In Travolution’s latest COVID-19 webcast, Lee Hayhurst spoke to ADARA chief marketing officer Carolyn Corda about how business leaders can skipper their companies through the coronavirus storm.
Travel firms will need to make better use of data to ensure they get the timing of their push for recovery right once the travel begins again following the COVID-19 lockdown.
Speaking in a Travolution webcast, ADARA chief marketing office Carolyn Corda said being agile and responsive to demand will be more crucial than ever in what will be a patchy bounce back.
She likened the approach to recovery to sailing a boat, advising firms to make sure they are sensitive to the signs of recovery but being able to change tack quickly of the situation changes.
Timing is everything
“Everyone in the industry wants to make sure they’re tracking demand, because they don’t want to miss that one sector that’s beginning to rebound.
“It’s a kind of a Goldilocks situation – you’ve got to get ‘just right’. If you’re too early, you burn up those valuable cash reserves you’ve been keeping by chasing demand that hasn’t really developed yet.
“If you’re too late, your competitors win over your customers. So, you’ve got a time that just right. And getting it just right requires data.”
Corda said conventional year-on-year comparisons are no longer valid and instead of taking a broad view of data, travel firms will have to zoom in to focus on the detail rather than trying to look for broad trends.
She added steering a travel firm into recovery will be like skippering a sailing boat with your hand on the tiller, looking for telltale signs of an opportunity.
“Those little strips of fabric on a sail tell you if you’re catching the maximum amount of wind that you can based on how you’ve set your course.
“So you’ve got to set your course but it’s those last minute real-time adjustments based on that puff of wind. You’re trying to get all the available demand by how you set your course.
“And if things change, if there’s a change in public policy, a change in the infection rate, you need to be prepared to switch course and take a different tack.”
Use lockdown to audit your data
Corda said data is power and it is more important than ever in challenging times and firms should use this period of lockdown to not only build data dashboards but also do hygiene audits on their sources.
“One track that folks are on, that I think is really important, is thinking about the timing. They’re building dashboards with data and in terms of economic data, epidemiology and infection rate, along with what you can track publicly in terms of consumer sentiment.
“All that is designed to help these companies get the timing right because to get back in the market and being more visible, timing is going to be critical to success. And getting the timing right requires data, tracking the trends, detecting those early signs of a turnaround.
“The second track that people are on is thinking what can they do with their data that they didn’t have time to before? They’re testing data.
“You don’t need to be active in the market to go back and test, you can see how previous promotions performed and get a sense for whether there new data sources you should be using.
“Have you carried out hygiene on your data? Are there overlaps? Are there segments that you’re you’ve got distorted because you’re using multiple data sets and you don’t have them synchronised properly?
“So the other thing people are doing is getting their data house in order, some of it hygiene, a lot of it testing the back testing. There are tools to help with decision engines to take a look at how past activities performed and how you might be able to improve them.”
Target the travel dreamers
Corda said a travel rebound is inevitable because of people’s innate desire to travel and connect with friends and family, and she said people will be dreaming about the future experience they want now. She said this can be seen in ADARA online tracking data.
Citing Nobel prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman, Cord said: “We choose the next vacation as an experience for our future memory meaning that as we’re planning our vacation we’re already imagining the stories we’re going to be telling about it.
“And that planning and imagining about our next vacation is a really enjoyable activity. In a lockdown we can still continue to dream about where we’re going. As long as people are being responsible, it’s great that they’re continuing to search and book travel.
There will be a rebound, it’s inevitable. It’s likely to be fragmented, it’s likely to be something you’ve got to keep an eye on and discover. It’s not going to be monolithic and obvious as we’ve seen in following past crises.
“Information is power. Data matters more than ever now we’re in such uncertain challenging times. Year over year comparisons are actually obscuring, to certain extent, what’s going on. You need to dive deeper to tease out the different trends to understand and drill down into what’s going on.
“If you just look at the high level aggregate trends that you tend to look at week by week, you’re going to miss those important signals that are buried in that higher level view. Think of it like the lens you use on a camera, are you going to use a wide-angle lens, or really zoom in?”