If 2013 was the year ‘big data’ came of age, 2014 will be the year of data optimisiation. Ritesh Gupta reports

Being able to serve up customised offerings across every digital touchpoint in 2014 will be a major differentiating factor for travel brands.Indeed, data optimisation continues to play a bigger role in the way travel organisations look to excel across the gamut of marketing-related decisions. This could be for tailoring offerings based on travellers’ preferences, spotting attractive deals or maximising marketing investment by analysing data streams from multiple advertising channels. The role of data in decision-making continues to get stronger. Whatever the reason, the standout point is that brands should be making the most of customer interactions across all digital touchpoints.

Lessons from a loyalty programme

As Preferred Hotel Group strengthened its guest loyalty programme, iPrefer, last year, it shared with EyeforTravel that it had learnt a lot from social interactions with guests – both current and potential. As the new iPrefer programme came to fruition, the team chose to use what it had learnt to deliver a more personalised experience.

“Our guests’ feedback and sharing on social sites at times provides a deeper understanding of their travel behaviours and desires. What offers are they most interested in? Where are they travelling? Who are they travelling with? What other brands do they like? Data is the key to making every interaction with guests pertinent to their travel needs and style by allowing us to refine how, where and when to approach them while delivering dynamic and relevant content along the way,” says Casey Ueberroth, SVP of Strategic Marketing, Preferred Hotel Group.

Delving deeper, data analysis is not only being restricted to a channel or two. To make such an initiative more meaningful, one has to focus on data optimisation for making the most of customer interactions across all digital touchpoints as well as marketing optimisation. This really sets the stage for an analytic-centric approach entitled marketing optimisation, says Suneel Grover, Senior Solutions Architect, SAS.

Fine-tuning marketing

According to Grover, the practice of marketing optimisation is the endeavour to contact the right customers with the right offers at the right time, while staying within budget and channel capacities, all without cannibalising future sales or burdening customers with too many messages.

Marketing optimisation helps to maximise economic outcomes by making the most of each individual customer communication. “The approach can increase marketing return on investment by determining the best offers for individual customers and by providing analysis of the most effective way to spend the marketing budget, while considering business constraints such as channel selection and capacity, offer promotion strategies, and contact policies,” says Grover.

Benefits of implementing this methodology include:

·         Marketing ROI: Increasing targeting effectiveness results in higher response rates, improved channel effectiveness, reduced spending, fewer deleted e-mails and fewer unwanted ad solicitations. The math-based approach offered by marketing optimisation techniques produces results that are superior to segmentation and rules-based approaches to prioritising marketing offers.

·         Contact strategy: Complex contact policies are required to avoid over-saturating customers and violating corporate governance requirements. Marketing optimisation techniques can eliminate uncoordinated and conflicting communications, while incorporating relevant relationship factors such as customer risk, advertising exposure and house holding into the optimisation. This helps to ensure that valuable customers are receiving the best possible set of communications across every channel.

·         Organisational efficiency: Marketing optimisation techniques can show where and how changes in channel usage, target customer segments, campaign budget, and other constraints will affect the business, and highlight financial opportunities and unused capacity.

Making every touchpoint count

When Preferred Hotel Group enhanced its loyalty programme, it not only focused on points, it added rewards and incentives to lure and engage guests. The group encourages travellers to share more information about their travel, and then tries to customise and personalise their visits.

If a guest accesses websites on numerous occasions and searches particular sections of the site like rooms, destination/local areas and so on, then customised content is presented on subsequent visits to improve the on-site experience.

Here are some initiatives that have been tested:

·         Serving customised dynamic content that changes upon each visit, in an effort to offer relevant travel options.

·         Implementing content management systems that allows one to immediately advertise specials via banners relevant to each geographical region, upload new products and manage higher yielding listings.

·         Real-time monitoring and a seven-day call centre that provides customer support.

·         Using e-mail marketing to drive the audience to websites and then considering what impacts conversion rates.

To focus on just one of these, let’s take a look at e-mail. Analysis, for example, would feature open rates, the number of clicks, the resulting transaction on a specific offer or any booking garnered from a click on a particular e-mail. So an analyst would assess click streams – an indicator of the intent of a guest - to check what the traveller is searching for on the website. Then they could evaluate the response rates at various points based on demographic and stay-history of the guest. Such historical assessment helps to gauge the kind of offers that gain attention along with the creative and promotion that results in a click.

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