Thanks to Stuart MacDonald I was able to grab a private beta account with Farecast, a new online travel start-up that offers fare predictions. I like the concept of being able to tell if I should buy now or wait as a consumer. However, as Stuart points out, this could only add stress for consumers planning a trip, which is I think, a large part of why people have been moving more and more towards all-inclusive vacations… less hassle, less stress, one-stop shopping.
Which brings me to two thoughts I have about this service… The first, trust, is the key to any company’s success, but especially when you are an unknown commodity trying to break into a crowded and competitive field with a product that’s very premise is “trust us”… The trust factor needs to be a key component of their launch strategy. Why should I believe you? How do I know I can trust the information you’re giving me?
The second is the target market for the service… who are they? If they’re regular joe’s then Farecast needs to get some vacation packages in the service. Most people planning a vacation don’t do it a la carte. At the very least I would think they’d need to partner with a Hotels.com or similar service to make the process relatively seemless and valuable, and provide longevity in the marketplace. If it’s not regular joe’s then is it business travelers? Small and medium sized corporate travel? This could be a tough sell as a ton of business travel is done relatively last minute and with not a lot of time to deal with fare predicitions. Although, as Kevin pointed out to me during a chat yesterday, it could be done right with testimonials from satisfied small business owners or companies with a large number of travelling sales reps… in which case that should be a focus of the product design and functionality.
In terms of the site design, I like the prediction charts and graphs, and definitely like the options for refining the search terms, but overall the UI could stand some tweaking. The way the fare & prediction info is presented could be more intuitive, with an easier tie-in of information (i.e. the FF points from each airline, multiple ways to sort and view, etc.). Stuff like tool-tips could also be useful… make the service as simple to use as possible while keeping the value up front.
They’re still a ways off from launch, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves as they gather user feedback and keep refining the product. I’m a big fan of these betas from start-ups and anticipate they’ll take the feedback from all us consumers and make a better product. Only way to do it and be successful. ;)
I have 25 beta invites for anyone interested… drip me a line if you’d like to give it a test drive.
Technorati tags: Farecast, Stuart MacDonald, Hotelscom