Following soft launches in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan from the second half of 2002 into Spring 2003, ZUJI wanted to create a distinct brand personality for the full-scale launch. The name ZUJI, which is the Mandarin derivation of “footprint,” was chosen not for its meaning per se but simply because it was a name that had no preconceived perceptions associated with it, unlike other names in the online travel category.
A highly effective print, online, radio and ambient media campaign in Singapore encouraging people to “Be somewhere else today” garnered a 60 percent awareness of the brand. The guru concept appears to have resonated with travelers across ZUJI’s markets; ZUJI today boasts an online member base exceeding one million customers, 99 percent of whom reside in the six countries the company operates in. Members can buy air tickets, hotel rooms, travel packages, insurance and activities online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week—an attractive proposition for the average net-savvy working person, who may not have the time or inclination to stand in line at a travel agency. As Philip Ho, ZUJI’s director of marketing puts it, ZUJI’s aim is for all travelers to “get online, not inline.”
Where ZUJI appears to be one up on its competitors, such as Priceline in Hong Kong and Chan Brothers in Singapore, is with its arsenal of innovative value-added tools. The tools help to deliver on ZUJI’s promise of being the travel expert, or guru as it were, and by extension, empower ZUJI’s members to take control of their travel plans.
“Price Guru”, for instance, allows members to enter a set price point for travel to up to five destinations. ZUJI alerts the customer when an available fare matches the member’s set price. ZUJI’s offering compares favorably to Priceline’s model, which also allows customers to name their price but proceeds with the booking and payment once that price is matched, leaving the customer no say in which airline and departure time he is paying. (In Asia, Priceline is operated by Hutchinson-Priceline Travel Ltd in Hong Kong and Singapore.)
With the “SMS Guru” feature in Singapore, ZUJI can alert mobile subscribers via short message service (SMS) of the lowest airfare for one of 50 destinations in the Asia Pacific, USA and Europe—useful for the on-the-go executive bitten by the travel bug.
According to the company’s metrics, about 20 percent of ZUJI’s members use the online “guru” tools, which include Flight Guru and Hotel Guru. Having successfully introduced the concept of expertise, ZUJI evidently wants to be known not only as the online travel guru, but a fun-loving guru at that.
Its newest tool, De$tination Guru, launched in Hong Kong in October 2004. Adapted from Travelocity’s “Dream Maps” concept for the US market, De$tination Guru is first to market in Asia Pacific. It allows customers to find out, very quickly, what destinations they can fly to on their budget. Instead of having to search for destinations separately, customers simply access the De$tination Guru world map to see flights to destinations that meet their budget. Creating a sense of fun and adventure, the “Trust Fate” feature involves a click on a virtual dart for ZUJI to scan the airline database for suitable destinations. ZUJI’s Ho believes De$tination Guru will help the company further deliver on the “online travel guru” brand promise by directing the customer to the best deal.
The earliest ZUJI sites have now been operational for over two years. In July 2004, ZUJI took the top spot on market intelligence provider Hitwise’s “Top travel agency sites” list and has featured in the ranks of the top four agencies during the past 12 months.
It hasn’t hurt that ZUJI is currently running a very attractive consumer campaign in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan with Asia Miles, Cathay Pacific’s mileage program. ZUJI says about half of its sales since April 2004 were a direct result of the campaign.
In an environment where getting the best deals seems of paramount importance, the billion-dollar question is, how will ZUJI retain existing customers and attract new ones once the campaign ends in January 2005? Ho believes that the good experience customers have with ZUJI, both online and through its comprehensive customer care, will keep them coming back and the resulting positive word of mouth will attract new customers. ZUJI intends to continue to introduce innovations to its flight, hotel, car rental and packages booking engines to better serve customers. It may yet succeed at spreading its mantra to the traveling public to get online, not inline.