Inoqo admits using Twitter for hotel deals is not easy, scraps old business model
The idea was actually quite simple – Inoqo would create a Twitter feed for a particular city and then throw distressed hotel inventory (48 hours or less) down the stream for users to check out.
Inoqo provided an upload system for hoteliers for put deals into the stream, and took a 15% commission if a booking was eventually made.
The offers were distributed through Twitter profiles such as @2londonhotels or @2newyorkhotels, using technology Inoqo created similar to Hootsuite, allowing it to re-tweet messages at specific points.
At launch the target was to increase its existing database of around 300 or so hotels to 3,000 by the end of 2010, and move on from its fax-based method of passing on bookings to hotels.
So what happened?
On the positive side, Inoqo created a booking engine for the main site and it worked well.
The company still exists, and the founding team remains in place – a group which included two seasoned Pegasus executives (John Seaton and Peter Fitzgerald) with more than a passing knowledge of how the hotel industry works.
Bretton Putter, who alongside Nicholas Smit make up the quartet of founders, now admits the original Inoqo strategy didn’t go according to plan.
Around 1,000 hotels eventually signed up to the programme, but they were straddled across 150 destinations, meaning that many locations offered limited choice to the casual follower of individual Twitter streams.
“Things went well but not well enough. Hotel numbers were okay, but were in too many cities,” Putter says.
Hoteliers were also leaving it too long between coming up with deals, simply not putting them in the system or the offers were no more attractive than those available elsewhere.
In addition, bookings from consumers (“pull-through from purchasing”), despite the easy-to-use booking engine, did not hot the targets required.
Interestingly, some of the individual Twitter profiles managed to attract quite healthy numbers of followers, indicating that the dip-in and dip-out approach of looking for relevant and good deals may have worked.
Indeed, some profiles had up to 4,000-5,000 people on their tail.
But in short: it didn’t go as well as expected.
Putter says around March-April this year the company realised the “hockey stick of growth for a startup was pretty flat”, so has been overhauling the model ever since.
“We are going to have the tweak the product significantly so we can continue,” he admits.
The company says it is considering a complete change from its existing consumer-facing product (or at least B2B2C) to a B2B service.
Putter will not outline what the new B2B model might be says the founders are in active discussions with other organisations to hopefully take the idea on.
Some B2B businesses have made use of Twitter and other social networks as part of a wider distribution and booking system, most notably GuestCentric.
Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.