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Cross device usage and vast quantities of data were two of the biggest challenges that travel brands faced in 2016, and its only going to intensify this year

Ask any travel executive what they expect to be their biggest challenge in 2017 and their likely answer will be reaching the customer at the right time, in the right place and with the right information.

As Henrik Kjellberg, President of low-cost OTA Hotwire puts it: “The customer journey is becoming ever more complex, with shopping and purchasing being done over multiple devices. Learning how and when to capture the customer is becoming increasingly difficult.”

Sounding a similar note is Rodolphe Morfoise-Gauthier, the UK Country Manager of pan-European travel metasearch Gopili, who argues that one of the biggest challenges is to reliably attribute marketing campaigns. In an EyeforTravel story in December 2016 he admitted that “there are no real solutions – yet!”

Multiple ways to reach the customer

One of the biggest challenges is that brands have more places than ever to communicate with consumers, both online and offline. “From multiple browsers, multiple devices, direct mail, call centres and addressable TV, the number of consumer touch points only grows,” says Kristin Rosmorduc Vice President, Market Development at tech firm Neustar, an EyeforTravel sponsor.

From multiple browsers, multiple devices, direct mail, call centres and addressable TV, the number of consumer touch points only grows

The good news is that consumers today are providing valuable pieces of data at each touch point by giving out details such as name, email address and telephone numbers when booking a hotel or flight. In browsing, they are also revealing some indication of their attitude, intent and behaviour.

The bad news, however, is that very often data ends up in silos, and it can be false and unreliable. “Ensuring that all this data actually connects back to a single consumer is not easy,” says Rosmorduc.

At EyeforTravel’s Amsterdam Summit in November Javier Espinosa, Director of Forecasting, Analytics and Revenue Management at NH Hotel Group went as far as to say: “We are in an era of data pollution…the future is to have tools and people to dig into it.”

According to Rosmorduc consumers share false or unreliable data as often as they share accurate and useful data which makes it very difficult to achieve a clear picture of who that individual is at any point in time.

Many consumers today, for example, use multiple email addresses; the one they use to sign up for a loyalty card may be different to the one they use for Facebook or when making a purchase from an OTA. The customer may also have moved house, bought a new mobile phone or changed their name through marriage. Very often there are two different ‘versions’ of the consumer, which can be tough to reconcile.

So yes, while the sheer quantity of data that is available to marketers is a huge opportunity but current data management systems mean many organisations struggle to turn that quantity into quality. In fact,it’s becoming harder than ever to form a complete picture of a single consumer.

The quest continues

So in 2017 the quest for data driven personalisation will continue. Some brands will try to solve the data challenge in house, a common approach taken in the data driven metasearch landscape. Gopili is one of those and its strategy has been to involve users in testing from Day 1. Other players like Skyscanner and Trivago have put teams of data scientists at the centre of their organisations. As Mark Shilton, Principle Data Scientist at data-driven travel metasearch engine Skyscanner explains their approach is to make data central to all roles while focusing data scientists on predictive analytics rather than reporting.

Others will look to technologies from players like Neustar or Syniverse to solve the challenge. One thing is clear: brands will look to go beyond mere contact data to paint a full picture of who a consumer is. “This is not just about where they live and what their phone number is, but who they fundamentally are: their demographics, interests, attitudes, and behaviours,” says Rosmorduc.

Join us for the Smart Data Travel Summit in North America (February 22-23). Neustar is quoted here as part of EyeforTravel’s sponsored content programme

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