People who travel in groups face some tough decisions: Who is going to book the trip, and who makes the final decision on a destination? It’s a dilemma that Jasper Cox and his friends faced when they were trying to coordinate a ski trip of their own.
Unless groups are on the high-end of the market, they usually aren’t able to consult with, say, a travel concierge. As a result, travelers are often faced with countless choices and not much guidance. My Swft Co-founder Jasper Cox told PYMNTS.com in an interview, “You end up scouring the internet on websites some of upwards of a million hotels.”
To help travelers narrow their vacation plans down to a few good options, Cox helped found My Swft. The company communicates with travelers through messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, to start the travel planning process. Representatives ask travelers what type of trip they want (ski or beach, for example) and how many travelers they need to accommodate, along with any special requests.
After talking with travelers, the company provides a list of recommendations. If one particular option fits the bill, My Swft sends the travelers a payment link for their trip, then sends them all of their booking confirmations and tickets. All of this comes at no cost to the travelers: The company generates revenue through sales commissions.
Beyond serving consumers, vendors like hotels benefit from the platform, and they don’t just gain from the revenue opportunity. Vendors arguably end up with happier customers who know what they want out of a trip because they talked with a concierge.
My Swft does serve individuals, too, but the main focus of its business is groups, which benefit from another person helping to point them in the right direction. Cox said that groups like having someone give them suggestions and an expert’s advice is very much valued, as it’s hard for groups to come to a decision. But My Swft can help guide travelers along that decision-making process.
In terms of booking patterns, My Swft has noticed that people don’t tend to book their trips during the weekends, but usually make travel arrangements during the week. In particular, they like to book trips when they are at work. As a result, My Swft turned to apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which people often use to communicate with friends while they are their desks.
My Swft’s decision to utilize messaging platforms also comes as these programs are seeing rapid growth. Facebook, for example, has announced that its Messenger app had 1.3 billion monthly users as of September, making it the top cross-OS messaging app in the West. According to a TechCrunch news report, the new numbers are an increase from 1.2 billion monthly Messenger users in April and 1 billion in July 2016.
The Road Ahead
To help get the company off the ground, My Swft is running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. That fundraising approach took some creativity on the part of My Swft, as many companies use the platform to launch new products. To encourage people to take part in crowdfunding campaigns, companies often offer to ship customers an early version of a new product. Since My Swft doesn’t have a physical product, the company came up with the idea of offering discounts to supporters. Later, it decided to add travel-related gifts as an incentive to its Indiegogo campaign, too.
With the funds it hopes to raise in the campaign, My Swft wants to invest in its chat-based commerce platform and, more particularly, the software that allows the company to operate efficiently. It seeks to find time savings and efficiencies, which could result in a quicker turnaround for its customers. Beyond using Indiegogo as a way to raise funds, My Swft has noticed that the platform is good marketing tool as well: It’s made people aware of the company.
In the future, Cox said the company had a few initiatives planned, but he’s focused on growing the company’s core business for now. He said, “We’re concentrating on the … immediate challenge, which is expansion of the service as it is, and further down the line we have a couple of things in mind.”