Switchfly Hosts 4th Annual Thought Leadership Summit and Client Day
SAN FRANCISCO – February 10,2012 – Switchfly, Inc. (previously ezRez Software, Inc.), the San Francisco-based Software-as-a-Service provider of travel, loyalty and payment solutions, hosted its fourth annual Thought Leadership Summit (TLS) February 7-8 in San Francisco. Similar to the three previous invitation-only events, TLS 2012 attracted executives from cities all over the world including Dubai, Frankfurt, New York, Santiago, and many more.
This year’s Summit was held in conjunction with Switchfly’s annual conference, which included a client-only event the day before the TLS. Switchfly’s executive team began the client event with the official unveiling their new brand strategy and expanded product suite. The product team then provided an overview of the company’s expanded product architecture, including three new products that will be available to all Switchfly clients in 2012. The agenda included live product demonstrations and an interactive question and answer session, as well as the opportunity for clients in the audience to provide Switchfly with critical “from the trenches” feedback.
The TLS continued on the second day of the conference, with presentations by travel and loyalty experts, as well thought leaders covering issues as vast as online advertising, gamification, and even brand genomes – an innovative approach that tags and organizes online data in a similar manner to the Human Genome project. One concept that all six industry experts highlighted as a leading ‘factor’ for 2012, was the progression of mobile products.
Henry Harteveldt, chief research officer and co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, kicked off the annual conference full of optimism as he looked ahead with a presentation entitled ‘Looking Forward to 2012.’ Harteveldt used his industry expertise to examine current trends and express his thoughts on what the year has in store for the travel industry. At a high level, Harteveldt anticipates airlines will continue to consolidate, while he predicts hotels will continue to be where the money is, due largely to continued increases in occupancy and nightly rates. Harteveldt made a strong case that what is good for Detroit is good for travel. His parallel to the auto industry measures total nationwide discretionary income which consumers generally use for a new car or a vacation. The return of discretionary income has brought with it a much more price sensitive consumer and shown us that brands do not own customers – travelers, in fact, are very likely to purchase a variety of brands. As travel companies (especially hotels) continue to self-fragment, it’s going to be important for companies to target their customer base properly. Harteveldt noted that daily deals don’t add additional segments, but rather, train the consumer to only purchase heavily discounted products. Rather than blasting mass discount emails, a more effective strategy would be for companies to use historical customer data to better understand the consumer. Harteveldt finished by predicting the travel industry will be moving toward mobile and 1:1 marketing. He foresees a significant increase in companies targeting their customers on their mobile devices by sending customized and relevant messages (even while traveling) after having explored who their customer is, where they live and other important past booking behavior.
The morning continued with Gabe Zichermann, CEO of Gamification Co & Dopamine, and his high energy presentation about gamification and marketing. Zichermann outlined the sense of accomplishment and related dopamine rush that players experience while playing video games. What he refers to as challenge / achievement loops can provide video game players with hundreds of dopamine rushes per hour. Zichermann explained how social media is taking advantage of this rush through interactive video games, particularly those that are offered for free while allowing players to earn electronic accomplishments faster by paying optional fees. The trade-off for the fee is the quicker sense of gratification, of accomplishment, a value-add for the consumer. Moving into a discussion on social media, Zichermann noted that a check-in is not about being social or meeting up with friends, but rather the check-in is a game in itself. Competing to be the mayor of an establishment can generate that same dopamine rush with the sense of satisfaction that comes along with being positively acknowledged for their behavior. Zichermann said the strongest motivator is often some type of public recognition, even more so than some monetary rewards. In closing, Zichermann expanded on how companies can utilize this enhanced brand engagement, noting that people have a tendency to associate themselves with a brand when that brand has influenced them in a positive manner. As an example, an individual who loses 20 pounds using Weight Watchers will answer the question “How did you lose the weight?” by saying “With Weight Watchers,” versus crediting hours of exercise and eating right. Zichermann emphasized that companies need change the way they market to this new generation of consumers raised playing video games, noting that promoting meaningful brand interaction versus providing simple promotions will be a key strategy.
The morning concluded with Mark Mahaney, managing director, Internet Research at Citi Investment Research & Analysis discussing ‘Online Retail and Travel Trends.’ Mahaney began his remarks by pointing out a significant recent trend – the first ever decline in television ratings – caused by an increase in internet useage, which in turn results in enormous potential for online advertisers. According to Mahaney, the travel industry in the US will see nominal increases next year, with only a few countries outside the US seeing substantial increases. To capture significant increases in online sales, travel providers need to focus on emerging markets moving forward. Mahaney suggests companies focus their online presence for the year 2012 on advertising space and emerging markets, rather than relying on continued meaningful growth within the United States. Mahaney concluded by sharing his thoughts on how travel companies can expand the total available market by incorporating mobile products. Knowing where the customer is, and making relevant products easily accessible to them, is going to be the hot trend for 2012.
The afternoon session kicked off with Jim Hornthal, venture partner at CMEA Capital and his presentation on how big data is affecting the world of travel and beyond. Hornthal discussed the ‘Data Tsunami’ that has flooded the internet with clutter, largely attributed to Social Media and content sources. Hornthal stated that the current approach to exploring the internet is too dependent on faux content which encourages the creation of useless pages hoping to obtain click-through to associated pages. Hornthal proclaims that there needs to be a way to systematically tag online content to start making sense of it all. Through micro listening and micro targeting, online marketers can identify who an individual trusts and whose opinion they deem most relevant. Once the data has been tagged and organized, users can apply algorithms and create a brand genome with incorporated social signals that enable the distribution of proactive and targeted offers at the same moment the consumer starts thinking about making their purchase.
Dan Schatt, senior director of Financial Innovations from PayPal was the next to address the group with a discussion about the future of payments and digital wallets for PayPal, specifically some of the products in development. Schatt noted that PayPal is building products based on a future where online and offline payment products ultimately collide. The line between online and offline is already beginning to fade, he noted, as consumers shop in brick and mortar stores while scouring the internet with their smart phones looking for deals, discounts and user generated content like reviews. The line blurs further as consumers purchase items in-store using their digital wallets and then manage their digital wallet online. Moving forward retail outlets will need to actively locate their customer base and send them a targeted message at relevant times. He concluded by highlighting the need to reach out to customers and pull them in, rather than allowing window shoppers to look and leave.
The presentations concluded with Geoff Lewis, senior director of Social Media for Switchfly. Lewis discussed how organizations can learn from the short past of social media and use this history to predict where this phenomenon might go in the future. Social media began as a broadcast tool used to push a single message out to a large audience, but the evolution of the medium has moved into smaller groups or circles, understanding that one size (or message) does not fit all. By the end of 2012, Lewis predicted the big winners in social media will be the ones who can successfully deliver an intelligent 1:1 marketing message customized to the individual’s personal preferences.
After the presentations were finished, the TLS concluded with a private reception and dinner and at Epic Roasthouse on the San Francisco waterfront. As with past summits, our goal was to provide a comfortable atmosphere for industry leaders to meet and interact with their peers on a more intimate scale. Because the TLS more than just a venue to discuss hot topics - it’s about industry leaders coming together to shape the future of travel.
About Switchfly, Inc. Switchfly, Inc. (formerly ezRez Software, Inc.) is a global software-as-a-service provider that helps travel companies, loyalty programs and financial services institutions engage with their highest value customers. The Switchfly product suite includes white label travel commerce and loyalty redemption platforms, a loyalty payments engine for digital wallets, social network engagement products through Topguest, mobile solutions for travel and loyalty partners, and personalized marketing solutions. Switchfly works with more than 300,000 travel suppliers, loyalty programs and payment providers globally, including AirAsia, American Airlines, United Airlines, Starwood Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels, JetBlue, American Express and PayPal. Collectively, more than 20 billion reward points are redeemed through the Switchfly platform annually. Based in San Francisco, Switchfly was founded in 2003 and has secured $17 million in venture funding led by Canaan Partners with participation from Azure Capital Partners. For more information, visit www.switchfly.com, www.facebook.com/switchfly and www.twitter.com/switchflyinc.