Case Study: Gendall

Changing the way we think, research and purchase

Gendall Design have worked with Oxford Innovation Cornwall for almost 10 years, but their story of innovation began long before that, starting in Tess Gendall’s shed 33 years ago.

Having opened their doors to clients more than three decades ago, they are well-established on a national level and can boast countless happy clients, many of whom are household names. Though the business has changed immeasurably since then, they have taken those years of experience and continued to evolve, leading to the launch of Skdadl: an app that could change the way you book your next holiday.

“Alexa, ask Skdadl to book me a holiday cottage”

Skdadl is the first voice app of its kind anywhere in the world and it represents a total change in the way you can research or book a trip away, turning what can be a lengthy process into something that takes a few short minutes.

The way it works is simple: ask your smart speaker to book a holiday via the app, answer a few questions about where you’d like to visit and when and you’ll be sent a personalised list of results based on what you’ve said. Behind the scenes, Skdadl is whittling down a list of more than 50,000 properties from an ever-growing list of providers to give you your best-suited results.

“It’s essentially a service that makes it easier for holiday makers to find, book and enjoy their perfect holiday.” Greg Welch, Managing Director at Gendall explains. “There’s nothing like this out there. There are a few people starting to play in this space, but we’re the first to develop anything like this.”

According to Greg, next year 75% of homes in the UK are expected to have a smart assistant of some kind, thanks in part to the growing number of gadgets that come bundled with them. That combined with the fact 60% of Brits took a staycation last year means that the potential is massive.

Skdadl Tech Demo

30 years of innovation

For more than 30 years Gendall have made their mark on brands nationwide thanks to their industry-leading design work and ongoing commitment to improving customer journeys, with Skdadl being the latest proof of the scope of their creativity and ability.

Rather than seeing the venture into voice search as a complete departure, Gendall see embracing the technology as part of a long line of innovations that help them better serve their clients, with greater potential still to expand this kind of technology for different markets, as Greg explains:

“About two years ago we realised that a modern agency is more than an agency that’s just selling the time of creatives or technologists. We need to really understand our client’s businesses, the environments they work in and figure out some of the innovations that will make it easier for them to do business with their customers.”

As for why voice search is becoming such a popular way for people to buy online, Greg puts it down to convenience combined with basic human instinct:

“If you look back 10 years ago we were used to going to the highstreet, speaking to a travel agent… it’s those personal, tailored experiences that people want and there’s nothing more personal than the primary sense, which is being able to speak to someone.” Greg says. “We just want it easy, we want to be able to do it from our homes, our phones, our smart speakers and that’s really what we’re tapping in to”

Getting outside support

Though traditionally a design agency, most people at Gendall have contributed to Skdadl in some way. Among those are their Creative Strategic Developer and one of the project’s leading developers, both of whom came to the business through Oxford Innovation Cornwall’s Executive Placement Scheme.

“We wouldn’t have been able to get as far as we have done and been able to bring those people in without that support… they’ve hit the ground running and on top of that they’re great people to work with.” Greg says about Gendall’s recent additions to the team.

Sara Webb Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Meredydd Jones Oxford Innovation Cornwall

As well as helping find the right staff to embrace Gendall’s new direction, Meredydd Jones and Sara Webb have provided ongoing business coaching to support these goals, which Greg described as “spot-on”:

“I can’t speak highly enough about Oxford Innovation.” Greg explains. “[Meredydd] both challenges and pushes. I feel like we are working towards something and that he’s not giving us the answers but he’s constantly pushing and helping drive that forwards which is brilliant.”

“Sara’s been really helpful helping us find the right people and really opening our eyes to some of the funding opportunities that are there to be able to make bringing in the right people a reality.”

Making their mark on the tourism industry

Gendall are no strangers to the tourism industry, having worked with a wealth of accommodation providers across the UK as well as lending their talents to must-see destinations and all-important food and drink brands which alone attract thousands of holidaymakers to a region year-after-year.

For Greg, this breadth of experience is an essential part of what makes their offering unique:

“We work with such a wide range of clients and we’ve been able to draw experience from all of them. Whether it’s the National Trust in creating visitor experiences, whether it’s with the Eden Project and thinking about how to market a destination or whether it’s about holiday cottage agencies.

We really think about that full end-to-end holiday experience and how do we engage in relevant ways and think about that whole journey.”

Although the business operates on an international level, the benefits of being Falmouth-based certainly aren’t lost on Greg who believes that it’s an important part of who they are:

“It makes a real difference because Cornwall is an absolute hive with creativity, whether it’s tactile or whether its creative talent, whether it’s people creating amazing food and drinks, there’s inspiration absolutely everywhere you go” Greg says. “There’s so many different creative businesses that are down here. It’s really inspirational to work here.”

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This programme is fully funded by the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020.