Today’s consumers place greater value on personalized experiences than on physical retail goods — especially millennials, 86 percent of whom would rather spend their funds exploring new cultures than shopping.
Competing for these consumers in an experience economy means firms must offer adventures that cannot be found on other platforms. They can enlist services from ad hoc creative professionals with focuses ranging from things like cuisine to local history to create these enticing offerings.
Such employees want to list their services on platforms that allow them to use their skills, work flexible schedules and be paid quickly for their work. Ensuring worker satisfaction is thus becoming imperative to retain professionals’ services on travel platforms and offer experiences that are unique to certain destinations, according to Yenyi Fu, head of product at travel platform kimkim. Effective travel platforms help travelers distinguish the proverbial tourist traps from the special experiences that share cultures and make travel fulfilling, Fu said in a recent interview with PYMNTS.
Providing freelancers speedy, seamless payments is crucial to enabling these cultural encounters. Workers who do not receive timely payments or are cheated out of them because of illegitimate customers and fraud are unlikely to offer their services again. These factors can significantly impact such marketplaces’ success. Kimkim is enabling hassle-free transactions by routing all payments through its own platform, rather than allowing person-to-person (P2P) payments, fostering trust between the platform and its gig workers.
The freelance payments balancing act
The platform allows travelers to directly communicate with locals representing over 70 destinations who curate experiences ranging from historical jaunts through Greece to walking food tours in Spain. Travelers pay for personalized trip itineraries through kimkim’s website, saving them time they would otherwise spend researching their destinations.
The platform supports multiple payment methods for its global customers, but offering that access is easy — the real challenge is making sure that the local professionals can safely receive the funds they are expecting.
“A lot of these specialists [on kimkim] have been in operation for many years. I think what we really provide is that level of comfort, being able to [earn and] transact the way that travelers are used to,” Fu said. “Some of these specialists may not be super sophisticated in terms of technology — the traditional way they would have worked with their travelers is to ask for wire transfers or payment that may not be what the traveler wants … so what we provide on the platform is that level of trust … The payments all go through kimkim and we hold the funds in reserve to pay the specialist.”
Payments are digitally transferred to workers monthly, improving both the speed and security of the booking experience from that of wire transfers, which can take a long time to route through currency exchanges and international banks. Locals offering travel experiences can use kimkim’s digital dashboard to check their upcoming trips or owed payments. The platform also asks travelers for deposits to ensure its specialists do not lose out on funds, Fu said. Kimkim enables the payments, which are then exchanged into local currencies by workers’ banks.
Payments and the future of travel
Specialists offering experience-based activities are not the only freelancers kimkim must keep happy. The marketplace also needs to facilitate payments to its content creators, as the firm works with a robust team of writers to ensure that each of its offered experiences is presented in the best possible light, she said. Freelance content writers often work on a more ad hoc basis than the specialists, meaning their payment needs are slightly different. A third-party payment provider and kimkim work together to ensure that writers are receiving their payments promptly and with the flexibility they require.
“I think the specialists are a lot more established [than the writers], so it makes sense that we can transfer [their funds to them] on a regular basis, but [our] writers are definitely … much more stereotypical of [the] gig economy, where there’s just so many different payment types,” Fu said. “Wire [transfers], ACH, PayPal transfers. [These writers] were looking for the ability to be a lot more flexible with [their] payment platforms, which is why we decided to partner with a third-party payment provider.”
Making sure these payments remain seamless and secure for all specialists and professionals involved will continue to increase in importance as the travel economy evolves. Travel as it is today can seem a little repetitive, with travelers seeing the same sites or flocking to tourist traps — experiences that are not enticing to younger generations seeking personalized experiences.
“The issue with travel, I think, as we think about it traditionally, is that everyone flocks to the same places, the same experiences and does exactly the same things,” Fu said. “What we really want to bring is very unique experiences in each of the locations [we support], and who better to provide that than people who live in that destination and know that destination really well.”
The rise of the experience economy means that competition for the freelancers that facilitate such escapades is bound to increase. Platforms that do not adapt to the needs of these workers or keep them and their funds safe will find themselves traveling away from the future of the industry.