If you don’t know anything about Cool Cousin, you should start learning now. They already have hundreds of Cousins in more than 45 cities around the world. Their guides and insights then encourage other users to become experts on their cities. The more a Cousin’s map gets downloaded by other users, the higher they are ranked for their city. The app also allows offline access to the information. They’ve also put in some effort to collect good contributors, from Experimental Cocktail Club founder Xavier Padovani, well-versed in the best of London nightlife to Secretsundaze Studio founder James Priestly, an expert on the music scene.
In our latest addition to our App Valley Talks series, we sat down with Nadav Saadia, Cool Cousin co-founder and CMO, to pick his brain about staying competitive in the online travel industry.
1. Tell us about Cool Cousin.
“Cool Cousin is a platform that is connecting travelers with like-minded locals anywhere in the world. Cool Cousin is the friend you wish you had in every city.”
2. What is unique about your app compared to others in the industry?
“I think that there are a few things that are unique about us. Our vision is to redefine the role of that classic travel agent as we used to know it. I think that we see it in many industries: that curation is an answer to a lot of people’s problems. I think that Cool Cousin has been doing it for two years now. Since we started, many other companies in the travel industry have been trying to find solutions for that. Look at what Airbnb is trying to do with their Airbnb places and Airbnb experiences. Allowing travelers to upgrade their experience in a city just by rating the city for them. So this is what we do in a nutshell.”
3. So, it’s about curation?
“I think that in a world so overloaded with information, more and more people are looking for ways to maybe narrow their decisions. Cool Cousin is allowing you to just rely on someone who is like you, just in a different part of the world. And just by two finger taps, you get their knowledge of the city and can message them for extra advice. And in the future, can get more and more services from those locals.”
4. What do you see as the biggest problem for travelers today?
“I think that the problem with the world today is not the lack of information, but too much. I think this creates choice fatigue or decision fatigue. In an optimal world, you have all the information out there. You can google it and find it, but what we see is that people are just having a harder time to decide because there are so many options. They know that the web is biased.”
5. Why would someone go to Cool Cousin to personally pick a Cousin they don’t know and ask them for recommendations?
“Yes, there are many, many solutions to find experiences and cool places that are just the right fit for you. But actually we sometimes just want someone to tell us what to do, where to go and save us from the time, hassle and frustration of deciding on our own.”
6. A lot of millennials use your app. How do you target them specifically?
“We’re trying to find a way to communicate with them and not only attack them at the time that they are showing an intent to travel. We’re trying to communicate with them on a day-to-day basis. Maybe they’re not just traveling more, but rather looking for a more adventurous type of travel.
I think that every article about Millennials starts with saying that Millennials prefer experiences over material stuff. I think Cool Cousin in that sense is a definitive resource for the Millennial traveler. With just a finger tap, you connect with someone who is like you, who’s a local. They will show you the local places and expose you to to experiences that you might have not tried. They’re trying to avoid generic experiences. They’ve been to the Eiffel Tower when they were six years old with their family, it’s their second or third time in Paris, and now they’re more interested in eating the best lemon pie in the world. So the Cousin in that sense, is their gateway to those places.
I think that there are a lot of talks about about the younger generations and them growing up with phones in their hands. From what we see with our audience, is that the younger generations do look for human connection. They do look to interact with locals. Yes they are holding their phones in their hands, and they want to share a lot of things on the Instagram, but that doesn’t mean it has to come at the expense of having human connection. Our platform is allowing that human connection, but it’s also automated and on-demand, trying to bring both of the best of both worlds.”
7. Do you think this industry has its own characteristics when it comes to user behavior in travel apps?
“Travelers are evasive. It’s challenging to find people with the intent to travel, and the ones who do show intent, are very hard to win over. I think that because there are many other services for people traveling for let’s say 12 or 14 days a year. And these are people that when they travel, they spend a lot of money; we know ourselves in a traveling mode. Most people know what they want to spend, and they want to spend it. It’s like a marketing budget of a startup company: you can’t finish the year with extra cash in your pocket because that means that you’ve done something wrong.”
8. What about re-engagement? How do you revisit the people who visited your website and even had a good experience and make them come back for more?
“We are doing things in terms of location-based tech, and when we see someone is changing territory and arriving at a destination and who is available on our service, we obviously engage with them. Right now Cool Cousin is not trying to only sell you a hotel or a flight. This is what we try to do. It’s a longer road to get travelers, but it can be done right. It can be cheaper, and it allows you to communicate with a much larger target audience.”
9. What do you think you do better than other competitors you have?
“I’m not trying to win an SEO war against TripAdvisor or one of the giants, but in one sense, we have a very engaged community. I think that this is one of the things that many companies, even the giants, have a hard time building. I think that the cool factor is important, and I think that we have cool branding. I think that makes it easier for people, especially for young adults, to identify and relate with with what we do. Being a COO, being a cool company is the first step to recommending cool places and having a cool community. So you can’t be where very stiff brand is and then just hope that people will come. You have to have the credibility of a cool content platform, so I think these are the cool things: community and content curation. The branding and community that we have is I think what makes Cool Cousin. I think these are our advantages.”
10. Why is it harder to build?
“It’s harder for them to build because this is our profession. We’re community builders, and I think that community is an advantage we have and something that we do well. I think that our content quality and the curation of our community is curated by great people who are very forthcoming. It’s not some Hillary 999 on TripAdvisor, someone who doesn’t have a profile picture. It’s legitimate people who are putting themselves in front and are willing to help. This is what we do, and I think that we have an advantage.”
Stay tuned for our next App Valley Talks episode!