From Curation to Conversion

Co Founder Chris explains why bookshops, newspapers and greatest hits albums are still the way forward.

Allow me to begin by posing you a pop music question:

Which Queen album featured the tracks Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust, Killer Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now, Somebody to Love and We Will Rock You?

Diehard Queen fans will take great pleasure in pointing out that, in fact, these six tracks all appeared on separate studio albums.

Pretty much everybody else would respond with Greatest Hits.

And that’s because this curated list of songs by Freddie Mercury and co is the biggest selling album in UK chart history.

Number two in that prestigious list is Abba’s Gold – another greatest hits collection.

Curation has always been big business.

Physical music sales may be in a downward spiral. But music consumption – thanks to the emergence of Apple Music and Spotify – hasn’t changed people’s desire for curation.

Apple has time and again proved itself as one of the masters of user experience – and it knows 30 million songs in a database and a cursor flashing in a search box is not what the people want.

Instead, Apple (through its $3bn acquisition of Beats in 2014) has invested heavily in curation. People are at the heart of its playlists – musical aficionados whose job it is to suggest what you should listen to next.

Of course, the machines are still responsible for matching playlists to tastes. But Apple’s hybrid strategy is an interesting counterpoint to our supposed surrender to machine learning.

And it turns out the machines are struggling to crack the whole curation thing anyway.

Amazon’s recommendation engine was long considered marketing-leading technology. So why – given 25 years of relentless growth and investment – does Amazon only have around 25% of the UK book market?

Because where it succeeds in inventory, it fails in discovery. (Amazon can sell thousands of the books everybody’s reading, and one book a month of its millions of titles – but it’s still struggling with the meat in the middle.)

It turns out that the great discovery platforms for books are, in fact, bookshops. They continue to survive and thrive in the Amazon-era. Because it's more about the tables than the shelves. The tables are curated lists – not merely inventory.

It’s no coincidence that Staylists is a twist on playlists. And that we have an Amazon-like market leader in Booking.com.

But it wouldn’t be correct to compare us to a small independent bookshop – and the reason for that is the marketing muscle of our partners: hundreds of wedding and event venues across the UK. (Oh – and The Mail).

Staylists’ partners understand the power of curation. (Millions of newspapers are sold each day, even though you can simply type “news” into a search engine.) Consumers actively seek its benefits. (What is the radio if not 24/7 live music curation?)

The success of the Staylists platform is in matching the right hotels to the right partner, and curating lists – Seven hotels with spectacular sea views! Five penthouse apartments for your next city break! Our advantage is in understanding customer desires and demographics long before a search box is put before them.

The internet makes it possible to find any hotel you’ve ever heard of. Paradoxically, it also makes it definitively impossible to have heard of every hotel. 

So how can you ever be sure you’re booking the right one for your stay?

Curation is king because it removes all the inertia and fatigue that comes with repeated searching.

And we believe the right curation will bring valuable commercial success.
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