November 2013, The Radisson Blu Hotel, Berlin, Germany
Right message, right traveller, right time: how data can fuel customer spending
How travel suppliers manage the vast quantities of customer data is a topic of huge and growing importance but it's complicated.
Today travel brands must rely on a host of sources to gather information about their customers. Such information has paved the way for advanced customer-centric programmes which focus on past behavioural data, as well as insights from how customers respond in various situations. This could, for example, be in a call centre, to a satisfaction survey or on social media.
Using this information, brands are better placed to design apt promotions. But connecting and analysing the data received from multiple sources is just one of the challenges. In addition, the process of segmenting and clustering the information, in order to identify various user and target groups, is a complex task.
EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta spoke to Kerstin Steinberg, global director e-commerce at Worldhotels about handling CRM initiatives effectively.
EFT: The volume of customer data that hotel brands have to can be overwhelming. How are you addressing this challenge?
KS: There are two strands to this.
· First and foremost, hotel brands need to have tools in place to manage the volume of data they receive. It is simply not possible to do this manually or by using excel sheets. It is crucial to use sophisticated software to manage all steps of the data gathering process: collecting data, merging the data, extracting it from various data pools and finally storing and connecting the information.
· But having sophisticated technology is only half the job: Once all data has been synchronised into one database, it needs to be analysed and used. When it comes to analysing, there are various tools you can choose from, but when it comes to finally using the information, it is crucial to have a smart concept in place. To avoid being overwhelmed by the volume of data, marketing managers need to decide first what they actually want to do with the data. Once this is clear, they should work out a strategy defining, among other things, which content or message to communicate to the various interest groups.
EFT: Creating the technology infrastructure to support optimised CRM – including data capture, analytics, channel dimensions, attribution, and engagement – is a challenge. How do you deal with this?
KS: We experience the very same hurdle as most industry experts, but we regard this challenge as an opportunity to learn. Learn how to make better use of the data, learn how to better connect it, and of course we are always eager to learn more about our users to be able to communicate with them even more effectively. In order to make the best of our CRM activities, we consistently work on improving our technology infrastructure as well as our CRM strategy.
EFT: How can travel companies embrace real-time analytics to make the most of their CRM initiatives?
KS: Real-time analytics should be regarded and analysed from two perspectives:
1. First, marketing managers should monitor the real-time data generated by the user, which is of tremendous help when it comes to responding to the user in the moment he interacts with us. Based on the information we receive on the user’s behaviour, we can offer him content which is customised to his individual interests and needs.
2. Parallel to that, marketing managers should also interpret the data they get on the user’s surroundings. Taking into account their current situation, we get for example details on travel-related criteria such as weather and can react accordingly.
Let’s say, I have an audience group in my data pool, which is interested in skiing, lives 200 kilometres from the Alps, and usually has spare time at the weekend. Making use of this information, I can schedule customised communication activities for this target group – be it via e-mail, website content or social media.
EFT: What do you make of often missed CRM opportunities in big data?
KS: It is important to realise that there has been a missed opportunity. A company which doesn’t see its shortcomings in this regard, won’t ever be able to use the full potential of big data. Once a company has realised this, it needs to work on its ability to manage big volumes of customer data.
Depending on where the company stands, it is a good idea to set up an action plan, which includes the review of data sources available, and the analysis of how these could be logically structured, read and used. It is also crucial to make human resources available for this task – someone needs to be responsible for setting up and driving an adequate CRM strategy.
Also, companies need to make sure each of steps taken are carefully reviewed on a regular basis. Is your message reaching the right target group or might it be necessary to adjust your strategy?
EFT: RM teams are equipped with data pertaining to various segments. How should hotel companies go about maximising ancillary spend?
KS: When companies decide to become active in the online direct distribution market, they first need to understand that they won’t get any results without investing first.
Online marketing is a very powerful resource to connect with your customers by analysing their behaviour and understanding their needs and desires, but is doesn’t come free of charge.
It requires investment in hardware and software. But building the technological foundation isn’t enough; online marketing requires a clear concept and structured campaign management. It is crucial to set goals first and plan all activities to meet these goals.
EyeforTravel’s Top Takeaways:
1. Use sophisticated software to manage your data – doing it manually or with excel spreadsheets is not enough. But you need people too to analyse the data once it’s capture and stored.
2. Monitor and interpret the data based on where the user is and what they are doing.
3. Establish an action plan, which includes the review of data sources available, and the analysis of how these could be logically structured, read and used.
4. Free up human resources – someone needs to be responsible for setting up and driving an adequate CRM strategy.
5. Recognise the need for investment.
Kerstin Steinberg, global director e-commerce at Worldhotels will be speaking in Berlin next week at Smart Travel Analytics Europe 2013 and also at the Mobile World Congress which will take place in Barcelona February 25-26.