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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Grow together with users

Almost all business started from a problem, because problems also means opportunities. By providing a better solution, new business gets a chance to enter a market and earn a piece of shares.

When we started Gopackup, we targeted at the travel industry, and we have done some research to understand the pain of this field.

1. Middlemen cause an unhealthy ecosystem

The biggest problem with the travel industry is that, it has more middlemen than any other sectors, quoted from Phocuswright. Which is a true fact, unfortunately. Because of this reason, the whole travel ecosystem is not healthy as it supposed to be. Those travel suppliers who actually providing the services are not making right amount of income, while the middlemen have cut 30 or 40 percent, or even more.

In some cases, those middlemen even did not give any penny to the vendor, yes, you are right, zero, or even ask the vendor to pay extra to have a group of travelers. Which means, the travelers have been “sold” by the middleman to the vendor. So what can the vendor do to make income? By forcing the travelers to make purchase at some partnered stores, so the vendor can receive commission out from it. Travelers’ trip ends up in a shopping tour. I have read and heard such stories happened in many places.

2. Part time professionals

Travel has hot season and slow seasons. Most professionals in this area, are actually part time. Which also means, such professionals, may not that professional as we expected. As a result, the service quality may vary quite a lot. Except some special activities may require a license, many of such professionals do not have a license or accordingly training.

3. None tech savvy professionals

Most professionals in this field, especially in those developing areas, are not tech savvy. Which also makes them lack of a way to market themselves, force them to deal with middlemen and lose their profits.

4. Lack of unique local experiences

Since most sales are still made through big agencies and platforms, and they only like to carry mass market popular products. Most products in the market are still mainly sight seeing driver-guide tours, many local unique, cultural experiences have not been well developed.

With these facts in mind and problems we want to solve, we developed our own strategies and turn them into our design and actions on our platform. Firstly, we want to build a P2P platform, to cut off the middlemen, so the service providers can directly connect with the travelers. Secondly, we want to help these SMEs, also those individuals who are willing to share local experiences to travelers, to grow their business. We provide different tools to help them market sell, and manage clients/partners. Thirdly, we train and regulate the vendors to provide more professional services. Fourthly, we encourage and guide locals to design unique experiences and serve to travelers. And we want to become a long tail of local experiences marketplace in the world. We want to serve our users and grow together with them.

a. Let the users be our salesmen

Our users are our salesman. First, all the unique travel products, interesting local experiences are created by our users. We do not differentiate travelers and vendors, because anyone can be a service provider when he/she is receiving a traveler and offering local service; while anyone can be a traveler, of course.

Second, our users who have published unique local experiences, will manage the products, content, available dates and time, inventory, and so on. One one side, they are their own boss, they have full control; on another side, they are also our salesmen, because the more they sell, the more commission we can make as well. By the way, we only take 10%, which is so low compare to any other sites.

b. Let the users be our account managers

We provide a contact management tool. Many local vendors did not manage their customers. They may have emailed back and forth with the customer before the trip, but after that, they seldom back in touch. Now Gopackup provide a contact management tool for the vendors, they can import all the contacts they have from their Gmail, Yahoo mail, Outlook, Hotmail, social network, gsv or excel file. With all their contacts in one place, they can better manage them, stay in touch with them.

c. Let the users be our marketing person

We provide an email marketing tool, so the vendors can send group emails to his/her contracts imported. They can send their contacts birthday e-cards, holiday greetings, or announcing a new experience just launched. Or they can generate coupons with the tools we provided, and group email the contacts with discount coupons, and so on. Those old customers might become returned customers, or introduce them to new customers. Because of such activities, those old customers may also come and visit Gopackup and become our users.

We provide social network marketing tool, so the vendors can reduce their efforts, and generate more marketing effects. With the social networking tool we provided, vendors can post their interesting local moments in one place while sync to many other social network channels at the same time. All the posts locals shared, will help build up a vivid travel vertical channel, and will bring many viewers to our site, as result, help Gopackup grow users as well while grow their own customers.

d. Let the users be our customer service person

We provide chatting tools and allow vendors to directly chat with their customers or other vendors, which can become their potential partners. Many platforms want to turn themselves into a middlemen and take a big cut, so they are afraid to let both parties directly chat with each other. Some platforms do have a message tool, but they tried so hard to block emails and phone numbers in the conversation, however, still people find a way to tell the other that information. Unlike them, Gopackup allow both parties to chat freely, which brings more user activities to the site, and contribute to a blooming travel community, and allow vendors be able to provide a personalized local experience to travelers. Many other sites tried so hard to make their products standardized, however, in travel industry, that has never been the case, people always has their own preferences and planning.

With our payment escrow service, with our quality guarantee, both parties of a travel deal are mostly among strangers in different places, we are not afraid to let users have the freedom to chat. Which, made the vendors become our customer service force, reduced our tremendous money on customer service, while the customers even more satisfied.

e. Let the users be our regulating force

It is important to verify the local guides’ identity, and regulate to make sure the safety and solve some other concerns. Users are encouraged to connect all sorts of social networks and to verify their bank info, cell phone, email and so on. All these make them more real, and also become ways of cross verification.

Besides, review also plays an important role in regulating the ecosystem. Reviews from both parties helps to manner a good vendor as well as a good customer. Reviews from friends, from mutual knowing people, will give extra credits. If the vendor already has TripAdvisor review, he/she is also encouraged to connect that, and we have connected to TripAdvisor API, so they do not have to rebuild their review histories from fresh at our site.

f. Let the users be part of our training force

Just like in the schools, although teachers are always the hired trainer, learning from peers has always been an important part. We find those vendors who are doing well, and we set them as role models to train others to learn. We as internet professionals entered into a new field, we have always need to learn from our users. In Gopackup’s case, we are learning from our users, and then we analyze and collect those successful merits, and deliver to all others.

We do not differentiate professionals and amateurs, as long as he/she can provide qualitied services. Some startups like Vayable, who was a star startup from YC and 500, only want to focus on amateurs, and only want to start from famous cities, finally failed. Because those amateur local guides lack of commitment, professionalism, and some other reasons. We let the professionals to guide amateurs for better qualitied services; and we let amateurs to bring in fresh air with new ideas and unique local experiences, which means they are also training those professionals with creativity. This way helps to build a flourishing travel community and contribute to the vigorous eco-system.

The company strategies come from the problems and the market situation we are facing; the product design aligns with the strategies. With this concept in mind, and to grow together with users, to best utilize the crowdsourcing power, I have designed my product as such. Some have been implemented, some are still developing, some may even be adjusted with the learnings from the market. It keeps iterating, and evolving, and growing, together with the users!

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