How to Use Big Data to Reach Travelers Without Becoming "Big Brother"

| January 06, 2017

Hospitality companies have so many more options to reach travelers with personalized messaging these days. Thanks to the influx of data and advent of advanced analytics, the sector has unprecedented visibility into where travelers are, what amenities they prefer and what their next moves might be.
 
Marketing strategies that use artificial intelligence (AI), location-based outreach and hyper-personalized recommendations can make incredibly relevant offers. The high volume of data flowing in and analytics to track conversion funnels, capture demographics and analyze key web KPIs let hospitality marketers sharpen their competitive positions with better business decisions.
 
But while app-driven hotel suggestions, GPS tracking, AI-based ticketing, on-the-go price comparisons, etc., can bring benefits to customers and hospitality companies alike, it’s important to respect customers’ privacy. Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to draw the line.
 
In this article, Absolutdata offers three tips on how to use technology effectively without coming across as an omniscient, all-seeing Big Brother.
 
1.       Optimize offers with care: Consumers who’ve become accustomed to recommendations from digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon expect a level of personalization from their travel vendors too. In fact, they demand it. If they are inundated with offers that are irrelevant to their lives and travel plans, not only will conversion rates suffer, but customers may delete apps or unsubscribe from lists.
 
But it’s important to use data judiciously. An offer that uses information from past purchases to suggest a weekend getaway destination is fine. But a call to action that uses personal data — even information widely available via public records such as marriage anniversary dates — can easily cross the line from relevant to “creepy.”
 
2.       Make it easy for consumers to use different platforms: More than half of consumers use different devices while shopping online, getting directions, etc., says a report from Forrester’s Consumer Technographics research. Younger customers are especially adept at completing tasks across devices, and they expect hospitality vendors to follow their issues across platforms.
 
That’s why it’s crucial for hotels to integrate data across service channels, putting customers at the center rather than focusing on device or platform type. However, it’s also critical to keep customer privacy in mind while delivering a seamless experience. Customers who would appreciate an agent’s ability to access information across platforms to solve problems wouldn’t necessarily welcome an offer that pursued them across multiple channels.
 
3.       Build a unique brand that inspires loyalty: Today’s travelers are more likely to look for experiences and brands that share their values, particularly millennials. Offering ecotourism, foodie-centered excursions, cultural experiences, etc., can all appeal to customer groups, just as budget-friendly family vacations or luxury accommodations for globe-trotting retirees can appeal to target market segments.
 
Brands communicate a specific message to their customers, and the use of big data to create an exclusive selling point — and a unique customer experience — helps brands connect with customers, which drives revenue. But because the brand is using customers’ personal information, it’s important not to fall into the habit of adopting stereotypical thinking, which can be offensive.
 
Big data and analytics solutions have opened unprecedented new avenues for hospitality companies to form connections with prospects and customers. With a well-designed big data and analytics solution, hotels can make the right offers to the right people at the right time — the marketing trifecta.
 
However, unparalleled access to data carries with it new responsibilities to use it wisely. Customers are willing to share their information when they receive value in return, but it’s important to avoid abusing their trust. That means striking a balance so that customers feel valued, not monitored.
 

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