Yahoo7 News - The Booking.com guide to digital survival

The Booking.com guide to digital survival Nathan Paull August 14, 2015, 8:36 am Digital disruption has stymied countless once-thriving industries.

It's likely you would struggle to remember the last time you stepped foot inside a DVD rental store.

The taxi industry across the globe is at war with Uber as passengers flock to the ride-sharing app for its lower costs, better customer service and convenience.

Even newspapers and print media are still grappling with how best to incorporate the internet in their business models.

But how do the other half live? What about those companies and industries that not only thrive on innovation, but were born out of it?

I was recently able to gain a first-hand insight when I visited Booking.com's Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore.

Once just a modest start-up in The Netherlands when it launched in 1996, the online accommodation booking website is now supported internationally by 170 offices in 63 countries and 11,000-odd staff.

Booking.com's Singapore offices are testament to its rapid growth and how far it's come.

Its call centre staff work on the 30th floor of a building in Singapore's financial district, enjoying breathtaking views of the city-state's harbour.

Employees can relax by the windows on egg chairs or head to the break room where they can chow down on a free hot buffet cooked for them daily.

As Booking.com's chief marketing officer, Pepijn Rijvers, explains, the layout is similar to that of many tech companies and contributes to their success.

I first met Mr Rijvers when he bounded into one of the company's boardrooms with a huge smile. He was excited to talk about the business, which he's represented in various leadership roles for almost a decade.

"Our enemy is hierarchy, politics and egos, because we think it drives bad decision making," he says.

Those who don't fit into that culture quickly fall prey to "foreign organ rejection syndrome" he says.

That collaborative culture fosters an emphasis on innovation, he says, where anyone in the company is welcome to pitch ideas.

But Booking.com's greatest asset has become customers themselves.

The company collects data on how customers use its products, meaning it can tweak them to be even more user-friendly without relying on surveys.

That approach helped the company produce its Booking Now app, after it realised its customers' increasing reliance on smart phones meant they were booking accommodation more spontaneously, rather than months in advance like it had previously been done.

The app lets people see a map of available accommodation nearby with reviews and other information and lets them book it on the spot.

Booking.com's new project in the works is a service called Pulse, which draws on the growth of instant communications, like WhatsApp, to link holiday makers with accommodation providers.

It means, just like WhatsApp, customers can instantly message a hotel to ask questions about the property instead of sending an email and waiting for a response.

After that, there will be another project, and another.

And that's how tech leaders like Mr Rijvers like it.

"That end state is fantasy - it'll never happen," Mr Rijvers says.

  • The author travelled to Singapore as a guest of Booking.com.