In Miami last week, everything from the latest personalisation and pricing strategies to data visualisation and GDPR, and the impact on the travel industry, were discussed. Amy Wenk rounds up Day 2

Just being a data-driven travel brand isn’t enough; companies need to reach new levels of personalisation to earn loyal customers. That was the message from Day 2 of the EyeforTravel’s annual Smart Travel Data Summit North America where the latest strategies on everything from profitable partnerships to personalised pricing were discussed.

“We are about to enter the personalisation era,” said Abhijit Pal, head of research for Expedia’s Global Partner Group. That’s due to rapidly changing technologies including facial recognition, the highlight feature of the new iPhone X.

75% of people prefer paying for experiences over material things

Plus, consumer preferences have changed. Today, 75% of people prefer paying for experiences over material things, Pal said. “Things like travel create the memories that are valuable for us. All of you in this room are helping us gain our humanity back. We all have a critical job to do in terms of creating human connection.”

With more than 675 million site visits per month and 64 million loyalty customers, Expedia is focused on becoming a mobile-first company. Voice, too, is becoming an important aspect of what Expedia does. “That will enable us to personalise. You want technology to know about your tastes. Alexa is going to offer that.”

You want technology to know about your tastes. Alexa is going to offer that

Abhijit Pal, Head of Research, Expedia Global Partner Group.

Pioneering a way forward in pricing

Personalised pricing was a hot topic at the conference, with several companies offering their unique approaches, including Allegiant Air and vacation rental management service Vacasa.

Allegiant Air was early to pioneer pricing. In the early 2000s, the airline started to charge for seat assignments and checked bags, said Drew Wells, director of revenue for Allegiant Air. Now, the airline uses artificial intelligence to optimise its pricing.

Leveraging industry partnerships can help travel brands personalise at a very local level, said Mark McGill with RootRez, a private label booking engine.

McGill shared how his company partners with destination marketing organisations. For example, it is launching a customised booking engine for the Hotel Association of New York City, which represents 280 hotels and 50,000 employees. The site will add value, he said, because it offers local expertise to consumers. It also benefits hoteliers by giving them more control and lower distribution costs.

“Participate with your destination marketing organisations and give back,” McGill said. “They can really use your help.”

Technologies such as chatbots are also helping drive personalisation.

Marina Shumaieva, co-founder of cruise itinerary aggregator, detailed how chatbots can benefit customer interaction. Chatbots are becoming more sophisticated with machine learning, allowing them to self-learn about customer preferences and respond accurately to questions in real time.

“We are on the verge of big disruption,” Shumaieva said.

Victory for visuals, but ground zero for data breaches

Best practices in data science, including how companies can best organise the insights they are gleaning were also discussed.

Travel brands can best comprehend and analyse data that’s visually digestible, said Priti Dhanda, director of revenue management analytics for Hyatt. Data visualisation is increasingly important as today we are exposed to five times more information than in 1986.

Travel brands can best comprehend and analyse data that’s visually digestible

The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than they do text, said Dhanda, who explained how to create visually appealing data dashboards. Moreover, 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual.

Hyatt now is in the process of adopting data visualisation company wide, using tools including Tableau.

“We had the data cleansed up,” Dhanda said. “It was how we present the data that was the challenge.”

But with personalisation come new regulations related to privacy.

William Beckler, a cybersecurity consultant, delved into the European GDPR regulation that goes live in May 2018. It sets rules around privacy standards, especially how companies store sensitive customer information. (More on this from EyeforTravel in the coming weeks).

“Understanding information security and privacy regulations is something that you will need to get better and better at throughout your career,” Beckler said. “This is not going away. It’s getting worse. In the travel industry, we are ground zero for data breaches … Hotels are getting breached all the time.”

Missed Miami? Join us next in San Francisco (April 9-10) or London (June 4, 5 and 6)

EyeforTravel Europe 2018

June 2018, London

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