Staff Reporters
Nov 25, 2019

Klook co-founder shares his brand-building recipe

Eric Gnock Fah, Klook COO and co-founder, explains the roles that marketing, data and CX play in building a new-economy brand.

Eric Gnock Fah
Eric Gnock Fah

Klook has a come a long way in a short time. The travel activities and services booking platform was founded just in 2014 as a website-based service but has exploded across Asia in recent years thanks to its mobile-first focus.   

Now with a team of more than 1800 across over 26 offices worldwide, Klook's services are available in 14 languages, supporting 41 currencies, with 100,000 service offerings. 

In this Q&A, Campaign asked Klook's co-founder about some of the lessons he's learned about brand-building and travel marketing as the service grew so quickly.

How did you settle on the name Klook?

The idea of Klook started in 2013 when I was on a trip to Nepal with my co-founder Ethan. During the trip, we faced all sorts of challenges and frustrations from large excel sheets for comparing tour activities and prices, to carrying large amounts of cash to pay for local tour operators.

That experience inspired the idea of Klook and how we can make an impact by empowering any traveller to discover, book and experience the best things to do anywhere, anytime and at the best prices.

The word 'Klook' refers to 'keep looking' and this means we are consistently working towards the mission of further empowering travelers to keep looking for the best, newest and most unique travel experiences anywhere, anytime.

How did the Klook brand manage to break the clutter of a very crowded travel market?

Our success has been built on strong business potential for the in-destination segment, our hyper-localised go-to-market strategy, and our talent.

While we are a digital platform, we also understand the importance of creating offline touchpoints. Consumers are able to move freely between the digital and physical spaces and we continue to find new ways to engage them.

How big a role did marketing have in building your brand versus other things like
word of mouth and CX?

We do see marketing and customer experience as key pillars for us in building our brand.

Our hyper-local approach allows each respective market to be able to create campaigns that are tailored and relevant to their markets across all channels such as social, influencer marketing, performance, PR and more. This is particularly important as user preferences vary significantly from market to market.

Customer experience is another area that is critical. As more people are moving away from the hyper-planning way of traveling, travelers are shifting to booking activities on-the-go. That's why resolving travelers’ pain points early, with things like instant confirmation and on-demand booking is critical.

How are you making it easier for your company to act on the considerable data you’re

Data drives technological innovation in travel. Being in the in-destination sector allows us to gain a more thorough understanding of traveling behaviors as we pick up unique insights from travelers’ points-of-interest when they are at their destination.

Our analytics teams in our Shenzhen and Singapore tech hubs use these insights to optimise our existing features and bring in new functions like smart search and recommendations. But we're constantly looking at new ways to use data analytics for better experiences. 

Klook website

Are you more worried about competition or about Klook making the wrong bets? What keeps you up at night?

We see competition as a positive for the in-destination sector. But we continue to be focused on our own growth trajectory and helping travellers to experience the best things anywhere, anytime.

While we have been able to quickly scale the business across many markets, we want to retain our core beliefs as we grow. This has put pressure on us to ensure that we're finding the right people with the right skill sets. We understand the importance of recruiting well and investing in our talent.

Could Thomas Cook have reinvented itself as a Klook? What are your takeaways from its demise?

Consumer behaviours have changed and brands must continue to innovate, address the pain points of their customers, and have the agility to adapt to change in order to stay ahead of the curve.

We have to be fast to adapt, learn and pivot where necessary. At the beginning, Klook was entirely website-based and that was mainly because we were learning from what traditional online travel agencies were doing. But we discovered mobile was crucial for the in-destination sector. Modern travellers have moved away from hyper-planning behaviours and we needed to adjust quickly. As a result, we quickly pivoted and developed our mobile app, adopting a mobile-first strategy.

While learning from how others have done it within the industry can yield some success, it's important that you have an outside-in approach. This lets you think even more boldly, not be constrained by traditional ways and approaches, and to truly break the mold in the industry.

What’s the biggest problem with most travel marketing these days?

Today, marketing strategies for travel brands fall under two ends of the spectrum—one end being highly digital while the other being highly offline. Most travel brands tend to place a stronger emphasis on either one of these approaches and it seems like there are very few travel brands that adopt a hybrid approach.

But online travel brands must also recognize the importance of creating offline touchpoints for their customers. An offline event gives digital brands a physical touchpoint to show customers the real faces behind the company. It also provides the opportunity to gather direct feedback.

For example, in Southeast Asia, we saw that traditional travel fairs did not cater to the growing needs of free and independent travelers in the region who use their mobile devices to manage every aspect of their trip. So to address the need, we created Klook Travel Fest, a mobile-led offline event in cities like Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. We saw over 150,000 attendees over the three mobile-led festivals with 1 in every 3 customers making a purchase. Ultimately, the events gave us the opportunity to address  pain points when planning their holiday.

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