What are some of the challenges your company faced when breaking into the Singapore and Hong Kong markets? How did you overcome them?
First of all, going into a market facing local established competitors is never easy. Changing the reservation system of restaurants is also a challenge for a number of reasons. For example, familiarity with an existing platform, signed contracts with existing service providers which cannot be broken, etc. The only way to convince a restaurant owner to switch out is by adding more value and giving a better service than your competitor.
Our first 200 restaurant partners signed up with Quandoo without too much consumer attrition. The restaurant owners therefore, had faith in our product and not only gave us their trust, but also financially invested in online marketing initiatives. Imagine you are a new player in a developed market and you have to pitch and sell your product to someone that involves investment and a long-term contract. That's a tough job if you don't have the best product. On average, Quandoo Singapore grew by over 40 partners each month, that is at least two new restaurants per working day.
In 2014 and 2015, we focused on getting restaurant partners on our platform. If customers do not find their favourite restaurants on Quandoo, they will not use our service again. With a current return rate of 56 percent in Singapore, I believe we achieved our goal in giving diners what they want. In 2016, we switched our focus to consumer traction. That means booking partnerships, brand awareness, special promotions, publicity, etc.
I believe that the online dining reservation booking market is just like Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Google, Amazon, etc. At the end of the day, you only need one relevant provider where you find everything you need. So the biggest challenge is to perfect our proposition which gives our customers everything they're looking for on one platform.
Relationships are very important. We are close to our partners and listen to what they want. Our Head of Product and Head of Operations in Germany recently visited Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia to meet with our partners and hear from them directly and incorporate their feedback. This is critical for us as we work towards continuous improvement.
According to our General Manager in Hong Kong, Marthe Van Wilsum, Hong Kong had its obstacles as well. "Entering a very traditional market in terms of restaurant bookings was a challenge; from the restaurant perspective as well as from the consumer side. The restaurant staff was not used to take online bookings and customers made their restaurant reservations by phone instead of online. It was our job to change this mindset and educate both parties on the simplicity of our platform. By showing both sides how easy it is to make and take these online bookings we found a way to overcome this challenge. Today, an increasing number of restaurants are willing to start online reservations at their restaurants and our number of online bookings continues to increase every single day. Today, one year after our official launch, we already have more than 570 restaurants online."
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