Emily Whalley, senior travel specialist of BR-DGE, explains why she believes firms that adopt this approach are bound to 'stay ahead of the curve'
Guest Post: Data is the secret sauce to industry’s success
Thursday May 25 was a pivotal moment for the industry this year – the busiest day for outbound flights in 2023 with 3,000 flights departing UK airports alone. It was the highest number of daily departures since December 20, 2019 and marked an important moment for our industry’s recovery.
However, it was a day not without disruption. On May 25, security guards at Heathrow Airport launched a 72-hour period of industrial action in an ongoing pay dispute. In response, the airport developed a contingency plan and reshuffled resources to ensure that passengers could continue to travel during the half-term period.
This industry milestone was symbolic for a number of reasons. Despite the cost-of-living crisis, it showed that demand for travel and holidays remains high. With UK consumers expected to spend £40.9 billion this year on package holidays both at home and abroad – 94% of pre-pandemic levels – the industry is playing catch-up to meet this demand. Industry leaders note that these passenger volumes present ‘immense difficulties’ from an operational perspective and will demand resourcefulness from all.
Whilst the industry has become more resilient after years of disruption, airlines and travel companies need to stay agile in order to prepare for periods of high activity. During the current capacity crunch, we must use every tool at our disposal to ensure holiday-goers and passengers receive the best service possible.
In the last five years, successful OTAs and airlines have continuously innovated in order to improve the customer experience. To achieve this, one tool at their disposal is data. Speaking with executives in the industry every day, three themes are clear to me when organisations discuss the power of data.
Data and insights are the bedrock of the best customer strategies
In the current climate, there is increasing competition between travel providers to acquire and retain customers while delivering a first-class service to passengers. Collecting data allows airline strategists and travel professionals to identify customer trends in order to tailor their offerings.
We are increasingly moving into a period of hyper-personalisation where consumers expect a bespoke offering that caters to their travel needs. Organisations that use data analytics are able to offer prospective holiday buyers more relevant products and services. Ultimately, this enhances the user experience and drives greater customer engagement.
Data is the industry’s best friend in times of crisis
Most recently, the wildfires in the Greek islands of Corfu, Evia, and Rhodes caused holidays to be cancelled and increased disruption at airports. Our own data showed that, as a result of this disruption, there was an 18% increase in online searches for refund requests from the previous week before the wildfires.
By bringing real-time data into business decision-making, businesses are able to keep up to date with customer activity and identify pressure points across workstreams. During the recent disruption, travel providers leveraging data would be able to see the potential for an increase in refund requests. They could then work with their customer services teams to ensure that they had the right resourcing in place to tackle this issue, reinforcing their organisation’s credibility.
Knowledge is power in the customer journey
By embedding customer analytics across systems and gaining rich insights into their workflows, organisations can also deliver a better customer journey. Our data shows that 1 in 4 holiday goers and passengers spend less than three minutes at an online checkout before abandoning their cart. Choice is also key with nearly half (42%) of buyers open to using Buy Now Pay Later payment methods in order to buy their trip. Ultimately, consumers want a frictionless experience that caters to their needs – data can help identify these demands.
By adopting a data-led approach, organisations can enhance the customer experience, experiment with new customer journeys, and identify the best solutions for consumers.
Knowledge is power in today’s world. Those firms which grab the opportunity are able to stay ahead of the curve and deliver better results for their company and their customers.