Deploying data will drive success for travel providers, says Neil Barton, chief technology officer of WhereScape
Where we go on holiday each year arguably says a lot about us as individuals. That certainly was the theme of easyJet’s 2015 20th anniversary advertising campaign, which saw the organisation pool its data to deliver “market of one” personalised travel offers to customers based on their individual profiles over the years. According to a report published by easyJet on the campaign, this directly led to 7.5% of easyJet customers who received the email going on to make a booking in the 30 days following.
For many travel businesses, getting almost 8% of existing customers to make another purchase in the next month is little more than a pipe dream – the average Briton tends to make 1.7 overseas holidays each year (according to ABTA). For the many different travel operators looking for a slice of the pie, it’s a highly competitive area – and the services offering the best personalisation will likely be the ones that come out on top.
So what does that personalisation look like? And how can travel services achieve this? Let’s take an example:
Peter is looking for four tickets on flights to Portugal in July. It would be all too easy to just list out all the LHR-LIS flights available on the days he wants and be done with it, but it’s likely if that’s all that’s on offer, Peter will take his searching elsewhere to make sure he’s getting the better deal.
Instead, Peter’s provider shows the flights, but also suggests packaging this up with a private villa, with a pool, 20 minutes from the beach. It’s got bunk beds for two children, and a lovely ocean-view master suite. At the same time, the provider recommends a car rental offer for a family SUV, which would be cheaper and more convenient than a taxi from the airport into the middle of nowhere.
But this isn’t guess work. Peter’s provider knows that when he last booked four tickets in the summer, he was taking his wife and two small daughters to Spain – where they stayed on the coast. That time they stayed in a hotel, but Peter wrote a review online saying it was too noisy and crowded. When Peter has searched for family hotels in the past, he’s always checked “Pool” as a necessary amenity, and has shopped around for hours to find a compelling deal. Somehow, Peter’s provider has pulled all this information together to suggest today’s recommendation. Peter is impressed, and checks out quickly, before the price goes up. He doesn’t even bother to check out a competitor.
Now, back in the heyday of high street travel providers, perhaps each agent did have the time to sit down, read through a client’s file, and make those sorts of recommendations. But in the e-commerce world, these types of insights can’t be found manually – it just isn’t cost effective, or sustainable. So how can travel services provide this level of personalisation that drives customer loyalty and sales?
It comes down to effective analysis of data and creating a single point of truth on each customer, based on their history. To some extent, CRM and marketing automation software can produce this insight, however, streams of data re now extremely varied and distributed across internal and external infrastructure., Providers will need to draw this information from multiple sources – not just their own sales databases but also marketing data, public reviews and forum posts, social media channels in real time and more, into a central storehouse. However, manually coding and creating such a streamlined, precise system would be prohibitively complex and costly.
So how can savvy travel providers do it? By using automation to design and deploy an infrastructure around data that pulls all of these different pieces of information together. Finding a way to unite all these disparate threads data into one single point of truth is critical for delivering true personalisation and value for businesses. Automation is critical for achieving that ROI as quickly as possible – and one way to do this is with a “data warehouse”, a central repository for data from all of the different systems in an enterprise’s infrastructure.
In addition, such a system can also offer personalised offers from provider targeting for customers down to the minute. Some such examples include when the flights to a favoured destination suddenly become reduced, or, in Peter’s case, if the bank holiday is looking rainy, and it might just be time for that quick break in Spain.
While travel providers are a very topical example of this, as we all head off on our summer holidays, they are by no means the only type of business who can use such tactics. Personalisation can help in sales conversion for any customer – be it in high street retail, insurance and banking, or business services. Understanding each customer as a “market of one”, using data, is a powerful tool in driving sales and boosting loyalty and customer experience.
A 2017 PwC survey found that 59% of consumers consider real-time personalised offers tailored to the individual an important part of the retail experience, yet just half felt that retailers were delivering on this. Succeeding with this level of individual personalisation is critical – not just for pleasing customers – but for increasing revenue and customer loyalty. To make the most of customers’ 1.7 overseas holidays each year, travel providers need to use the breadth of data available to them to produce that single point of truth offer that a customer cannot resist. Whether it’s the perfect, budget family holiday for Peter, or an extravagant weekend in Paris for a young couple, it is data that will drive success for travel providers, and indeed all businesses, and their customers.