TTE 2013: Harness the power of ‘Big Data’ by working out what to do with it

Exploiting ‘Big Data’ can translate into better business for travel firms, but only if companies have a clear aim about what to do with it, experts told TTE delegates this week.


Speaking at a ‘Bigger data, better sales’ session at the annual trade show, Dave O’Flanagan, chief executive of Boxever, said that some travel companies struggle with making the most of data internally, let alone tackling vast amounts of information available out there via the internet.


The ‘Big Data’ penhomenon relates to the huge amounts of information that is available about customers in the digital age but which is so large and complex that it is impossible to process using traditional data processing tools.


O’Flanagan, whose company provides airlines with real-time customer intelligence, said: “There’s no point getting lots of data if you don’t know what to do with it. This is not easy. It’s a challenging thing to do.”


To be able to get the most out of Big Data, companies need to have staff that are not only able to analyse the information and get meaningful insights from it, but hold positions within the business where they are able to enact changes as a result of big data findings.


According to O’Flanagan, there were five exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilisation until 2003, but that amount of information is now created every two days – one exabyte is said to have the same amount of data as 250 million DVDs.


“When you have that much data , you can’t carry it around,” said fellow panelist John Carlile, product marketing director at Sabre Travel Network.


The most important thing about Big Data is the insight you can get out of it, said Carlile, adding: “It’s about what it means to your business. Just because you collect a lot of something, it doesn’t mean it’s worth much. It’s not about the data, it’s the insight.”


Graham Cook, managing director and founder of web analytics specialist QuBit, said: “Bad Big Data is like when your luggage is getting lost, sitting in different silos.”


It is important to give the data structure to make it easier to sort it, analyse it and “give it meaning”, explained Cook, who cited Booking.com, Apple and John Lewis as three examples of companies that do Big Data well.


On the question of how to persuade consumers to hand over their information to companies, Cook said: “At the end of the day, consumers are looking for a better experience and are happy to share when they know what’s happening with that information.”


Emmanuel Marchal, vice president of sales at Acunu, said: “If you provide enough value for the user and make their life easier rather than using their data for your own benefit, then you are going to win.”

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