Kaufer acknowledged that monetization is a challenge and that TripAdvisor does need to do more to grow its available inventory. “We get more supply, we get more demand – and bingo,” he said. “As with any business like this, margins flow really nicely as traffic builds, especially organically grown traffic or app traffic. [Then] customer acquisition is nil and you have a beautiful margin machine.”
Personalization is also high on TripAdvisor’s list of priorities. Kaufer noted that the company gathers customer data around travel preferences, behavior and activities.
TripAdvisor is mulling over how to take better advantage of its user data sets. “We always want to explore the next generation of products,” Kaufer said. “Our scale can deliver benefits no one else can dream of.”
One recently released product in this vein is called “Just for you,” which provides users with more tailored recommendations based on their prior search activities.
As to when mobile will shift from a headwind to a tailwind and start earning its keep from a monetization perspective, Kaufer couldn’t say for certain – but he was confident that the new Instant Booking feature will help TripAdvisor get there by making it easier for users to transact within the app.
“Every data point we can find says that people are using the TripAdvisor mobile experience more than any other travel product – consumers are liking it, but they don’t monetize as well, clearly,” he said. “Maybe they’re using it to do their research and then popping back to desktop to finish the transaction on TripAdvisor or maybe they’re … popping over to somewhere else to finish buying something.”
Whatever the case may be, Kaufer is banking on TripAdvisor’s engaging in-app experience to convert users to hardcore loyal mobile converters over time. As it stands, he said that the app does monetize better than the mobile web.
“As people continue to use the app, the stickier and the stickier they’ll get with the experience,” Kaufer said. “If we can do a good job of tying mobile together with the booking piece, we feel we’ll be able to improve monetization.”
In other news, TripAdvisor also plans to double its ad spend this year to $60 million, the bulk of which will go towards a new TV campaign.