Market Fit

Part
01
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Part
01

Vacation Planning Time

There is no clear data regarding how far in advance Americans plan their vacations. Google data suggests that flights and hotels are booked at least three months in advance, while activities are booked closer to the vacation dates. Expedia and Skyscanner have analyzed their databases and found the best times and days to book flights in the US.

Traveler Bookings Information

  • In 2019 a review of Google data found airfares and hotels are typically booked in advance of 12 weeks. In the three months before travel, consumers focus on searching and booking holiday activities and experiences.
  • There are three times as many searches for holiday experiences than hotels, and eight times as many searches for holiday experiences than flights in the three months leading up to travel.
  • Monday is the most popular day for booking trips. Saturday is the least popular. The most popular booking time is 1000 CET, while 0600 CET is the least popular.
  • Fifty-one percent of US travelers spend less than one week planning a trip once they have decided to go on the trip.
  • The number of bookings made directly through websites fell from 79.3% to 66.7% between 2017 and 2018. Over the same period, the number of bookings made by agents, affiliates, and local tourist offices increased from 17.5% to 24.3%. Marketplace bookings increased from 3.2% to 9.1%.
  • Travelers who book their trips in advance tend to spend 47% more on accommodations and 81% more on transportation when compared to travelers who book later.
  • Google data suggests there may be a trend developing toward late booking. There has been a 519% increase in travel searches incorporating "tonight" and "today" over the last five years.

Travel industry Recommendations

  • After analyzing their database for 2018, Skyscanner made several recommendations for booking in 2019. If flying domestically in the US, the best time to book was in August. Saturdays in August were even better. The booking should be made 30 days in advance of travel.
  • If flying internationally, the best time to book was September (Sundays). The booking should be made four months in advance of travel. Flights were up to 6% cheaper in September.
  • Expedia found that for Americans booking international summer vacations, the best time to book is one month to three weeks ahead of travel. This could save up to 15% on international flights.
  • Booking on the weekend can save up to 20%. Booking a flight on a Sunday can result in savings of up to 36%.
  • Hotels offer the best rates for last-minute bookings, according to Expedia. This will typically result in savings of up to 15%.
  • According to an analysis of online booking data, the best days to book Christmas flights are between 23 November and 9 December. Booking during that period can save up to 15%.

Research Strategy

We initially reviewed several large travel industry surveys, involving the travel habits of Americans, to determine how far in advance vacations are booked. We hoped that the surveys would indicate whether holiday flights, accommodation, and activities are booked at different times. We managed to locate some very limited data that suggested flights and accommodation were booked in advance of holiday activities. The data, while answering the question, was superficial.

To determine when flights, hotels, and activities are booked, relative to each other, we next considered a range of industry reports regarding the travel habits of Americans. The reports reviewed included the WWTC and CrowdRiff reports. We expected that this data would be included in these reports due to the implications it has on-demand for hotels and flights. Unfortunately, this was not the case. These reports focused primarily on trends within the industry rather than on consumer trends. While there was information about the best days and times to book, there was no information available about when travelers were booking. One report did suggest that there had been an increase in the number of Google searches for the same day or night travel.

We reviewed a range of media publications, industry publications, and travel advisory sites. We hoped that these sources would include this type of information, as many of these articles discuss the trends and behaviors of travelers. There was a wealth of information in these sources, including an article based on Expedia data. This article made recommendations as to the best time of the year to book and the best time of the year to travel. There was no information about the booking habits of the travelers themselves.

Finally, we considered a range of consumer reports and industry studies that were behind paywalls. Often paywalled reports have a summary of the pertinent points available free of charge. We hoped that information about booking habits would be contained in one of the summaries. Unfortunately, this was not the case. We managed to find some information regarding the historic habits of UK travelers, but nothing about Americans.
Part
02
of two
Part
02

Product Market Fit Case Studies

As noted by many within the startup ecosystem, every startup with a mobile app faces the problem of finding their product/market fit. Since mobile apps are relatively cheap to produce, it is extremely common, perhaps ubiquitous, for the initial iteration of the product to be released before achieving that fit to test "problem/solution fit," focusing on the market fit only at later stages. Even once a startup reaches the point of trying to work out the market fit, doing so is an iterative process, with constant small adjustments along the way.

As one lead designer noted on the UX Collective, "[In] early stage, your top priority is to find product-market fit. You must adapt like an amoeba that constantly try to change shape to mold yourself to user needs and business opportunity. The only thing that stays firm is the company vision. The rest — the features, the product, everything — is open for change."

Finally, it has often been noted that finding the right product/market fit is more often intuitive than metric-driven. As Jamie Pride wrote in "Unicorn Tears," "if you are honest with yourself you will know when you have it."

As a result, it is exceedingly difficult to find case studies that truly fit the concept of a "case study" in which an early-stage app began to fail commercially, this was recognized by specific metrics, and a particular pivot took place which achieved product/market fit within a documented timeframe. Following an extensive search of startup case studies, startup ecosystem reports, op-ed pieces, and interviews with founders, the below two case studies are the closest available to fit the project criteria.

Airbnb

  • In 2007, Brian Chesky, Joe Grebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk launched airbedandbreakfast.com, a portal by which they rented out the living room of their loft apartment and provided a complimentary breakfast in the morning. (The name came from the airbeds used to accommodate their guests.) Though not precisely a failure, the site lacked any ability to scale and the founders wished more.
  • The first revision was to reposition the site "as a networking alternative for attendees when hotels were booked up."
  • This provided a better market but was still limited, so the co-founders pivoted again, this time "to target the type of traveler who didn’t want to crash on couches or in hostels but was looking to avoid hotels."
  • Based on feedback and usage patterns, the company name was shortened to Airbnb in 2013 and went on to raise over $4.4 billion in capital over the next several years.

User Interviews

  • In 2013, co-founders Dennis Meng, Basel Fakhoury, and Bob Saris originally set out to create MobileSuites, "a mobile app that would give travelers 24/7 access to upscale hotel concierge service." However, when they launched the app after a year of development, they found that it had no product/market fit at all.
  • The co-founders spent extensive time and resources attempting to gather as much user feedback as possible, even buying refundable plane tickets so that they could interview travelers at airports. While the original app could not be salvaged, the effort required to get user feedback caused them to radically pivot in a new direction.
  • In 2015, Meng and Fakhoury launched User Interviews, "one of the first automated platforms for recruiting and scheduling participants for market research studies and product tests."
  • Though initially conceived as a B2B service specifically targeting startups, User Interviews has gone on to build a client base of hundreds of established companies, "including the likes of Pinterest, DirecTV, Colgate, Yahoo, and Pandora."

Sources
Sources