Secretescapes is a travel flash-sale site that follows a matchmaking business model. By conducting flash-sales on its website, Secretescapes connects luxury hotels and other accommodation providers with individuals looking for luxury accommodation. As a matchmaking business model it facilitates the connection of guests and hotels and these groups can and do bypass Secretescapes once connected. Users return to Secretescpes website, however, in order to view the ever-changing catalog of luxury accommodations available at flash-sale prices, and resorts will continue to list on Secretescapes as they can tap into a larger user base to sell their excess capacity at short notice.
The website was founded in 2010 by Alex Saint and Tom Valentine. Prior to SecretEscapes, Alex Saint found Dealchecker.co.uk, an aggregator travel deals website, which was subsequently sold. Tom Valentine worked for an online fashion brand Koodos.
Secret Escapes now operates in the UK, Germany, Sweden, the US, Denmark and Poland. As of June 2014 it had 5 million customers and launched a new app to drive further sales.
Secret Escapes is partially funded by private equity backers including Atlas Venture, Octopus Investments and Index Ventures.
In 2014, the company achieved revenue growth of 300%, and secured a $60 million investment from Google in 2015.
CUSTOMERS – WHO THEY ARE:
The website connects those looking for luxury accommodations with hotels, resorts and other accommodation providers.
ENGAGEMENT – VALUE CREATION PROPOSITION:
Secret Escapes create value for its participants in the following ways:
Customers: the opportunity to stay at a luxury hotel or enjoy a luxury holiday at a discounted price, sometimes up to 70% from the original price. If a price on a flash sale is not the lowest online price the website will push for additional perks from the supplier or drop the flash sale altogether. To participate in the flash sale, one must become a member, for which no restrictions or fees apply.
Hotels: Secret Escapes offers the opportunity to generate additional revenue on unoccupied rooms at a lower customer acquisition cost. By placing a deal in the web site a hotel operator is able to access this database of people and sell the rooms at a short notice. As the deals are negotiated on a weekly basis, the hotel operator has the ability to sell those rooms that were subject to last-minute cancellations. Further, as the website targets high earners, these customers are likely to spend more at the resort when they arrive.
DELIVERY – THE VALUE CHAIN:
To access the deals on Secret Escapes, one must become a member by providing a few details and creating an account. In this way, the web site builds up a database of potential customers who are willing to consider taking a holiday at a short notice. Once a guest books a hotel on the website, SecretEscapes sends the information to the hotel and the hotel contacts the guest for further arrangements and to recover the rest of the funds.
MONETIZATION – VALUE CAPTURE:
Secret Escape charges a small booking fee from each member booking an offer. In addition it offers an option to hold a sale item for additional fee of £25. Secret Escape also takes a commission from the sales it makes for hotels. There is no upfront cost for the hotels.
Secretescapes website: http://www.secretescapes.com/work-with-us
CITYAM: Unlocking the secret to startup success: http://www.cityam.com/article/1392004294/unlocking-secret-startup-success
The Telegraph: Secret Escapes needed customers before it had a product: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/10405564/Secret-Escapes-needed-customers-before-it-had-a-product.html
Written by Parthipan Paramsothynathan and edited by James Knuckles under the direction of Prof Charles Baden-Fuller, Cass Business School. This case is designed to illustrate a business model category. It leverages public sources and is written to further management understanding, and it is not meant to suggest individuals made either correct or incorrect decisions. © 2016
Published 21 April 2016