May 2017, London
Why travel companies must swim with the tide of data
On Day 2 of the Atlanta event last week, data was again centre stage and some interesting insights came from firms including IHG, Accor, Mozio and IBM
Travel companies are partnering to create powerful customer databases to know exactly what their customers want – and how to sell it to them.
At Day Two of EyeforTravel’s Smart Travel Data Summit North America, held in Atlanta on Feb 23, experts shared how their companies are pulling together data to produce highly personalised profiles. (You can read the summary from Day 1 here)
This is especially important for the hospitality industry, where some companies only provide a portion of a person’s trip.
“It’s an outdated notion to talk about owning a customer, when the customer really owns the experience,” said Emre Mangir, chief operating officer and head of partnerships for Mozio, an online transportation search and booking engine. “You can provide touch points along the way.”
Mangir said companies including Salesforce, Concur and TripAdvisor have developed successful platforms that allow them to collect and share data across industries. “It’s made them incredibly resilient,” he said.
Mozio, too, has improved its product by developing a user interface that interacts with other companies, pulling in new data points. It helps streamline their digital platform and improve the user experience.
It’s an outdated notion to talk about owning a customer, when the customer really owns the experience
Emre Mangir, Chief Operating Officer & Head of Partnerships, Mozio
Mangir urged travel companies not to fear collaboration with others, and encouraged them to build systems that “pave roads to come to the house”. Pulling in more information from more sources can provide more insight, he said.
“At each customer touch point across the travel journey, you are seeing the customer in a different way,” Mangir said. “Their interaction with one brand may be very different. Understanding customer preferences are key to that sort of holy grail of personalisation.”
With all the data available, companies must have a strategy to sort tonnes of new information.
“We are swimming in data,” said Angelo Sasso, senior director of business analytics and customer insights for The Leading Hotels of the World. “It’s daunting … the amount of data we are gathering today is massive.”
The trick is to funnel all that knowledge into something small, yet valuable.
“Small data is greater than big data,” said Scott Garner, president of data and analytics for ADARA, which collects global travel data, and was one of the Atlanta event sponsors.
Garner spoke about the value of its ‘data co-op’, where information comes in real time about a person’s search history, bookings and loyalty data. ADARA itself has around one billion traveller profiles, tracking 438 billion transactions.
It’s daunting … the amount of data we are gathering today is massive
Angelo Sasso, Senior Director Business Analytics & Customer Insights, The Leading Hotels of the World
ADARA compiles data from more than hundred partners and then computes a ‘Traveler Value Score’, which gives its clients visibility into a traveller’s true revenue potential.
Wiland, another sponsor, collects demographic, behavioural and transactional data to help companies optimise leads. As Jerry Joyce, senior vice president of new business development for Wiland, a marketing intelligence company that recently launched into the travel and entertainment space put it:“We waste a lot of marketing spend on folks who aren’t going to be loyal to your brand.”
Hotels are working hard to address such challenges. Accor is one that, according Fabrice Otaño, the group’s chief data officer, is leveraging a massive ‘data lake’ to boost its data capabilities and fuel up net revenue. Accor has a robust system that even uses artificial intelligence, Otaño said.
Jim Sprigg, director of database marketing and analytics for InterContinental Hotels Group, said his company is using its data to drive customer engagement. In 2010, the company piloted bundled offers tailored to a guest’s travel history.
“This has become a fixture at IHG,” Sprigg said.
Intrigue and IBM
Also on Day 2, keynote moderator Steven Pinchuk, WW lead customer intelligence and revenue mangment at IBM, gave an intriguing introduction to IBM’s new supercomputer Watson.
“Watson is not one thing,” Pinchuk said. “Watson is a series of APIs for different things that use cognitive computing.”
Watson is not one thing...it's a series of APIs for different things that use cognitive computing
Watson can take huge amounts of data and find patterns, he said. It can also understand, reason and learn.
Already, more than 80,000 developers and entrepreneurs are building cognitive solutions on the Watson Developer Cloud.
Hospitality companies, including Hilton Worldwide, which has developed ‘Connie’ the first cognitive hotel concierge, are already deploying the technology. “Once it learns, it’s incredible what it can retain,” Pinchuk said. “This is a new kind of decision support.”