How Travel Marketers Can Get Their Data in Order.


We’re all reaching for the holy grail.

Brands want to deliver personalised experiences for their customers to drive sales, build brand loyalty and encourage referrals.

Customers want brands to help them perform their tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible. And to use what brands know about them to make the experience relevant and meaningful.

And we all know what drives this…

Data. Lots of data.

I recently sat down with Eve Fantom, an Account Director and our Data Lead, to talk about data trends within the travel industry.

We spoke about why data matters, what the essential data points are that travel brands should be tracking and how Marketing Directors can structure their approach to data management to help them deliver relevant and engaging customer experiences.

'People expect brands to know them, recognise them and personalise their experiences based on how they have interacted with the brand in the past.' Eve Fantom, Data Lead.

Here are three key takeaways from our conversation.

1. Include context in your profiling activity

We would all agree it’s essential to know who our customers are, to understand their demographic and psychographic markers. But we can’t stop there.

It’s not enough to know that Elizabeth is aged 34, drives a Vauxhall, has two children, shops at Asda and reads The Daily Mail.

When she’s online researching and booking travel, we also need to know the context of the activity.

Elizabeth may, at different times, be:

  • booking business travel for her boss to go to an upcoming conference in Germany
  • booking a family holiday in Dorset for three generations to come together for two weeks
  • booking a romantic city break with her husband (likely to recover from the family holiday…)
  • booking a hen party in Spain for her best friend and three other people 

Even though she’s the same person, possibly even on the same device, she will be in a different mindset and have different requirements and expectations when booking each trip.

2. Clarify what’s important to you

Arianna Huffington wrote in 2017 that ‘we’re drowning in data but starved for wisdom’ and the problem is only getting worse.

Just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean it’s important.

By all means, capture data (in accordance with GDPR and local laws). Store it centrally. Organise it properly so that you can retrieve it when you need it. And up-skill your team or partner with an agency who can help you interpret it.

But now more than ever, we need to clarify the why behind what we collect.

Spend time articulating what the data can tell you about your audience, how that knowledge will drive business decisions and what you believe the outcome will be. Then test and learn.

From Eve’s experience, a few of the essential data points travel brands should be measuring are:

  • the number of travellers in the booking
  • the frequency of travel and total spend
  • they type of airline seats (economy, business, first class)
  • the type of hotel room (standard, deluxe, suites)
  • the destination, especially cross-referenced with local events like business conferences, sporting events or cultural happenings
  • the amount of research performed before booking (most people typically do more research for personal holidays than for business trips)

Data points like these can help you uncover the context and intent mentioned in the previous point and should be a good starting point if you’re at the beginning of your journey. 

3. Get your data house in order

In the run-up to GDPR, many marketers discovered various pots of data the company held on their customers, collected from multiple departments over many years and stored in silos.

The result is data that may be duplicated, outdated or partially complete. It also means that a customer’s interactions with the brand won’t be consistent because each department may view them differently.

The ideal scenario is a single point of truth, one database that all the others feed into that gives you a 360-degree view of your customer.

So how do you get there?

Here are Eve’s recommendations:

Outline your objectives
Digital actions need to ladder up to marketing objectives that also tie into wider business goals.

  • Do you need to increase new bookings or drive repeat custom?
  • Do you need to up-sell products like extra luggage or leg-room on a flight or cross-sell services like spa treatments at a hotel? 

By clarifying your objectives up front, you’re defining what success looks like for your data project.

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and targets
Break down your digital actions and pair them with a KPI and a target that demonstrates whether you’re achieving your objectives or falling short. 

Make these SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) – vague aspirations will get you nowhere. Put a concrete metric down, even if it’s simply 5-10% more than what you did in the previous year. 

And understand that this will be personal for every brand. Success for easyJet likely looks different from the success of Qatar Airways. 

Identify data gaps
Are there data points that you think you should be measuring, but are currently missing? Are there things you’d like to measure that are not technically possible yet? 

Review your current data collection and identify these gaps. Outline the steps to put this measurement in place.

And in the meantime, try to identify a proxy metric that can help get you closer to understanding what’s going on.

Clarify the why behind the data
To continue with our earlier point, why are you measuring these metrics? Who gets the reports with the information? Are decisions being made with the insights they offer?

Make sure you’re measuring the right things – those metrics that will help you achieve your goals. And put a workflow in place to ensure the right people are reviewing and taking action based on the data.

Perform a data mapping exercise
Just as a website is underpinned by the information architecture, you need a clear data architecture in place for your business.

It can be helpful to physically map out how all the data points are gathered. You’ll want to know how they integrate with each other or a central database. Clarify how the information is accessed and who has the permission to read or write data. Put processes in place to archive it properly.

Once this framework is in place, you’ll be ready to start personalising your customers’ experiences.

The future of data and travel

At the end of our conversation, I asked Eve what she was most excited about in this space. And it was clear that there is a huge opportunity to be had for brands who are willing to double down on data, especially when it comes to mobile.

When brands are able to connect the dots along the entire customer journey, they make the whole experiences easier, more relevant and engaging. 

  • This could be linking search and social data with offers sent to your mobile while you’re at the airport waiting for your flight.
  • Perhaps the airline could personalise the content on your in-flight entertainment system based on preferences set through your account.
  • Or when you log into the hotel WIFI, this syncs with CRM and you’re sent personalised recommendations of activities or restaurants based on past interactions. 

It’s clear that we want tailored experiences when we travel, and the big winners will be the brands who use the data they have to deliver this to the customers rather than the customers seeking it out for themselves.

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.


Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?



26 Feb 2019 - 6 minute read
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