Reinventing the commission landscape for Tours and Experiences operators

Stakeholder Management | Strategy | UX Research | Design

Viator Logo

Who are Viator?

Viator is a global tours and experiences marketplace with an inventory of 300,000+ products. The commission structure for Viator's suppliers (the operators of tours and experiences across the world) was manually managed by Account Managers, and was cumbersome. This ultimately limited the long term growth in take rates for Viator as commissions stayed much the same over the years.

What I worked on:

Product strategy

I was part of the Steering Group, along with the company President, Chief Product Officer, Chief Commercial officer, and Senior Directors of Product, Design, Product Marketing, Engineering, Account management and the our Legal team.

I helped guide product strategy, and was the conduit between the Working and Steering Groups for the project.

Product Management

As the Product Manager for the project left the company as the project was kicking off, I stepped in as an interim Product Manager to guide the kick off process and onboard the incoming Product Manager.

Research & Design

I carried out User Research, organised and ran all workshops, and all Product Design for the MVP of this project. I later hired and onboarded a Product Designer in my team that I handed over this project to.

The Results

3%

Take rate increase over 12 months

1%

Above take rate goal for MVP launch

The Project

The Brief

The brief for this project was to create a commission system for suppliers that allowed them to allocate more commission in exchange for more exposure on Viator's marketplace, which was effectively an advertising platform, but using commission instead of cost per click/impression.This was one of the largest structural changes to the way Viator works, as it touched so many parts of our systems. Legal, Engineering, Design, Product, Account Management, Product Marketing and Customer service were all integral to the success of this project.

The Goal

The goals and metrics for this project were talked about at length, as this was a high-risk project that could jeopardise Viator's overall revenue.The MVP goals were determined to be to maintain the current take rate, with a stretch goal of a 1% take rate increase over the first 3 months after launch

Sprint zero

My initial responsibility was as product manager - Bringing a core group of Engineering, account management, product management, finance, and product marketing to carry out the task handed down by the Chief Product Officer. This task was: “Build a competitive commission structure for our tour operators that would ultimately give them more opportunity for their products more exposure on our platform, and provide an increase in take rate for Viator”

Competitive & comparative analysis:

We had to answer a few questions with our competitive research:

  • How was our commision pricing for suppliers currently structured?
  • What was the competitive landscape? How were other tours and activities companies structuring their commission?
  • Who was using a dynamic commission structure in a marketplace outside of tours and experiences?
    • eBay
    • Gumtree
    • Amazon
    • Walmart
    • Wheelhouse
    • Booking.com

Workshop facilitation & Stakeholder management

For the next three months, I was a jack of all trades, carrying out multiple roles: 

  • Organising and facilitating discovery workshops 
  • Proxy for Product management following the departure of the Product Manager, transitioning to a newly hired PM. 
  • Ensuring the right people were in the room:
    • An engineering lead
    • Product Manager
    • Finance team representative
    • Legal  team representative
    • Product Marketing Manager
  • Low-fidelity co-design sessions with the working group to determine whether we were all on the same page for the approach. 

Research

For the initial MVP research, I created/carried out: 

  • Research plans & interview guides
  • User interviews with suppliers to understand their sentiment towards a program that would (we assumed) be something with very mixed reactions. 
  • Post-launch, why might people opt-out of the program?

UI Design iterations

Throughout the process, I was exploring UI concepts, taking into account the multiple different metrics that had to be considered:

  • Your visibility "score"
  • The competitor average
  • Your top competitor's score

Testing the UI

I conducted usability testing with 8 suppliers, including the:

  • Interview guide creation and consultation with other stakeholders
  • Recruiting users in the MVP launch locations
  • Conducting user interviews, including analysis and insights
  • Incentive payouts for participants
  • Reporting finding to the Working and Steering groups.

Delivery

Following successful testing of the prototyped UI, I handed over finalised designs to the front-end engineers, and checked in with them in daily stand ups as to whether they had any questions or concerns around how the UI operates.
UAT engineers created automated tests, and I tested the UI on staging environments.

Going To Market

Working closely with the Product Marketing Manager and the rest of the working group, we developed a GTM plan that included a manageable subset of tours and experiences operators.