It is a widely known fact that the future of customer experience and revenue opportunities in the travel industry will be shaped by data analytics. The amount of data generated by travel is practically endless, however turning data into meaningful insights comes with challenges.
At Future Travel Experience (FTE) Global 2019, Cirium’s Carrie Mamantov, Marketing Director, and Steve Lappenbusch, Principal Product Manager, facilitated a co-creation workshop exploring how the travel industry can better utilize data to exceed traveler expectations. If you missed it, check out Carrie and Steve’s insight on how to leverage data to delight travelers and identify new revenue streams.
During the workshop, airlines, airports and travel vendors discussed common obstacles their organizations faced when trying to get measurable results from their travel analytics.
Here are some data-related challenges we heard from participants:
1. Integrating more non-traditional data and human demographics
What is on your wish list for new data points?
For many professionals focused on the traveler journey, there is a desire for data that isn’t focused on an aircraft. These professionals—whether in strategy, design or delivery roles—want to better understand the people traveling, and their experience during travel.
For example, they want more information on weather and current affairs, such as strikes or political unrest, that might have an impact on travel. Additionally, they want to know more about the human beings involved. Who is the person traveling, what type of person are they and where are they in their journey?
Profile information that comes directly from the consumer can be combined with traditional travel data sets to create actionable derived information. Weave what you know about a traveler with monitored behaviors, and feedback from actual trip experience—this can produce deeper intelligence on how travelers feel about the travel experience and opens a door for predictive insights.
When considering what data sets you need, keep this in mind: Just because data is available, doesn’t mean it’s worth the time spent to analyze.
Non-traditional data was a recurring theme from all parts of the travel ecosystem. However, the meaning of non-traditional data depends on which vertical of the industry you’re in. Airlines, airports and vendors all have different needs. Some traditional data within the industry might seem non-traditional because it’s siloed, and everyone wants to peek into what everyone else has.
Focus on looking for data that fits your problems. Start with smaller pieces of a problem and think about what you need to solve that piece. When starting with just one area of the traveler journey—everything that happens before getting to the airport, everything that happens at the airport, or everything that happens in-flight—the data points needed to create the first experience may differ than the data points needed for the next experience.
2. Targeting the customer and consumer in different ways
When developing new products and capabilities, are you designing for the customers you have, or the customers you want? If you want to design for both, then you’re going to need a pathway to collecting data about each one.
Airlines in particular are making a distinction between organizations that have signed contracts for services—their customers— and the individuals that make their own travel choices—general consumers. Customers are people you are already getting information from, while consumers are an aggregation of people in the market you need to learn more about.
Experience-based metrics like a Net Promoter Score help you understand customers, and compare actual customer needs against what customers say they desire. Rich, useful data about consumers is more elusive and connected to the behavior of individuals you can’t easily reach.
The biggest challenge that exists for travel professionals who want to distinguish between the customer experience and the consumer experience is the accessibility of data. You want to turn more consumers into customers, but you have no data about those consumers. How do you learn about the consumer want when no one is sharing data with you?
Although the technology and processes for customer data capture already exist, many organizations still struggle to get a firm handle on their own customer information. The path to obtaining customer data is a matter of getting organized, while the path to accumulating consumer data requires you to determine how to capture it or negotiate with whomever already owns it.
A common pitfall is wanting more data before you even know if what you have is useful or not. Knowing what customers are buying from everyone else in the market is naturally the dream. Yet, before you can try to tackle learning about the open market, it’s best to study your customers first. Then, determine what you need to learn from consumers and build a plan for how you will capture those insights.
If you aren’t confident you have your customer data under control, there’s no use increasing the problem. Consider postponing your desire for more data and take the time to get more clarity around what you have. Identifying the behaviors and characteristics that paint the picture of your current customers is worth the wait.
3. Increasing focus on segmentation
More travel service providers are taking a step back from trying to address the market as a whole in an effort to understand the different segments within the market. Once customers and consumers are parsed around common characteristics and behavior, providers can determine how to cater to each segment.
For example, you can determine what kind of person a traveler is based on linking information like their occupation and age with their purchasing decisions. This will help glean insight into the likelihood that a person with the same profile will buy the same product.
The travel industry in general is behind the curve when it comes to achieving sophisticated data segmentation. Most players currently segment by routes or capacity at the aggregate level, but fail to segment at a more specific, individual traveler level. Right now, it’s difficult to even clearly see the routes people take and the place they generally live. The desire to segment by behavior, consumer attributes and scores exists, but the mathematics and data needed to accomplish segmentation has not been harnessed.
Going back to the concept of using non-traditional data to get answers you wouldn’t typically have, consider leveraging data that has already segmented your travelers in other industries or working with a third-party provider with experience in melding consumer data to industry data.
While behavioral segmentation based on a customer’s attitudes, use, and responses toward your product or service isn’t something you can get from other industries or providers, you can seek out other categories of segmentation data. For example, consider leveraging the psychographic data—lifestyle, values, personalities—other companies already have because the same people who are traveling are also making other purchasing decisions out in the world, which you can learn from. Additionally, get advice from experts who have done this type of data blending before because they know the challenges and how to solve them.