Follow the Rabbit!, an online personal advisor, hops on to the Web this week, soft-launching its vacation recommendation service. The destination decision guide marks the New York-based company's first offering in the electronic-advising space.
"[Follow the Rabbit!] acts as an online personal counselor who understands and anticipates people's needs based upon their lifestyles," said Mathias Turck, COO and president of Follow the Rabbit!
With its proprietary technology, the online service matches user information with recommendations using a combination of four levels of filtering--content-based, event-based, collaborative and context-based. The filtering tool, also known as the Matching Engine, enables the service to understand and anticipate the user's need by learning about their preferences and the preferences of similar users.
While most traditional travel services assume a person knows his or her destination, Follow the Rabbit! does not, Turck explained.
For instance, a visitor to the site may input that they have a week in May when they want to travel to a warm weather destination where they can windsurf and speak Spanish, all on a shoestring budget. The visitor can choose from up to 88 criteria, generated from their answers to an initial set of questions. Follow the Rabbit! will offer appropriate destination recommendations based upon the volunteered information and the likes and dislikes of similar users.
Although Follow the Rabbit! suggests destinations, it does not recommend specific packages, airlines or hotels, making the service an unbiased one. However, as a part of its revenue model, the company is partnering with online travel agencies, which will provide e-commerce fulfillment capabilities on a fee-sharing basis.
Through the profiling process, the site will also serve ads specifically targeted to each user. In addition, the company plans to use its data mining capabilities for permission-based marketing, sending users targeted deals and offers via e-mail. Finally, the site seeks to earn revenue by licensing its technology to non-competing e-commerce players. n