New social travel site Spottly: Travel story with pictures

Hong Kong – A social travel site in Asia has lofty aims of being the largest user generated travel platform in Asia. With competitors like TripAdvisor, GoGoBot, Trippy and WAYN, of which at least TripAdvisor is very active in this part of the world, that seems like a very bold statement to make.

Meet Spottly, a social travel app which positions itself as a cross between Instagram and Pinterest for location. It promises users “a simple way to travel the world from your mobile phone”.

Only nine months old, the start-up launched its beta on iTunes in October 2013 and made its debut in Hong Kong in May.

Founded by Edwyn Chan, Charlotte Chen and Liu Dian, Spottly intends to gain traction through a mix of marketing initiatives, partnerships and community events. The team is eyeing Hong Kong first, with plans later for Taiwan, China (Beijing/Shanghai), Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Charlotte Chen, Spottly’s CMO & Co-Founder emphazised that its main differentiator lies in its picture-based travel reviews, which are more “visually pleasing and addictive”. These “collections”, like photo albums, are also geo-located, making it easier and more convenient for users to recall locations.

Spottly is seed invested by Silicon Valley-based incubator 500Startups and supported by the Cyberport Incubation Programme in Hong Kong. The app was featured twice as the “Best New App” in 15 countries on iTunes and has appeared on notable consumer travel publications including Conde Nast Traveller UK and Los Angeles Times Travel to name a few.

Though it is available in 13 different languages, Spottly’s three biggest user bases are its home and neighbouring markets of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China (in which Simplified Chinese and Tradition Chinese are king),  with 8% of daily users producing original content. The platform currently has user generated travel posts from 13,000 places, 1,600 cities and 110 countries.

So how does Spottly set itself apart from the incumbents, at a time when reviews are already found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and not forgetting TripAdvisor?

Said Charlotte, “Most choose to write short simple reviews on social media platforms (eg, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), but only a minority would write detailed reviews on dedicated-review sites (eg TripAdvisor).

“We identified three main reasons for this disconnect: One, users think that creating reviews takes a lot of time, two, users do not feel ownership when writing on review sites, as creating content for review sites is different from writing for oneself and three, users use multiple platforms for different types of venues (e.g., hotels vs. restaurants) and geographies and are not totally satisfied with current offerings.”

With Twitter lowering the hurdle for being a news reporter (aka citizen journalism), similarly Spottly aims to lower the hurdle for being a critic.

It has recently released v.1.5 of Spottly on iTunes and has provided a slew of updates to its app:

• Search functionality – users can now look up thousands of user generated travel content by location and by typing in keywords such as sushi, dim sum.

• Improved content discoverability

• New Map Feature with location based search now available

• Links to popular travel sites like Foursquare, TripAdvisor, OpenRice, DianPing and Tabelog.

• Updated user interface

Whether Spottly can shape up to become a worthy competitor to other review sites remains to be seen. The social travel space is crowded and has proved challenging to monetize and could get even more competitive if players such as GoGoBot, Trippy, Everplaces and Pin Drop finally decide to head to Asia.

But at least Spottly has the home advantage for now. Source: WIT