Trade experts agree that collecting data on their customers is crucial to driving the personalisation demanded in today’s travel industry, but have shared advice on when companies can go too far.
The discussion at this year’s Travolution Summit heard from Peter Kelly, vice president, Europe, at travel data co-op Adara, who said travel firms must make the most of “people-based marketing”.
He said they should “make sure you are able to leverage that to make sure you reach the right consumers.”
He said hotels are using personal data to set lighting, heating or music to a customer’s taste and hope the service will help drive brand loyalty. “Hotels want to own that customer so they can give them the best experience,” Kelly told delegates. “But people can be very conscious about what data they are handing over.”
Perrine Allain, e-commerce general manager at Eurostar, agreed, adding: “Customers are very sensitive about what information they give you” but added that “if it adds value, customers are not bothered about how you use their data.
“We have these micro moments with customers. People are using various different devices in the booking process. We are still having the same challenges of making efficiencies that we did three of four years ago, but the sheer complexity of it is increasing. We have a strategy of actively getting the data from our customers, but I’m not sure anyone in the room really understands their marketing efficiency.”
She suggested offering free WiFi in return for an email address was a way of gleaning information to improve a customer’s experience without making them feel uncomfortable.
“Transaction is just the start,” she added. “It gets a lot of focus because that’s where the spend is and we are getting better at using data for acquisition. We are here to sell the product, but also to service the customer.”
Estelle Giraudeau, managing director of Club Med UK and Scandinavia, said: “It’s very complex to understand the user experience. Our goal is to be available wherever our customers want to interact with us whether that’s via email, Facebook, phone or otherwise.”
She said businesses should take advantage of touchpoints where customers are comfortable to share data without being prompted.
“We thought the website boom would impact the call centre, and people would stop using it, but people don’t want to spend too much time on their mobile, especially to finalise their big moment. They can’t mess up their family holiday.
“When they call they give so much information, but they might call us and end up booking online with their family. Nobody can really predict what happens next.”
Dean Harvey, marketing manager at premium brand Kuoni, said the operator, which also has a shop network, has a click and connect strategy aimed at getting customers browsing online into store to find out more and speak to agents.
“I want them off my website as quickly as possible and into one of my stores,” said marketing director Dean Harvey. “But we realise that the digital journey has a big part to play in that.
“I can’t measure things like parents telling the young honeymoon couple to think about Kuoni, but we do have technology that lets us stitch together various data sets. It’s difficult when it’s cross-devices and there are more often than not two or more people involved in that decision-making process. Knowing what makes them come into store is a problem everyone [in marketing] faces, so we have to try and stitch these things together.
“We are getting that information to our people in store so that we can give a proper personalised experience.
“As customers, we almost grimace when we’re asked for personal information online. But that’s different on a phone call or face-to-face. But there’s no way that’s captured in the database.
“Cookie based marketing is getting a bit creepy, it follows you around the internet. Our customers prefer us not to get involved.”
Kelly said tying a customer to an email address helps companies deliver a service across devices more easily. He said reviewing customers has helped companies like Uber predict the lifetime value of the people who use their service. “Then you can then talk to them differently,” he said. “And if you know what they want you can make them a lifetime customer.”
On cookies, he added that “If it’s relevant to what you are looking for, then customers don’t mind.”
Allain said acquisition is “one side of the story” but that Eurostar is “interested in the whole journey”. She also warned that with new legislation due to go live in the new year, companies need to be more respectful about how they use customer’s data.