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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.