Travel companies will need to leverage big data and personalise the customer experience in order to succeed in the coming years, delegates at an event in Bangkok have heard.
Addressing Hotelbeds Group’s inaugural MarketHub Asia event, Sam Turner, the company’s sales director, provided the staggering facts that in the next two days alone, more data will be generated globally than from the dawn of time until 2003 combined, and that by 2020, the world will produce 400 times as much data (40 zettabytes, to be exact) than it did in 2001.
And the “pace of change is accelerating, not plateauing,” he added.
This, according to Turner, presents a “massive opportunity” to marketers and travel companies, as existing and potential customers leave a digital footprint of everything they do, wherever they go.
And according to Gareth Matthews, Hotelbeds’ marketing & communications director, new technologies are not only allowing companies to monitor and track customer behaviour – they are also becoming predictive. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will allow data to be “leveraged to predict certain patterns and behaviours”, Williams said, which will enable even higher levels of personalisation and present greater opportunities for customer targeting.
These views were backed up by Mohammed Sirajuddeen, Accenture’s managing director of digital & products for the ASEAN region, who told delegates at MarketHub Asia that data needs to become predictive in order to satisfy customer needs.
“Asian consumers are changing: they expect a seamless, experiential and innovative travel and hospitality experience. At the same time and they want to make life easier. In future, companies need to offer them the right products and services before they even need them,” Sirajuddeen said.
It was widely agreed that one of the solutions that will transform that travel buying experience in the coming years will be voice activation. Sirajuddeen called Amazon Echo and Google Home “game-changers”, as they will enable customers to purchase flights, hotels and other services without visiting a specific website.
Ming Foong, Travelport’s managing director for Greater China & online business group Asia Pacific, agreed that voice recognition “turns search around”, by providing customers with a “natural, easy and interactive” way to search. “Personally I think this will drive a huge change in terms of how we buy travel,” he added.
And companies can increase conversion rates by intelligently predicting what customers want to buy, and delivering that in their search results, according to Foong.
“Data is the foundation for [travel companies] to power a better user experience,” he concluded.
With so much data being produced and search capabilities being enhanced, the opportunities for companies to harness customer data, and thus personalise their products and services, are likely to multiply in the coming years. As long as companies are able to harness their data and use it effectively, the possibilities appear limitless.