We see that some of our competitors are trying to create a platform for online booking in some industries. While this have some benefits: the end-customer can easily find and compare service offerings nearby and a business can attract new customers without advertising, we ultimately believe it leads to a poor experience for the end-customer and that it’s hurtful for small businesses and the industry they compete in.
What is a platform?
You might have booked a holiday apartment with Airbnb. They have built a platform that makes it easy for property owners to rent out their property and lets travellers experience something different than a hotel. This is quite different from other booking scenarios, for example hairdresser or a massage treatment, as historically it was quite difficult to find, book, and pay for private house rentals (which is not the case with getting a haircut). While there is a big debate about the influence Airbnb have on tourism and local property prices in some cities which I will not get into but let’s look at the key issues with a platform:
- Your company is no longer in control of its own brand. The offered services and company is presented the same way as any other listing. The customer will not be able to differentiate your brand from your competitor.
- You are at at the mercy of the algorithm and platform decisions. While this applies to search engine results such as on Google as well, a platform is much more focused and in control over the order your listing appears in. Some platforms have accepted payments for ranking higher in the listing (not possible on Google - except for advertising). On Google more popular and quality sites will be displayed higher, that’s not necessary the case on a platform.
- The platform owns the customers, not you. When a customer makes a booking on a platform they give their personal information to the platform. They have the platform app installed. All communication is branded as the platform. Your company is just part of a transaction. It makes it much more difficult to develop customer relationships.
- Your loyal customers are now presented with a choice. Moving on to a platform you move your previously loyal customers into an environment where competitors are listed next to you. Now they have a choice which previously they had to actively seek out. Are you sure your customers are satisfied enough to not be lured into that 50% promotion your competitor above you in the search result are offering?
- The customer is not paying so the customer is the product In most cases these platforms are free for the end-customer. But they have to register and install an app so everything they do is tracked. Information is aggregated from all vendors and are in some cases also sold to third-parties.
- The risk of being on a monopoly platform. What other options would a traveller consider than Airbnb if they want to book private accommodation? What if your business was locked into a platform that had in practice a monopoly of online bookings in your industry?
- Expensive - pay per booking. With many of these platforms there is a fee per booking. Paid for either by your company or your customer. That could end up being a lot more expensive than the $9/month it costs to use MakePlans.
MakePlans will not:
- List or compare your brand or services with others.
- Push our own brand to your customers. Yes really - and while we would love to reach new customers we believe that what we sell is a way for you to not only accept bookings online but also a way for your company to build great customer relationships. We don’t want to get in the way for that. So we have tools that allows you to customise most information and communication being sent from MakePlans. You can also use your own domain and SMS sender ID (both are options available at a fee). There are also many other ways to customise the booking site to make the booking experience in line with your brand.
- Sell any usage activity or information about your company, your employees or your customers to others.
But we will:
- Use, promote and fight for open standards. Our booking site is clean and simple. We are also in the process of providing more meta information that will can be used by Google and other search engines to make it easier for new customers to find your business.
- Provide more ways to customise the booking site. Including offer more design themes. Your brand is your brand; the end-customer should form a relationship with you not us.