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An over-reliance on using data is leading to paralysis by analysis, according to one of the leading data providers to the travel industry.
John Grant, executive vice-president of OAG which supplier airline data to the likes of the GDSs, issued the warning to delegates at the Travel Distribution Summit in London this week.
He said: “My cynicism comes from having worked with data for so long. Are we becoming over-reliant on using it in wrong ways?
“We have dumbed down to a point where it’s all just in an Excel pivot chart. That’s dangerous. The brain knows what to do in ways the computer would not understand.
“We have become obsessed with joining silos of data together to try to hide from actually making a decision. Do not add in a paralysis of analysis.”
Jonathan Taqqu, vice-president data at Intent Media, said it was vital that firms made use of actionable data.
He added: “But we need to find out what are we trying to optimise. What is the objective function, the return on investment?
“If you get good ROI you may want to double down on that. You really need to make sure that the fundamentals are in place.
“The electronic digital promise has always been you can collect data and measure what the impact is going to be, that online marketing is superior to offline because we can measure it.
“But it comes down to what is the objective function. What are we actually doing? Some of the basics we are actually getting wrong. Are we using data in the right way?
“In many cases we are dealing with some issues that come out of simplifications we have done over the years that get some of the directional insights incorrect.”
Taqqu cited last click attribution as one area in which value has often been assessed incorrectly although he noted many firms are moving beyond that.
He warned against acting on correlative relationships without establishing causation. “The question is coming back to basics. How should we really be measuring this?”
The proliferation of consumer devices is adding complexity a further undermining last click attribution, said Taqqu, because traditionally measurement has been based on cookies.
“We are still as a marketing ecosystem relying on the old infrastructure. People are actually just driving to the data that they want to see.
“Ultimately we collect data and we have to simplify, but when we have a system where we drive towards our pre-conceptions then we are not really data driven.”
Fernando Vives, senior vice-president commercial pricing and strategy at NH Hotels, said data needed to be democratised and not just the preserve of the nerds.
“It needs to be operational so people are able to use it in a very smart way. We have always used data now we call it big data.
“We need to democratise the simple data. The challenge is taking out the noise and focussing on the important data. Never forget data will never replace business sense.”
Travel Republic chief marketing officer Elliott Pritchard said he loved data but he does not trust data.
He warned against blindly basing decisions on web visit data given the fact that over half of all visits are thought to be by bots and spiders.
He also said firms should be wary about impressions data given that over half of ads served are not considered viewable even when a low benchmark is applied.
Pritchard claimed some third party advertising platforms “do not necessarily have the advertiser’s best interests at heart, so do not trust people, look at the data yourself”.