DESIGN & INNOVATION STRATEGY
BYHOURS is a startup based in Barcelona, providing a booking platform that allows users to book hotel rooms in packages of 3, 6 or 12 hours (micro-stays) and flexibility when choosing check-in and check-out times.
How might we help BYHOURS identify opportunities to extend its market with new micro-stay users and use cases?
The team delivered four distinct solutions to BYHOURS with an implementation strategy for each. The solutions presented form the basis of a diverse innovation portfolio that can be incorporated into the BYHOURS growth plan for the next two years.
User research on potential new users of the BYHOURS service, not previously considered.
Starting off by understanding the client
As a customer of BYHOURS, hotels can save money by reducing the amount of time that a hotel room is empty. BYHOURS envision a future where you only pay for what you need. At the point of our involvement, they had proven the business model and were in preparation to enter a new phase of growth. Having identified its strategy for the coming 2 years, the start-up needed to demonstrate the scalability of the business. Looking to their immediate growth plan, the company needed to raise awareness and target new customers seeking micro-stays.
Frequent business travellers make up the main contingent of BYHOURS existing user base and so these people were automatically added to the list of interviewees. As a brief side note, you might be wondering why we overlooked the obvious user group of couples seeking privacy for a few hours (romantic or otherwise). We were certainly asked about this group several times throughout the project. Simply put, the client had no explicit intention in pursuing this user group. They are not in the business of facilitating lustful meetups and they explicitly stated that they did not want their name to have potentially seedy connotations. So after discreetly crossing out "couples" from my list of potential users, we got to work, running with an understanding of the service as one of flexibility.
Get out of your seat and into the street
The Discovery Phase for the project began with an investigation into the question: "What does flexibility mean to different people and how does it change in different contexts?". This allowed us to suitably diverge our thinking so that we could expand our list of interviewees beyond the persona of the frequent business traveller.
Our goal was to interview as many people as possible in order to build realistic and representative user personas. The aim of the interviews was to identify patterns of behaviour, any stakeholders that the user might interact with on a regular basis, perfect matches or imperfect offerings, the emotional state of the user throughout key moments of their journey and what triggered that emotional state, any pain points, tasks and activities completed throughout their journey and frequency of carrying out said tasks or activities (consciously or otherwise). Complementing this user research with desk research on trends and competitor analysis allowed us to develop new insights and identify four potential opportunity areas for further investigation and that would provide a focus for the subsequent Ideation Phase.
1. Microjobs - How might we leverage the BYHOURS booking technology to facilitate the booking of short term jobs for people that have contracted the "travel bug" and are looking to fund their travels?
2. Microescape - How might we expand BYHOURS service offering to those seeking headspace?
3. Microexperience - In the context of rising rental costs and AirBnB dominating in major cities, how might we develop the BYHOURS service to provide "micro" local experiences to visitors?
4. Microassistance - How might we further remove hassle from getting from A to B in unfamiliar settings for the business traveller?
Quantity over Quality
Once we had presented our opportunity areas to the client, we now had to focus on tangible solutions. Any wild idea or casual remark was jotted down to create multiple mindmaps. We made new associations, drew new patterns and eventually the non-nonsensical started to make sense. Our personas acted as effective guides to understand which ideas had promise and which did not as we fit and refined ideas into their individual journeys (Unfortunately Tara did not make the cut for this particular project and Robert and Suzanne's story turned out to be a little extreme). This iterative process allowed us to refine our initial opportunity areas into innovation areas categorised as follows:
Each of these categories offer different ways for BYHOURS to grow their user base by addressing unmet needs of existing users or creating new micro-stay use cases. For each we created a 2 year development roadmap outlining how development of the initial solutions could lead to future growth opportunities in line with BYHOURS vision. These initial solutions are described from the perspective of our personas below.
Microlounge - A Partnership Innovation
Frequent traveller and commercial agent John has just arrived at the airport to find that his flight home has been delayed. He's tired and could do with some relaxation time before he carries out a post-mortem on the outcome his meetings that day. As a prior user of BYHOURS, he notices that they have partnered with Napbox and now have a book-by-the-minute option for a cosy Napbox in the airport. He books one 30 minutes hoping for a quick powernap. 20 minutes later he's awake, refreshed and having successfully killed some time.
Microassistance - For those who like to squeeze every minute
Once again, John is on the road. This time his flight has been cancelled. It's late and the next available flight is early the next morning. Looking for a quick solution, he opens the BYHOURS mobile app. He can quickly find a hotel near the airport and books a room for the next 6 hours. Looks like a won't be getting his 8 hours sleep tonight. With BYHOURS new microassistance function, he realises that he can complete the hotel check-in process while in transit on his way to the hotel. A simple, stress-free way to shave off some time between now and getting to sleep.
Microexperience - Getting the authentic local experience
Alex is planning a short trip to Spain. Looking to make the most out of his trip, he plans on flying into Barcelona and travelling down the coast from there. He wants to meet local people and get the authentic local experience but is wary about booking through AirBnB. The last time he booked with them, he did not even meet the owner of the apartment. He has also heard of rising anti-tourist sentiment resulting from increasing, unaffordable rent in the city, largely attributed to AirBnB. He's worried that this might create barriers between him and the locals in social situations.
He hears of the microexperience being offered by BYHOURS. He can stay in a comfortable hotel paying only for the time he needs to sleep and also has the opportunity to match with a local person that shares his interests. Since he is only staying for one night in Barcelona, he books a hotel room for 12 hours and navigates through the locals offering to show him their city. He meets Belen, a fellow architecture enthusiast and over coffee, she tells him about all the secrets hidden throughout the streets of Barcelona. As he wanders through the streets he notices things that he may never have noticed following the tourist groups. Thanking Belen, he hopes that he can return the favour one day and show her a different side to his hometown.
Microescape - Helping you find your headspace
Robert and Suzanne are young parents, both working full-time jobs. With two young children, their opportunities for time to themselves are extremely limited. Sometimes they just need some peace and quiet. With this new solution, Robert and Suzanne have the option to book some time in a local hotel to make use of the facilities. Perhaps they are looking for a yoga session or a relaxing massage. Using this added service available through the existing BYHOURS application, they can book a nanny to ensure that their child is in safe hands while they take a few hours for themselves.
Building on the foundations of the microexperience solution, the microescape solution facilitates locals supporting locals, inviting locals into hotels that they may never had any reason to visit before and changing BYHOURS focus from visitors to locals.