Q&A with Sahil Shah, managing director, Sujester
What is Sujester and why and when did you set it up?
Sujester is a web platform designed to inspire users, and help them discover incredible experiences. It helps people create and manage bucket lists of dream trips (which they can build by combining experiences powered by smart algorithms) and encourages them to plot their next 5 years of travel on a future timeline.
Sujester was set up to enrich lives through travel. We came out of leading travel agency research that found that people often didn’t end up fulfilling their dream trips; instead reacting to price driven offers or destination marketing. We want to help people to shift to pro-actively planning their travel so they go on the perfect trips for them and fulfil their dreams!
We also want to help them discover experiences/moments they may not have naturally considered which is why we have a lot of lesser known/visited content on our platform. If you enjoy travel, it is often your largest discretionary expense, and despite this, people rarely plan more than 6-12 months ahead. We want to change this.
Sujester was set up in August 2016, although operations didn’t commence until September.
2) How does it help travel agents?
Sujester helps travel agents retain their customers. If you know all of the trips your customer wants to do in the next 5 years, its much easier to retain them as you can pro-actively contact them before they consider competitors for each trip. This can dramatically increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). It’s also a much more engaging and personalised alternative to brochures, so it could also enhance the in-store retail experience.
The Sujester platform is also designed to incentivise users to invite friends to trips for real time collaboration in planning trips and people love sharing their visually appealing bucket lists to social media to show off and gather recommendations from friends. This helps travel empower their customers as brand ambassadors which helps grow via digital word of mouth
We’re an easy and cost-effective way for travel agents to provide a first in class digital customer experience, and gives them a tool that can provide a holistic digital strategy
3) What are your plans for the next 12 months?
We have some really exciting plans for our platform. Our aim is to dramatically expand the number of moments (experiences) on our platform to over 15,000 in the next 12 months, integrating video content and even potentially VR content.
We plan to create a gamification and reward system to keep people engaged on the platform and create ‘stickiness’, along with investing more in AI algorithms to make our moment recommendations even better. There are a number of other exciting features in the pipeline designed to make the user experience even more seamless and exciting!
As a business, we hope to scale across independent and small chains of agents, both in the UK and in other English-speaking countries. We plan to create an enterprise offering for large agents/ agent groups, which is more customisable and provides greater data insights along with a tweaked product for tour operators and tourist boards.
We may also raise external finance to accelerate our growth.
4) How has business performed in the short time since the launch
We have had a significant number of enquiries in the short time since launch, and are deploying our platform with 2 more travel agents next week. We expect that the number of travel agents we will be working with will be well into double figures by the end of 2017.
5) What is unique about Sujester as a proposition?
We focus on moments, rather than destinations. Moments are the aspects that really excite people about the trip, the memories they take back, the highlights. This makes planning a trip a lot more fun, engaging and since users are combining moments themselves, they build a sense of attachment to their trip compared to choosing a pre-planned itinerary.
Our focus on long-term planning and dreaming. Most travel websites are transactional or informational, and are rarely focused on helping a traveller plan beyond their next trip.
People often have grand travel aspirations that are left by the wayside as they get busy and bogged down in their day to day lives. They forget to reach out to travel companies in advance of their holiday and end up not going away or booking a last minute trip, which is often overpriced and not their 1st preference. Sujester solves this in a fun and engaging way, and changes both customers and agents behaviour for the better, from reactive to proactive. Proactive customers will go on holidays better suited to them a that they’ll enjoy and proactive agents will better retain customers leading to a win win.
What the agents say…
Michael Holroyd, director at Strawberry Holidays: “Strawberry Holidays’ mission is to provide our customers with tailor-made holidays designed to meet their precise wishes. We continually strive for ways to help turn their wishes to reality and design the holiday that fully meets their needs and were excited to learn how Sujester’s platform works with customers to inspire and help define their future long-term travel plans and build future wish lists.
“So much so, that we have decided to trial Sujester. Sujester presents the travel industry with the potential to collaborate with customers through this technology, designing holidays that will delight and provide ongoing business as we meet fully meet their long-terms travel wishes and dreams.’
Mark Bratt, Mark Bratt Travel: “Any travel agent who embraces new technology should give this a whirl. It’s early days for the platform, but there are two things I like; 1) how it inspires the “we don’t know where we want to go” customer and 2) the way it hooks customers in and gives me a list of their potential future trips.”