The travel industry is one of the largest in the world and generated more than $7.6 trillion in 2016. It’s also one of the most competitive: there were 81,700 travel agents in the U.S. alone in the same year.
In order to thrive, travel companies must optimize their processes, which can be achieved through data. Here’s a look at some of the specific ways data can be utilized, tools travel companies can use, and real-life examples of data in action.
Why Travel Companies Need to Optimize Their Processes
There are two main reasons why data is so important in the travel industry – high competition and low conversion rates. Competition is fierce, and the combination of so many other travel agents and massive aggregator sites like Kayak, Skyscanner, and Booking.com makes it increasingly difficult for travel companies to distinguish themselves and reach customers. Optimizing processes is essential for standing out from the competition, ensuring a positive customer experience, and winning market share.
As for conversion rates, travel companies face an uphill battle. “92% of customers of a travel website will not convert and 60% of visitors never return after a first visit,” big data expert Graham Cooke explains. “Big data can help online travel companies to deliver the right message at the right time to the right person and with that increase their conversion rate.”
Not only does optimizing processes help convert more customers initially, but it can also play a key role in earning repeat business and boosting long-term customer loyalty.
How Travel Companies Can Use Data and Web Data Integration
Data is an essential component that allows travel companies to get ahead. It’s what helps business owners better understand their market, competitors, and customers, stay on top of emerging travel trends, monitor customer sentiment, and more. Here are some specific processes that can be optimized with data.
Delivering a customized experience is a key part of winning over modern customers. In fact, 59% of customers say personalization affects their buying decisions, and 44% say they’re likely to become repeat customers because of personalized shopping experiences.
Travel companies can use data to personalize their services and provide every single customer with a unique experience. Web data integration – a process that aggregates and normalizes data from a variety of web sources – can be used to gain in-depth insights about travelers and learn about their travel plans. In turn, business owners can customize their offers to make them more relevant and appealing.
A great example is British Airways, which analyzes customer data like travel itineraries, complaint histories, and photos from Google Images to create personalized results. This is a big part of what’s helped them create a more rewarding customer experience, improve customer service, and increase revenue.
Today’s travelers have access to a wealth of resources for finding great deals, and pricing factors heavily into their purchasing decision. For a travel company to remain competitive, it’s crucial that they know how many key competitors are charging at all times and adjust their pricing accordingly.
And web data integration is the perfect tool for performing price monitoring. It allows business owners to easily track and analyze competitor pricing and identify whenever changes are made. For instance, specific locations can be targeted to see how many properties have been booked and at what price.
Starwood Hotels, a subsidiary of Marriott International, uses something similar in predictive analytics to analyze hundreds of different factors like competitive pricing data, daily rates, and occupancy data to provide their customers with consistently great deals, which creates an incentive for them to choose Starwood Hotels over the competition.
Word spreads quickly online, and customer comments and reviews can have a major impact on a travel company’s reputation. Web data integration can also be used to effectively manage reputation by analyzing customer sentiment.
An example would be a company aggregating data from thousands of online reviews, social media comments, and so on to gain in-depth insights into customer feedback and expectations. In turn, a business owner can diagnose issues and take steps to preserve their brand equity. While this would be an incredibly time-consuming task if done manually, web data integration automates the process and frees up internal resources.
Using Data to Enhance Key Processes
In 2010, 27.8 million flights were completed globally, and by the end of 2019, this number is predicted to reach 39.4 million. This shows firsthand just how big the travel industry is and how much it’s growing. And while this means there are plenty of opportunities, the increasing level of competition still puts a lot of pressure on travel companies. That’s why it is important for online travel companies to gain a competitive advantage through web data integration.
Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, Yahoo! News and Influencive. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. Connect with him on LinkedIn.