As businesses of all types try to provide more personalized experiences for customers, they are drawn to what we call Big Data. Big Data is the entire collection of information about your guests and your target market. It can be used to find out more about customer preferences, buying habits and markets. It can also shed insight on trends, opportunities and difficulties.
Some say that this is just B.S. Harper Reed, CTO of the Obama re-election campaign, calls it a “bullshit marketing construct”. He point out that answers to simple questions, such as “do you support the President?” matter most. Most companies, he says, just don’t have that much data – big or small.
Nevertheless, things are far more complicated today and companies are marketing and using “data” far more aggressively. Technology companies are creating new ways to interpret data and use it in marketing. It is appropriate to take some time to understand how hotels can use Big Data to get more direct bookings.
Hospitality and tourism have a major problem with Big Data. That is because the focus is often on one’s own data rather than the market at large. In-house data is where most analytics start, but that is the wrong starting point for most small and independent hotels. Only 15% to 25% of guests are repeat guests so sweating over guest data is addressing a pretty small market. 75 % of a hotel’s guests have never been to the hotel before and first-time guests are the largest part of a hotel’s market. You will not find any first-time guests by studying your archives of data.
Of course we want to encourage repeat visitors but we have to accept that travel is about exploration and discovery for a lot of consumers. As we have just stated, that is not something you can gain insight on by pondering your own statistics. Repeat visitors vary between destination and brands, but according to eHotelier, the average is low. It should not be a prime motivator for the average hotel’s marketing campaign.
So we have to ask: what really is the Big Data Opportunity?
Airlines’ Data Define Travel Patterns
Sojern has made a start at being the big data provider for travel. It uses Big Data to get insights into buyer behaviors and preferences, as well as seek out target markets. Sojern gathers information from all sorts of places – social sites and travel sites such as airline sites.
With information from hundreds of travel bookings, they can define travel patterns. In the business travel market, they can inform their hotel clients of business travelers who are arriving in their destination. This they get from the airlines they are associated with. That clearly is a Big Data advantage for some but not for all. It does not work well for holiday destination hotels, as most vacationers usually book a hotel before they buy an airline ticket.
So again we have to ask: where is the Big Data Opportunity?
Useful Big Data Analytics
Hebs Digital has a lot of data. They collect information from open sources – from their own and others’ research as well as from clients. They know that the average time for a traveler to plan and book is about 17 days. In that time, travelers will do an average of 8 research sessions, visit 18 sites, and make 6 clicks each before making a booking (Google Research).
According to eMarketer, they will make 15.5 touch points within the week before they actually book a room, villa, apartment or resort. http://blog.hebsdigital.com/top-five-secrets-to-hotel-multichannel-marketing/
Now that is useful Big Data! What it tells us is:
- Your website has to provide information that will persuade the early-stage shopper.
- You need to inspire them, engage them and offer benefits for booking direct >>> see our blog .
- You need to keep in contact with options like re-targeting ads to hotel website visitors.
- You absolutely need to be remembered – capture them, re-target them with a really pertinent offer.
- You need to seek out direct booking channels like MetaSearch that are accessible to independent hotels at reasonable costs.
- Use lead magnets, like an extremely helpful app or guide, to get their contact info and keep in contact via emails.
Is Big Data a Big Opportunity for Hotels & Tourism?
Hotels can and must use data from many various sources to compile statistics in order to to identify and reach their perfect guests. Big Data can help identify high value customers and clarify which services are most important to them. The information you need is somewhere in the cloud. That data is not going to be fully accessible to small hotels and it will be a real problem to interpret it. For that we need the Big Data technologists. The challenge is finding and processing all the data so that it can be of use. This field is very competitive and hotels are at a huge disadvantage compared with the OTAs. They simply do not have access to the vast data collected by OTAs, who deal with hundreds of thousands of hotels and millions of travelers.
Dale Nix, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9, part of the JLL Group, says that, “As emerging technology become mainstream, the opportunity to convert data into truly tangible value will be employed by savvy hotel brands, to everyone’s benefit… Guests look for personalization, recognition and status. We can provide those things at very little cost if we get it right. It’s about creating that seamless guest journey, from booking, to staying, to paying and beyond. We have to make it easy for the guest to say yes—and it doesn’t have to be through points.” Source JJL >>>
Big Data technology companies can add value to small hotels and chains by tapping into vast data resources. As an example, Sojern claims to have over “350 million traveler profiles and billions of intent data points that drives bookings by helping you engage with in-market audiences most likely to book.”
Personalization: a Big, Big Data Opportunity
The buzz word for travel marketing and guest experience in 2016 is ‘personalization’. Here Big Data can be very effective. Tourism marketers can now grab details of guests and prospects from their social profile. Automated systems will scrape interest and profiles from Facebook for any email you have. You can create target markets with this information and market directly to them. These ideas are presented in our last post on re-targeting (see link above).
Hotels need to seek out marketing services that fine tune personalization. These new systems understand that travelers do not want more choices. Instead, they want a personal recommendation. The new personalization expert systems are the driving force behind PersonaHolidays.com, now implemented on the Barbados Tourism Website http://holidays.barbados.org. The intelligent systems analyze a visitor’s behavior and match it with a history of data. In just moments, the traveler gets a recommendation that is highly personal.
While still in beta, the system has shown a remarkable increase in engagement and conversion.