Redballoon was started in 2001 in the house of Naomi and Peter Simson. Back in the day they identified a gap in the market for gifting experiences instead of products and commenced a journey they’ve now been on for more than 15 years. Today their site features around 4000 of these experiences, with an astonishing brand awareness of 70%.
The essence of Redballoon’s gifting experience is the ability to give people the opportunity to experience something unique. Something that adds a spark to people’s lives. It’s the very creation of those special moments that have been the most important part of the journey. In 2015 Redballoon appointed Nick Baker, former CMO of Tourism Australia as CEO and new leader in the exciting times of growth and transformation.
“A few years ago RedBalloon noticed people weren’t coming to the site to buy gifts. They were buying the experiences for themselves. The number of these personal purchases continued to grow and that’s when we realised we needed to pivot. We started to view ourselves not just as a pure gifting business, but more as a “things to do” marketplace for tours and activities,” he explains.
Having determined the new direction for the business, Redballoon’s team immediately knew they were going to require the ability to give in real-time to their customers. People who buy experiences for themselves want to complete the purchase there and then. They also realised that to be able to move into the world of real-time availability and bookings, they needed to partner with technology companies whose tech was at the top of the game to allow for seamless connectivity.
“By 2014 Rezdy had already become a well established Channel Manager. As a reliable booking system used by many local tour operators in the industry, they had already developed a wide network of suppliers and products they were helping get discovered and find their way to the marketplace. On top of that, their API allowed the exact kind of connectivity we needed.
It seemed logical that if the next point for us is to move into real-time availability, then that’s who we needed to partner with.
If you want to become more relevant to customers today, particularly in the holidays and weekends offerings, you need to be able to give in real-time environment. The only way to do that is to work with channel managers like Rezdy who are at the top of their game to be able to unlock these unique experiences and take them to the consumer”, he adds.
Redballoon’s testings have proved what was already in some way anticipated. Once you put a “Book Now” button next to a “Buy a voucher” – the sales go up.
Nick explains further: “It’s quite simple to understand, actually. It makes a huge difference because the customer thinks: ’Oh, I can just do it now.’ They don’t need to worry about anything else. And if it makes a difference to us, it will make a difference to thousands of suppliers across the country whose products we feature.
For all small tour and experience businesses real-time connectivity is vital for two reasons. One, it puts your product out there and saves you marketing costs, time and resources. Secondly, it brings more real-time business, which means that you can start planning weeks and months ahead because bookings are streamlined and you know that they’re confirmed, rather than having to wait everyday for the phone to ring.”
RedBalloon pride themselves on the reputation and trust they’ve relentlessly built over the past 14 years. They’ve grown to become a household name and a respected brand in the industry of giving. To remain competitive and relevant, they know they need to keep their offerings and the customer experience above all standards. Nick and his team know exactly what their customers need and the direction in which they need to evolve to remain at the very top.
“Where we’re going to dominate is in the depth and breadth of the product we bring. People now want relevant content in the right format, at the right time, in the right place. We won’t be just offering the mainstream things everybody knows about. We’ll be tapping more and more into the most intimate, special experiences. Those take time to nurture and bring to market. To offer this kind of content, we have to develop personalised targeted messages, and we absolutely must be in real-time.
Nick concludes: “Our job is to find long-term technology partners for the future. That’s determined by where their business is heading, the strength of their tech, and how quickly they can scale up. We want to make sure that we remain partners with companies that help grow our business just as much as we help grow theirs, so we don’t get into a situation where we start going after each other.
A company with a rock solid platform like Rezdy, who are also looking to scale up at speed, is the kind of partner we need to get us to our goals.
Imagine a world where you could book a welding learning experience for the weekend. That’s the breadth everyone’s now looking for, and I’m confident it’s something Redballon can own. Together with Rezdy as a partner enabling the real-time connectivity and helping us go broader into those kinds of areas, we can bring more products to market and we can both win.”