The Secrets to Using Data for Better Results
Travel brands everywhere are rushing headlong into data and analytics to try and get closer to their customers but what are the keys to success? A new report investigates …
EyeforTravel's new report series into behavioural analytics is looking at what makes customer tick and how travel brands can use data techniques to improve every part of their sales process. In the first report in the series, Understanding the Travel Consumer, EyeforTravel alongside leading travel brands, is opening up the data processes and techniques necessary to drive insight. Core to this is how to treat the data itself. Here are some key pieces of advice from the report that can help you to unlock the potential in your data.
In the report, every travel brand featured advocated consolidating data into centralized systems. This is because it then becomes easier to drive reporting, analytics, automation, and personalization from a single source.
For car hire company Hertz, they realized that they needed a 'golden record' for each customer. Ricardo Rangel, senior director of data architecture at Hertz defines this "a single, well-defined version of all the data entities in an organisation."
First, they had to pool their 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 interfaces across the business to provide a wide variety of services via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), from alerting about a flat tire or issue with a particular model of car, to giving customers their preferred car type.
NH Hotels moved their property management system, central reservations system, customer relationship management and revenue management solution to the same database and Eurail has one "data warehouse" accessible to all employees via desktops or mobile phones.
Travel digital marketing expert at McKinsey & Co Del Ross advises looking at your needs and budget – especially for smaller firms – working with a third-party specialist, and holding your data remotely in the "cloud". "Storage space, speed, access, and security are all important considerations in data strategy," he advises. "These factors combine to make cloud sourcing more compelling. Using the principle, 'only do what only you can do,' brands should capitalize on the technical expertise of specialty service providers and invest their resources into analytics and gathering actionable insights."
However, Maria Gómez Bada, manager of analytics and data insights for HomeAway.com, points out that "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 short-term but you have a black box."
Ask What Are You Asking?
When it comes to data, it is easy to get lost and find yourself tied up in a tide of requests and dead-ends that don't lead to actual improvement. The key is to define the requirements in crystal clear terms before setting out. "What we learned … was that we needed to understand the question or the problem that we were trying to solve and our audience so that we could structure the dashboards to serve them," says Priti Dhanda, director of revenue management analytics at Hyatt. "The properties had very different requirements to the above property people. So, a key goal was how do you use the same data and answer questions for the different audiences?"
Deploy First, Test Later
If you're looking to expand your organization's data analytics then the experts in the report recommend getting solutions set up and operating so they can be tested and perfected rather than trying to build a great 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 focus on building that most perfect solution, we would never get there, and we would still be thinking and trying to get even a sample out."
The testing of systems then becomes critical. "In the CRM space, we test absolutely everything," said Darrin Rowe, director, customer insights & loyalty at Greyhound Lines speaking at Smart Travel Data North America 2018. "It's an A/B test for every single thing we do. So, thinking about creative, thinking about copy and subject lines. There's no magic bullet here, it's just a ton of A/B testing and figuring out what resonates with our customers."
According to Steven Consiglio, product performance manager at Booking.com, his organization has found that "It is impossible to even have hypotheses turn out to be accurate in our findings," which makes testing vital to uncover those unintuitive findings. Therefore, on their site, "The amount of different site experimentations is countless. The experimentation is ever-present."
Visualize for Success
Visualization is critical for data-led analysis. As the quantity of data exponentially increases, visual means are frequently the only way to comprehend and extrapolate meaning. Furthermore, data has been found to be far more convincing than just presenting the bald numbers, making it vital for gaining buy-in from colleagues.
"Visualizing 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 no one will use. Ask your teams what they want, and keep it simple," a sentiment that harks back to Dhanda's advice when creating a project.
Let the Law Lead
"I think 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 at lastminute.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 now all the more vital as the European General Data Protection Regulation has come into force and means that customers must agree explicitly to all uses for their personal data, that data must be protected, and they can delete it.
Practical solutions brands can take to comply and still have a strong set of customer data include separating and anonymizing data. Amer Mohammed, head of digital innovation at Stena Line ferry firm says it now splits data into two copies: The first is anonymized, 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 them to continue drawing conclusions whilst protecting the data and allowing customers to delete it easily.
Click here to download the Understanding the Customer report, part of EyeforTravel's Behavioural Analytics Report Series. This report features insights from:
- com Group
- McKinsey & Co
- Stena Line
EyeforTravel is an online travel intelligence provider to hotels, airlines, online travel agents, cruise, car hire firms and more. Established in 1997 by Tim Gunstone, right at the inception of online travel, the group offers a diverse product portfolio including industry analysis, insights, research, webinars, reports and conferences. From major hotel brands to new startups, EyeforTravel helps its 80,000 strong customer base make better decisions, build better brands, close the most lucrative deals and ultimately sell more of their product.
For more information visit www.eyefortravel.com.