTabbers purpose may be paramount and destination secondary. So we created a new funnel system on the landing page for ‘create a trip and gift me’ or ‘gift friends’ travel cash. With the ‘create trip’ feature we included some inspirational destinations that have helped myTabbers move through the funnel faster, so they could correlate a purpose with a destination – in other words a birthday trip, honeymoon, bachelor weekend and so on. Learning from myTabbers feedback has been critical for finetuning our messaging and feature sets.
 
EFT: How many people do you have using the app?
HC: We have thousands of myTabbers and our unique visits a month range between 80-100,000. When you’re changing online buying patterns through gifting & saving on myTab, it takes time for people to adapt. So it’s a case of continuous reinforcement for that breakthrough so the switch flips from prior travel booking patterns to using myTab’s full lifecycle solution.
 
EFT: Why the UK launch? 
HC: We realised earlier this year that the US has a ‘deal & gifting’ culture where as the rest of the world has a ‘savings’ ethic. I am British so the logical step was to launch in the UK as the start of our global expansion. Recently, Scott Prelewicz joined myTab as cofounder who has 15 years experience as a senior architect engineer at companies like Zynga. We realised we needed to step up our tech game for the UK launch. 
 
EFT: Tell us a bit more about some of the new features you've launched, or are about to launch?
HC: Over the past two and a half years, we’ve fine-tuned our current feature flows for gift, save, plan, share and book travel. As our concept is a game changer and disruptive, we need to grow with our audience so we’ve intentionally not fallen for the pattern of introducing features purely to keep eyeballs and interest. What we have is a strong foundation and our future mobile app will reflect a percentage of the website but have a unique twist that will rebound back to the website. We’ll also be expanding to more countries throughout 2014 and introducing sub-features to compliment our current web features.
 
EFT: Would you say that social proofing is integral to your business model?  
HC: Social proof has always been around, it was just never conscious as a value in itself, as a branding identifier. With myTab, social proof is actually a critical, intentional component of the psychology behind our platform. For example, we had one myTabber who created an account for her friend and invited all friends & family to chip in individually to the fund, just simply by sharing the vanity username. Within a few days, the pot reached over $1100 and the friend was presented with her fund, for her 30th birthday. The social proof validated that by everyone gifting individually, versus one person laying out the cash and trying to recoup, they all gifted more cash than they’d usually would have. Everyone felt vested in the fund which bought emotion back to the e-gift card giving. The birthday recipient considered exactly where she’d spend her travel cash as it had so much more emotional value than individual gifts or a gift card.  It’s interesting to point out that each $100bn are given in gift cards but $30bn are unredeemed, where as myTab’s birthday recipient has spent all her travel fund.
 
EFT: What’s your next big thing? 
HC: The top trend we’re predicting for myTab is our Match myTab feature. What we’re doing for travel is what Apple did to centralise online music purchases. Negotiating exclusive deals with airlines and hotels for myTabbers will change the system from ‘supply & demand’ to ‘demand & supply.’ For the first time, the power of using collective travel cash by myTabbers demanding a price and the industry supplying this at slow and long lead times, will stabilise the current erratic price fluctuations that frustrate travellers. myTab’s also the only travel player that is generating pre-travel trends on customers for big data. Combining our future big data with Match myCash, we’ll pioneer in creating the ‘best-time-to-buy’ which has not been achieved before.  Not only will myTabbers have a happier experience as we bring them exclusive deals, but the industry will be targeting a cash rich travel demographic at a fraction of traditional marketing costs. As we have the IP on our platform, we’re also talking with Fortune 500’s to license our API so they can use our gift, save, plan, share and purchase technology for their online lifestyle brands.
 

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