As a marketplace, building the supply of activities was one of the first challenges for Klook.
“The travel activity space is a lot more segmented compared to hotels and airlines. The need to communicate with more and wider arrays of suppliers to form direct partnerships was challenging in the beginning,” Eric said.
“However, partnering directly with suppliers also brought a longer-term competitive advantage, which includes having better prices, a seamless integration for better user experience, and higher efficiency for suppliers.”
Like any other new business, it is hard to get the idea off the ground. “Back in 2014, there were only few travel service providers who knew about our platforms. We were literally knocking on their doors cold, hoping to form partnerships,” the co-founder said.
“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” Napoleon Hill
To overcome the challenge, Eric said it is crucial to stay persistent. Besides staying well-prepared, it is also of vital importance to create your opportunities. Eric and his partner did whatever it took to talk to potential partners, which included reaching out to partners cold, leveraging connections for introductions, and running offline promotional events to draw attention.
Klook offers close to 30,000 attractions, tours and activities in over 120 destinations worldwide. How does Klook devise a marketing strategy and online presence?
Localization beyond language
Localization is the key to going global. With users from over 50 nationalities, Eric says it is important to reach out to customers in their own language and adapt to their culture. From the language adaptation to copywriting and special offering, Klook varies its presentation on the website or app in different countries.
While local marketing teams provide feedback on the trends and preferences in different locations, the business development team at Klook respond accordingly and accommodate these preferences to cater to each market’s lifestyle and interests.
“Localization is not only about language, it’s about creating experiences that truly fit in local markets’ needs from content, offerings, payment method, to user experience design,” Eric said.
Quality content attracts users and generates leads for Klook via social media channels and organic search. Besides providing a wide variety of attractions on the platform, Klook creates high-quality content like online travel guides, photos and videos. Content marketing helps Klook build brand awareness and generate leads. On the other hand, Klook partners with online influencers including bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers to reach a wider range of audience.
Dream Big Start Small
Every entrepreneur dreams about making it big, but that doesn’t mean you have to start big. In fact, in order to scale, Eric said people need to keep their focus on doing one thing, and be great at it.
“We’ve never lost our focus as we only do one thing: we are a travel activities booking service. This mindset allows us to fully concentrate on what we do and continuously optimize our services, which is really how Klook has got this far today.”
Klook is already expanding in Europe, with offices in Amsterdam, Barcelona and London. While it faces competition there from local players such as Berlin-based GetYourGuide, which in May raised $500 million from a group of investors led by SoftBank, Gnock Fah says that Klook offers a great range of services such as car rentals and airport transfers that allow it to appeal to a broader group of users.
Asia remains Klook’s biggest market, though, and roughly 35% of the app’s users come from Greater China. “We’re very well-positioned for China growth,” says Gnock Fah. Yet Klook isn’t competing with dominant local players such as Ctrip, China’s biggest player in the travel booking industry. “We focus on the outbound business,” he says.
Geographic expansion aside, Klook continues to build its network of vendors and offerings. “When you’re in a destination you have a multitude of needs, from booking a car to airport transfer, rail, food, attractions, tours and activities—that ecosystem is what we want to build,” Gnock Fah says. In December, Klook signed a partnership with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts to provide digital concierge services to guests in Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Gnock Fah shares that Klook is adding more concerts and other events to its offerings, blurring the line between travel and leisure. “After the first or second year, I realized that travel isn’t travel as we understand it,” he says. “It’s not strictly about travel, but about leisure and creating memories.”
Why Klook is using offline events to target Southeast Asia’s mobile-first travelers
Hong Kong-based tours and activities platform Klook is finding success with what seems like an unconventional marketing strategy: creating large-scale, in-person festivals to attract Southeast Asian travelers to its digital brand, where more than 75% of bookings are made on mobile devices.
At three “Klook Travel Fests” in September and October – in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore – more than 150,000 people stopped in for education, entertainment and, most importantly, to purchase Klook products. Across the three events the company says about one-third of the attendees bought one of its tours, activities or experiences.
“Consumer behaviors are changing, and they are increasingly becoming more digitally savvy and mobile-centric – especially so for a region like Southeast Asia that has been at the forefront of this revolution. There is also tremendous noise in today’s digital marketplace, and it is down to brands to distinguish themselves from the competition,” says Eric Gnock Fah, Klook’s co-founder and COO.
“An offline event enables digital brands to create a physical touch point and show customers the real faces behind the company. It also provides the opportunity to gather feedback directly, better understand customer pain points and channel that to improve your offerings.”
After testing the concept of an offline event last year, Klook formalized the activation at locations in Southeast Asia – three in the last two months and a fourth scheduled for November in Vietnam. And the company says it plans to continue the offline events in the future.
Each Klook Travel Fest includes interactive experiences such as photo zones with backdrops of popular destinations in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Europe, Australia and the United States. Guests that post a photo with the event hashtag are entered to win $100 in Klook credits.
Other activities include carnival games, presentations from travel experts and celebrities, entertainment and themed booths from partners such as Universal Studios Japan, Korea Tourism Organization, Hong Kong Disneyland, Sunway Lagoon Malaysia and Evan Evans Tours.
Klook also provides discounts for guests that purchase products while at the events and shares offers from partner brands such as Agoda, Sephora and GoPro.
Founded in 2014, Klook now offers more than 100,000 activities in more than 350 destinations, with service in nine languages and 41 currencies.