LikeCube joins the Time Out family

I am delighted to announce that LikeCube has been acquired by Time Out, the London entertainment specialist, as part of its growth in the digital and social space. It’s a perfect fit and a great end to the LikeCube story, which started 5 years ago with the desire to give users personalised recommendations that were right for them - wherever they went.

Personally, I remember being frustrated that when I travelled somewhere new I would often end up somewhere a bit obvious, while the locals around me knew just what was interesting. How could I find out what to do? Forget overloaded websites or generic guides, I realised that I was looking for two things: what my best friends would recommend me who knew me and knew the city; and the kind of thing I've liked before - I love this bar in London, where should I head to in Berlin? I like this hotel in New York where should I go to Sydney? I wanted personalised recommendations that would make me feel local wherever I went. Over time the content around us grew and the digital and social landscape changed, but the desire to find the right stuff didn't alter and motivated us to build something that would do the job.

It’s amazing to say that the cultural and business fit with Time Out was spotted over 5 years ago when the fledgling idea of an anthropologist and a semanticist (aka me and Daniele!) was selected as part of NESTA's Creative Pioneer Programme and I was introduced to Tony Elliott, the Time Out founder. Over the years, and with some adventures along the way, we went on to build the technology that meant a full personalisation system and have come back to Time Out, post Oakley investment, at a time of digital expansion and change.

It’s a great opportunity: with Time Out's superb brand, its growing user base, its expert editorial and its new ambitions online, this vision of personalised leisure and travel advice will become a reality. And we are all really excited about what comes next.

Daniele and Ismael will be staying on at Time Out as Directors of Personalisation, and I will be working on the new innovation agenda: exciting times...

We would like to thank you all  for the support and belief in us along the way, and look forward to seeing you all at!


Ellie Ford (Co-Founder)


What does Google Hotpot mean for other location businesses?

Yesterday, Google launched an early release of Google Hotpot - a location-based recommendation engine “powered by you and your friends”. Several of the ideas we have advocated over the years are implemented in Hotpot (e.g.: quick in-place ratings; getting started by offering a selection of places to rate) and more are likely to come.

Google is moving fast into the location space, becoming more than just a simple search engine that filters data from third party services. With Hotpot, Google becomes a much more serious content creator contender as it makes it much easier for people to rate and review places. Most importantly, Google sees that delivering personalised recommendations will motivate users to contribute to Hotpot and add their friends. And soon Facebook will likely follow suit.

This a serious threat to local business review websites, checkin services and travel sites, which makes the adoption of personalised recommendations more important than ever. Maximising the value and uniqueness of your site content is becoming a must in order to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook. It is also key to increasing customer loyalty and brand recognition.

LikeCube works with all kinds of location related data, like ratings, reviews, bookings, checkins, and metadata about places. And we work out the best way of tailoring this data for your users. So if you feel you need an expert to get you to market now, contact us.


Online marketing and social media strategy

At the Online Marketing and Social Media Strategy Conference in Prague on October 6th, Eleanor Ford, LikeCube's co-founder, will be talking about personalization strategies leveraging user generated content, and will be using the particular case study of our work with, the European market leader in the local review and listings space, with over 16 millions monthly unique visitors.

This session is part of the Social Media track on Day 2 (at 14:40). Come and join us on Wednesday 6th October. 

And if you couldn't attend in person or want to know more, please feel free to contact us for a chat or view the session's presentation here.


Five ways to make your travel site more personal

How do you differentiate in a crowded online travel space, especially as you know the power of personalization is key to creating trust and make those visitors become repeat customers?

True, one-to-one marketing can yield benefits that will enable you to increase your brand’s loyalty and reduce your reliance on SEO and SEM.

But with so many ways to do it, it’s hard to know where to get started and most importantly what is right for your site.

Here are a few tips you might want to consider:

1. From segmentation to machine learning.

The standard approach to personalization, which is CRM based, is through organising, analysing and segmenting the database and then crafting targeted marketing messages delivered at specific groups.

This approach yields benefits given the right amount of investment and skill sets, but may show limitations in addressing the fact that people’s desires aren’t static. The most innovative travel companies are now embracing machine learning to offer a real-time personalized discovery at the individual level. A bit like Amazon books recommendations, but for hotels, trips and restaurants.

Machine learning has the power to surface reviews from liked-minded people and answer questions such as “I liked this hotel in New York, where should I go in Paris”. Machine learning solutions leverage data, lots of data, so while you may not plan for it today, it is definitely worth start investing in it today, in terms of data collection.

2. Collect data, all you can.

The data you own is a potential goldmine. So collect it, keep it and make sure it is clean and usable. We typically see two types of data.

The one linked to places, which is any metadata that can describe a place, like place information and description as well as tags, attributes and editorial content. And the one linked to users.

User data can be explicitly given (user generated content) like ratings, reviews, checkins, wishlists. It can also be inferred via search terms, clickstreams and bookings either from your website or mobile application. All this data is worth something in terms of personalization.

So if you don’t collect it today, consider starting now. If you already do, think about what future data you should be gathering (like mobile activity or geolocation) to increase your data personalization capital.

3. Personalization is a journey.

Machine learning techniques are slowly filtering to mainstream, but still have a considerable way to go, because of the challenges in terms of understanding, implementation, performance and scalability.

However, you can start with low-tech personalisation steps, based around tailoring search results and navigation (e.g. using profile and history information), while allowing users to add content (tags, ratings, votes, reviews, etc).

Once you have collected large amounts of user data, you can use cloud-based solutions to convert that into deep personalisation and business intelligence. The nature of your data should drive your solution, rather than the converse.

4. Social graph or taste graph?

The two are complementary. Exploiting the social graph is important for virality, and, with Facebook’s likes, a good source of user data. But only few friends have similar taste to ours and, most importantly, we do not have enough friends to cover the places and things we need opinions/recommendations for.

With the taste graph, we can make use of “collective intelligence”, not to build trivial average ratings, but to create sophisticated mathematical models of users and their taste that can be used to make personalised predictions.

5. Value to the user first.

Personalization is first and foremost about engaging users in a more relevant discussion. One where they feel they will want to hear more, interact more, while getting to what they are looking for faster.

For example, if a user has booked a hotel, in your next newsletter to that user, you might want to consider their last booking as a reference point to future recommendations. In general, it is always worth asking: “Would I trust this information, would I find it relevant to me?”.

Often, the information is too generic and miss an opportunity to engage. In our experience, the more narrow-casted the message, the better in terms of generating trust and loyalty.

This may mean you may not reach 100% of your audience with personalization, but the one you will reach should have a far greater value than the booking they will do. These will become loyal to your brand and by-pass search engines to find you.

NB: this post was originally published Tnooz