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6 secrets to driving better results with data
A new EyeforTravel report considers how travel brands everywhere are harnessing data and analytics to get closer than ever before to their customers
What makes your customer tick? How can travel brands use data techniques to understand every aspect of the sales journey?
These are among the important questions that a recent EyeforTravel report aims to answer. The report, titled Understanding the Travel Consumer, is the first in a series that gets to grips with the data processes and techniques that help businesses drive insight. Here are some of the highlights.
#1. Concentrate data
Every travel brand featured in the report advocates consolidating data into centralised systems. And the reason is simple - do this and it becomes easier to drive reporting, analytics, automation, and personalisation from a single source.
Hertz, for example, soon realised that they needed a ‘golden record’ for each customer. Ricardo Rangel, senior director of data architecture at Hertz defines this as “a single, well-defined version of all the data entities in an organisation”.
First, Hertz had to pool data before they could run it through a customer-matching engine, which has “the capability of searching, indexing and giving back the information about that customer”.
Layered on top of this is an ‘application network’ that provides a wide variety of services across the business via APIs, (Application Programming Interfaces). These include everything from alerts about everything from, for example, a flat tyre or issue with a particular vehicle model to giving customers their preferred car type.
Other featured brands consolidating data include NH Hotels, which has moved all its systems - property management, central reservations, customer relationship and revenue management - to the same database. Eurail is another and has one “data warehouse” accessible to all employees via their desktop or mobile phone.
#2. Know your needs and budget
Travel digital marketing expert at McKinsey & Co Del Ross advises looking closely at your needs and budget. This is especially true for smaller firms. “Storage space, speed, access and security are all important considerations in data strategy,” he stresses. “These factors combine to make cloud sourcing more compelling. Using the principle, ‘only do what only you can do,’ brands should capitalise on the technical expertise of specialist service providers and invest their resources into analytics and gathering actionable insights.”
Storage space, speed, access and security are all important considerations in data strategy
However, Maria Gómez Bada, manager of analytics and data insights for HomeAway.com, argues: “If you have data internally, you will always have more actions on the data and be able to get more insight. If you have it externally, it’s probably cheaper in the short-term but you have a black box.”
#3. Ask the right questions
When it comes to data, it is easy to become overwhelmed by a tide of requests and dead-ends that don’t lead to actual improvements. So, it is important to define the requirements in clear terms. “What we learned … was that we needed to understand the question or the problem that we were trying to solve, as well as our audience, so that we could structure the dashboards to serve them,” says Priti Dhanda, director of revenue management analytics at Hyatt. A key goal was to understand how to use the same data and answer questions for different audiences.
#4. Deploy first, test later
If you’re looking to expand your organisation’s data analytics then the experts recommend getting solutions established and operational so they can be tested and perfected, rather than trying to build the perfect system from the outset.
“It doesn’t need to be perfect [on release] and then we continue to improve it,” says Dhanda. “If we just focused on building that most perfect solution, we would never get there.”
If we just focused on building that most perfect solution, we would never get there
Testing of systems is, however, critical. “In the CRM space, we test absolutely everything,” says Darrin Rowe, director, customer insights & loyalty at Greyhound Lines, a speaker at the recent Smart Travel Data North America 2018. “It’s an A/B test for every single thing we do to understand what resonates with our customers. In other words, thinking about creative, thinking about copy and subject lines! There’s no magic bullet here.”
According to Steven Consiglio, product performance manager at Booking.com, testing is vital to uncover those so-called “unintuitive findings”. On booking.com, “the number of different site experimentations is countless. Experimentation is ever-present.”
#5. Visualise for success
Visualisation is critical for data-led analysis. As the quantity of data exponentially increases, visual pointers are frequently the only way to comprehend and extrapolate meaning.
Ask your teams what they want, and keep it simple
“Visualising does not need to be difficult – it turns difficult content and relationships into understandable information,” says Ina Hoppe, data analyst and systems development manager at Leonardo Hotels. “Pre-think what you want to show, or you will draw sophisticated dashboards that no one will use. Ask your teams what they want, and keep it simple.”
#6. Let the law lead
“Data is the future of everything that we do and we’re scraping the surface,” says Alessandra di Lorenzo, Chief Commercial Officer, Media and Partnerships atlastminute.com group. “We must never as companies, even as individuals, underestimate the power of data and the importance of managing that data in a compliant way that doesn’t damage the company’s relationship with customers. My answer is [to] probably get some help if you’re not very big, because it’s tricky and even the big players are still learning.”
This is even more vital with the recent enforcement of the European General Data Protection Regulation, which requires that customers agree explicitly to all uses of their personal data, and that their data is protected and can be deleted.
Brands should take practical steps to comply by separating and anonymising data, an approach taken by ferry company Stena Line. Amer Mohammed, head of digital innovation at Stena says the company splits data into two copies: The first is anonymised, the second is personal. “In the marketing you have personal data where you can identify the individual, in the second we have anonymous, aggregated data,” he told the EyeforTravel Smart Travel Data Summit 2017. “If a customer asks us to delete their data, we only delete the first one. The second we use to get to know our customers.” This allows Stena to continue to draw conclusions while protecting the data and allowing customers to delete it easily.