“The Customer Experience is the next competitive battleground” – Jerry Gregoire.
This statement is as relevant for travel and tourism industry as for any other industry. Customer experience is one of the most significant factor in hospitality that differentiates one from the rest.
It does not matter whether one is travelling on a business trip or a leisure trip with family and friends, they always expect to have the best class experience during their trip. Earlier, managing customer experience was easy as they tracked only bookings data and reviews from travellers in a feedback form while checking out to improve their performance.
Challenges in Current Scenario:
In today’s rapidly changing business environment, digital technologies like big data, social media, AI and cloud computing are changing the way companies do business.
Thanks to the online platform, competition are so intense that even big brands are also struggling to keep their market share intact. Companies like Airbnb, started in 2008, has turned into over two billion dollar company, spanning their business over 190 countries across the world, in no time. Why are these start-up companies growing by leaps and bounds while established hoteliers are struggling to keep their presence? Where are they putting their foot wrong and how can analytics help them in edging their competitors? Let’s look at some of the key aspects.
One thing every hoteliers need to understand, customers are no longer loyal to particular group of hotels rather they rely more on reviews of other travellers in different travel sites like Tripadvisor, Expedia etc. before booking to a particular hotel.
So, it is very important for any hotelier to integrate the offline and online data to gain more insights and understand the preferences of their guests, otherwise they will definitely lose customers.
To keep the customer loyal, one needs to extract information from all customer touch points, gauge meaningful insights from them and then deliver personalized experiences. This way you not only keep loyal customers but also evangelize others towards you. Following are the ways one can leverage the benefits of integrating offline and online data.
360 Degree Customer View:
Integrating data from all sources will help hoteliers to get complete understanding of their customers and their preferences. Track each member how they are browsing into the website, where they are spending most time and in which stage they have left the website.
All this information will help to provide relevant offers to each customer. The beauty of having digital data is, one can merge the social and demographic data of each customer along with their existing travel data.
This will help business leaders to segment their customer not only based on their travel history but also based on their age group, location, socio economic status etc. Obviously, it will help marketing heads to target the existing as well as new customer in a more effective way.
For example, creating a simple dashboard will give complete understanding from where the customer are coming mostly, what is their age group, which is the most profitable customer segment and what are they talking about the hotel in social media.
Using web interaction data, one can build models for better understanding the need of the customers and proactively engaging with them. But till now most companies are using web analytics data to produce periodical reports like what browser customers are using most, comparison between one search engines versus others and so on.
These reports are undoubtedly helpful but do not give enough insights for deeper analysis. Along with the descriptive analytics, companies should also bring statistical validation to get better picture of why something has happened and how they can improve them in future.
Predictive Analytics will allow decision makers to become more proactive rather than reactive to business problem. Bringing data-driven predictive analytics into play, hoteliers can actually know what will happen next. And that is one of biggest benefit of leveraging web data to solve critical business problem.
Techniques like natural language processing, text analysis, random forest, CHAID can help to identify and validate the keyword that are positively or negatively influencing the customers.
Optimizing Digital Marketing:
Now a days, along with offline marketing, Companies need to spend a huge amount of money in digital marketing to build their brand image and increase website visitation. They spend a lot of money on digital marketing channels like email, social, display and paid search.
By leveraging web data, any hoteliers can easily optimize their digital marketing spend. Problems like how much should I invest in each of these channels, where should I allocate more adverting dollars among various channels, what is the optimal marketing mix etc. can be easily answered applying advanced analytics on digital data.
Hoteliers can actually maximize return on each dollar spent on digital marketing campaign by simply brainstorming on how to collect, store and apply predictive and prescriptive analytics to digital data in a structured or robust way.
An ensemble or market mix model can be one of the best ways to predict the likelihood to response of each member on each channel.
Sometimes, it may happen that customers visit the homepage, browse through different pages or search for hotels in specific location and then drop from the website.
By analysing the web data, hoteliers can actually identify those set of customers and target them through different channels with variety of offers. It can eventually entice those customers in making a purchase and can significantly impact on their revenues.
Tracking the journey of each visitors in the website is the best way for hoteliers to identify where they are losing a potential customer. Knowing customers browsing, they can actually retarget that customer with some customized offers.
Just think about amazon or any other e-commerce sites, whenever you search for any particular product, look into the product details, add the product into cart but do not purchase the product, they will notify you that your product is awaiting in the cart and sometimes they provide specialized offer that entice you in the purchase. Once they identify your interest, they just give added benefits to strengthen your purchase decision. The same can be applied in hospitality industry also.
In this technology savvy world lots of digital information are being captured in every moment. Undoubtedly, in coming days, business are going to be significantly impacted by digital data. And in case of hospitality, its impact is indispensable. The use of information in hospitality industry has grown immensely in the last two decade. Certainly, technology aided communication will rule in the coming years and innovation is the only way one can stand out from others. As ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu rightly said, “The journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step”, hoteliers should start using advance analytical techniques to find innovative ways to target, re target and retain their potential customers.