Big Interview: Travel brands need to up their personalisation game, says ADARA marketing chief

Big Interview: Travel brands need to up their personalisation game, says ADARA marketing chief

Lee Hayhurst caught up with Carolyn Corda, chief marketing officer for the US-based travel marketing data co-op, during a recent trip to London

Lee Hayhurst caught up with Carolyn Corda, chief marketing officer for the US-based travel marketing data co-op, during a recent trip to London

Although having spent a career working in data marketing, ADARA chief marketing officer Carolyn Corda admits she was taken aback by the wealth of data the travel specialist co-op has.

Corda began her career at Sabre Corp, leading the marketing strategy for the US GDS and travel technology giant for five years from 1990.

Her career has taken her to business consultancy Accenture, back to Sabre, when she co-founded data analytics firm Vistrio, on to Epsilon and back to Accenture in its applied intelligence travel team.

She had been in her second stint at Accenture about a year when she received a phone call about ADARA, the fast-growing Paulo Alto-based data and marketing insights firm that specialises in travel.

Corda said she was quickly convinced to join. “It’s hard to convey just how much data we have,” she said. “I came to discover that ADARA has this incredible wealth of data.

“The company grew up using its data for advertising, but more and more our partners want to use it to drive key signals and insights that can be used in their businesses.

“We are still doing advertising because that’s still a huge part of our business. Getting someone to make a booking is a key activity.

“But when I look at the evolution of business, customisation and personalisation is becoming table stakes for all brands.

“As consumers we are not judging the likes of BA by the standards of other airlines, we are judging them how seamless the experience is, like it was the last time I shopped on Amazon.

“Consumers are not judging the experience by comparing you to other travel companies but by what they are experiencing with other brands.

“Travel brands are realising they need to up their game around personalisation.

“Probably because of technology and increasing sophistication of brands themselves, they are saying your data performs really well, but we want to bring it inhouse into our own recipes.

“A lot of brands have developed their own systems and algorithms and they want to use us as a companion to their intelligence.

“More and more they are seeing us as a partner for their own decision and recommendation engines, customer experience, marketing and contact centres.”

Corda said using third party data in this way requires partners that have taken a rigorous approach to what can and can’t be done with it, particularly under the strictures of regulations like GDPR.

“We talk about being GDPR compliant, but we think even more broadly than that,” she said. “There should be standards, and it should be more than just a marketing buzzword.

“It takes a lot of investment and rigour to be able to achieve that. GDPR has now set a world standard for privacy and data security.

“If you are a hotel company or airline and you want to be compliant round the world you have to be compliant to the highest standard otherwise you will fall short somewhere else.”

ADARA believes brands across sectors should be able, through data and insights, to identify and exploit brand affinity behaviour that customers are seen to exhibit.

Corda pointed to a partnership between leading US airline Delta and ground transport provider Lyft, which clearly exploits an affinity between the two sets of product.

But the firms will also share data so that Delta can see where its customers are using Lyft when they travel to destinations but choose not to use the airline.

ADARA, said Corda, is in the business of doing this at scale helping clients to “crystalise and synthesize” the insights in their shared data “to better understand what groups to target”.

Today ADARA has 250 partners who share their data with the co-op on the basis that it will only be used to drive value back to them in the form of marketing intelligence.

“We can infer a lot,” said Corda. “Data used to be the missing link for the industry. But more data is always more.

“You want non-managed leisure travel data, that’s what our clients tell us is the most interesting. I’m in awe about what our clients so with their brands.

“They are squeezing the data we have for everything they can get out of it. They are really starting to understand what people’s preferences might be.

“We can detect patterns that otherwise may not be visible, like what booking behaviour can we influence to get a direct booking, or for booking ancillary purchases.

“We have tools that allow them to become more efficient. Without intelligence there’s a danger of making bad decisions at greater volume and speed because you don’t have the right information.”

While firms have made great strides in using their own first party data, Corda believes there is still work to do to take it to a higher level using pooled third party data to drive true scale.

She points to Abu Dhabi, which has worked with ADARA in creating its own data co-op with attractions, hotels and airlines sharing information in a protected space for the common good.

Doing more to exploit the wider crossover between travel and general retailing remains an area that interests ADARA.

But Corda said there is a barrier due to the fact that travel firms tend to have a wealth of loyalty scheme client data, while retailers do not tend to come with the same volume.

However, there are clear opportunities for all travel brands to use the live data generated by travellers in-trip to offer relevant to what they want to do while on holiday.

ADARA has brought in Ticketmaster and Booking Holding’s restaurant booking app Open Table into the data co-op “recognising that their clients they want to be part of the experience”.

“We recognise that and we want to be able to paint in the corners around that in-trip experience because brands want to be a concierge for travel,” Corda said.

She added ADARA’s mission is to help all types of companies and organisations in travel from OTAs, to DMOs, supplier and intermediaries to better understand and deliver for their customers.

“We are agnostic. We are intelligence, and it’s about the brands that are ready to ingest that intelligence and to use it to perform better. We are here for them.”