Building trust online and managing information overload – Interview with Pauline Kwasniak, founder and CEO at TurnedSee

I’m sure that many of you have met Pauline Kwasniak, the Founder and CEO of TurnedSee, at one of the industry events, and if not face to face, then online. She is the queen of video on Facebook, and a true leader for encouraging the use of technology in the events industry. Hence, it is not a surprise that I first started chatting with Pauline on Twitter; we then met at IMEX Frankfurt this year, and keep in touch on social media to exchange knowledge and ideas. Her company TurnedSee connects corporate buyers with suppliers on the digital platform that she is currently developing, to help make the event planning process smoother. She is also a digital industry influencer who works with hotels and destinations and helps them connect with their target audience.  

Previously, Pauline worked on the agency side, and as a millennial, she understood that there’s a gap in the market for a better venue sourcing experience. Being a target market herself back then, she felt that the current process is not good enough, and not sufficiently fast. She therefore realised that she needs to develop a platform that will fix this. 

Pauline is also one of our speakers for next week’s collaborative Event Planners Talk and Future in 15 event at Allianz Park ‘Is the DMC dead’, joining us remotely via a conference call from Derry. Her mindset for innovation in technology, international experience and entrepreneurial spirit are contagious, and despite not being able to physically attend the live event, she has a very strong online presence that will make for a very interesting interactive video conference during the panel discussion. 

Leading up to the event, we set ourselves a goal to collect extensive feedback to be able to design the most appropriate discussion. This aim we achieved with the Slido poll, as well as a follow-up interview with Natallia Zremba, a B2B tourism and hospitality specialist. The insights so far have been eye opening in regard to how rapidly things are changing and evolving, and that if we fail to keep pace, we’ll lose a big part of the market share.

To get into the technology side of things, I interviewed Pauline on Instagram live, and in our discussion, we focused on how technology can assist event professionals. We began the discussion with the most important question: Is the DMC dead? To which, she confidently responded that the DMC, with respect to the traditional model and how it was functioning 20 years ago, is dead. She added that DMCs need to use tech to their advantage, instead of shying away from it. 

How can event planners know that an online platform is trustworthy?

Bringing in the analogy of online dating and online shopping, with people some years ago being horrified to buy anything online and provide their credit card details, let alone meet in real life a stranger they initially got to know online, are now the norm. Instead, we should think about it in another way: What if the online platform tells a buyer that they can skip the booking commission by booking direct, will the buyers trust the online platform more?

As with every online business, there are real people behind the platform, who are there to support and facilitate the transaction. Technology is there to make our lives easier and help us conduct business.

How do you manage information overload to find the right supplier?

To be able to provide the right information, the platform has to be a niche. For example, TurnedSee only focuses on corporate buyers, rather than, for example, wedding or party planning. As a next step, the tech provider needs to simplify users’ lives, by remembering their preferences and data with artificial intelligence and machine learning, and match them with the correct supplier. 

One comment that came from a chat participant, Sabrina Meyers from Hot Hospitality Exchange, was that ‘people buy from people because they trust people. So it’s most definitely the ‘accessibility’ to these trusted people and suppliers that needs to evolve.’ Pauline added that therefore they don’t just copy paste key information about a supplier on their platform because it’s not a sales pitch. Instead, it’s about having the right person behind the specific supplier account and actively using it. For example, by asking for reviews, it provides more transparency to the platform. By taking the time to check individual suppliers, asking them the right questions, and building the profiles for them, it creates a VIP business platform with unique information, selected suppliers and as a result, trust. If there’s a venue, for example, that is not performing or is receiving bad reviews, it will be taken down from the platform. 

It’s important to mention that their platform is not a database or listing, but rather a tool that aims to support networking and connection between buyers and suppliers. As long as the platform is reliable and trustworthy, customers don’t mind booking online. Just think of Amazon, Uber and Airbnb as examples. 

Sharing information online should not take business away from DMCs, so clients can book directly, but instead make the DMC more desirable, knowledgeable and sell their expertise online to a wider audience. According to discussions with her clients, Pauline observed that DMCs sell their core businesses as ‘local experts’, but instead they should sell themselves as time savers and a ‘one-stop shop’ because that what clients are more willing to pay for. 

Anonymous Slido poll – final results 

Now let’s return to the Slido poll, where we are asked two questions: is the DMC dead, yes or no and why. At the time of writing, 40 people have responded with 25% yes and 75% no. The anonymous comment section provided further explanation, in addition to my previous post, and the following section illustrates some of the more recent comments. 

Several respondents suggested that the DMC of the past is dead, and that supports Pauline’s interview comments. One participant noted that ‘Google replaces a lot of sourcing and suppliers are easier than ever to find. All activities, destinations, venues etc. can be accessed online, and you can easily get in contact with the owners, hosts and employees of the activity or place in question. If a DMC can focus on transparency and pivoting to creative design and problem solving, they’ll evolve and thrive.’ 

Someone else commented that the DMC has had to evolve because the Return on Investment (ROI) of organising corporate incentive events and leisure events has decreased over the years due to growing competition between DMCs. On the leisure side and delivering ROI, another participant added that ‘most DMCs started from the leisure side of tourism, so they do not provide an understanding of what the client is aiming for at their corporate event or what the event ROI should be.’ 

In many cases, DMCs and agencies compete for the same area of business, and that is not going to stop. Someone commented that ‘Like all suppliers and services in the events industry, DMC’s are constantly evolving. They’ve had to evolve and change their services on many occasions over the last 20+ years and this is going to stop. It’s all about understanding where the value lies and what they can charge for. They’ve been both working in partnership with events agencies and competing directly with them on venue sourcing for the last two-decades, yet both have survived.’

Many comments focused on DMCs’ local expertise, but several additional comments suggested that they save a lot of time because ‘DMCs make my life so much easier. As a corporate manager I have very little to no time for research and heavily rely on the DMCs I work with to be able to support with this and use their expertise to suggest the trendiest, cost effective and suitable places in the destinations where my events are held. DMC leads know the best spots. I’ve made friends with quite a few DMC reps and I always have someone to reach out to even when I travel the world for personal reasons. They’re not dead but their deeds are certainly underestimated.’ Another participant added that ‘In any market it helps to have a buffer between customer and supplier.’ 

Technology will help DMCs, not replace them 

Combining both technology and human expertise will create a better product and service as well as improved experience, with tech-enabled DMCs being the future, one participant noted.

DMCs need to act rapidly to adapt to the changing environment because the clients have higher expectations today, with more players in the market, ‘I believe it has out run its purpose. The exact same service is now being provided by other local entities as the information these days is widely accessible. Today’s competition is fierce and local entities need to be up to speed in order to claim their market share – the clients expect it.’

To conclude, and based on the comments and feedback we’ve been collecting over the past few weeks, the two main arguments that go head to head are local knowledge vs. all the information about a destination being available online and which is easy to access. Does this situation mean that ‘They (DMCs) are not dead but their deeds are certainly underestimated’, or that ‘It has out run its purpose’? As someone correctly noted, ‘It’s all about understanding where the value lies and what they can charge for’, and we’ll definitely address this question at next week’s event!

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