July 20th, 2018

The Travel Industry’s Dilemma: Turning Data Insights into Action

This article was originally published on Skift.com on June 21, 2018.

Data is the lifeblood of personalization, and travel marketers know full well how valuable it can be. More than 90% of consumers said in a recent Accenture study they were more likely to shop with brands that provided them with relevant offers and recommendations. Unfortunately, when it comes to converting that data into usable insights, too many organizations are running on fumes.

The truth is that today’s travelers expect a seamless customer experience, from the moment they start researching a trip until the moment they arrive back home. But all too often, this type of end-to-end travel experience is hard to achieve.

Consider a situation where a customer makes a purchase using an online travel agency. As the transaction is transferred between the agency and the supplier, critical customer insights (such as their frequent flier or loyalty program number) may not be shared, resulting in a missed opportunity to better personalize the experience.

Further complicating matters, a large amount of customer data still lives in departmental silos, with Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service each supplying separate customer experiences. Those databases can easily grow stale or become inconsistent, since customer information owned by one department is often not shared with others. Keeping it up to date is an even more formidable task –– even a monthly update isn’t always frequent enough to keep up with the important life changes that can impact marketing decisions.

Each of these challenges illustrate the importance of a unified data strategy –– one that can provide a more consistent and real-time view of the customer. Addressing this data challenge has numerous benefits, like creating transparency based on a single customer view, delivering a consistent cross-channel experience at scale, identifying and increasing lifetime customer value, reducing costs, and streamlining data processes, among others.

But building this unified customer data strategy is easier said than done. According to a 2017 survey published by the CMO Council and SAP Hybris and summarized by eMarketer, less than 25% of marketers worldwide said they had a comprehensive view of customer data from across their organization.

How can travel brands upgrade their data management strategy to meet the needs of today’s travelers?

Here are 5 steps that can help you establish a more comprehensive view of today’s travel consumer:

1. Evaluate your existing data.

Step 1 is to take an audit of the data sets your company already owns and their relative quality. Doing so will make it possible to give customers a single “identifier” across departments. This allows travel brands to keep all information connected, and ensures that updates by all departments are more easily shared throughout the entire organization.

2. Clean the data set.

After assessing your databases, the next step is to reduce duplicates and add in missing information. Identity management companies such as Neustar can help travel organizations with this process, allowing you to fill in missing contact information by using identity data from authoritative sources such government agencies, utilities, telecommunications companies and financial institutions.

3. Establish a system to continuously corroborate data.

Once the data is clean, ongoing maintenance is the next step. The reality is that it’s easy for customer data to get out of date quickly –– today’s consumers frequently change their personal information and buying preferences. To make sure the most current data is available to decision-makers, travel organizations should seek to find partners who can provide “always-on” identity management. Neustar, for example, monitors changes to our customer identity databases every 15 minutes, and can quickly route this information directly to companies’ CRM systems to keep them as accurate as possible.

4. Enhance the data with behavioral data.

Customer databases can be further improved by connecting existing offline data to demographic, psychographic, and geographic attributes. This can help travel companies better understand customers, such as what they purchase or activities they prefer, and better score and segment them. This also ensures they can deliver a more relevant and personalized experience that resonates with the right customer at the right time across channels.

5. Make the data actionable.

As travel companies begin to know more about their core customers, they can then move to develop strategies to acquire new ones. This can be done by anonymizing the data you already have, using common customer behaviors to develop audience “profiles” that inform and improve future targeting. This ensures that travel brands reach the customers most likely to make a purchase, and that you provide them with the right message to help them along the way on their unique buyer journey.

The organizations that undertake these steps receive better insight into their customer habits, reduce inefficiencies in market, and generate greater business results. Take the example of one global airline that wanted to better identify and engage with frequent fliers and non-member travelers. The airline looked to Neustar to help consolidate, complete and maintain a robust repository of identity data so it could make the right decisions across its marketing efforts.

In building this central repository of customer intelligence, the airline had a new tool to help effectively manage and optimize each customer relationship without anyone else getting in the way. By affixing a persistent identifier to its customer records, the airline was not only able to follow its customers’ buying path, it was also able to uncover additional behavioral and demographic insights that further deepened its understanding of its customers.

As a result of these efforts, the airline increased its recognition rate for previously “anonymous” customers by 33%, removed duplicate and invalid customer records, and increased cross-channel identity and measurement performance by 64%.

Another example is The Grand Park City Hall in Singapore, which launched an app that lets visitors unlock doors, change temperature settings, and send feedback to hotel staff. Each of these customer preferences from the app were fed into the hotel’s CRM so its staff could enhance the stay and foster loyalty. Linking the two databases ensured that information flowed efficiently across the organization, and customer needs were met along every touch point.

With the right identity data management practices in place, every department benefits. From Sales and Marketing, to Customer Service and Call Centers, travel organizations can deliver a meaningful and consistent experience that encourages customer loyalty and creates a positive brand reputation. But this is only possible if you communicate and collaborate across functional teams, and take the time to build and maintain a more complete view of your customers.

In today’s era of data-driven personalization and insight-driven marketing, the stakes couldn’t be higher. In fact, the time to act is now. Given the current rate of change and proliferation, it’s only going to get more difficult to obtain an accurate customer view in the future.

 

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