Guest Post: In uncertain times real-time data is crucial

Guest Post: In uncertain times real-time data is crucial

The relevance of real-time data in the travel industry as coronavirus spreads

Ed Heaney, business director at PSI explores the urgency behind  real-time data in the travel sector as coronavirus continues to spread.

Global affairs can change travel patterns at the drop of a hat and be difficult to keep up with. External macro events – from the emergence of the coronavirus to the ‘Trump travel ban’ – can have a profound and sudden impact on how people travel.

Edward Heaney, Strategic Development Director for PSI, Posterscope’s International Division, explains how future reservation data can help businesses across the travel ecosystem prepare for all scenarios and continue to connect with travellers in the most appropriate way.

Historical travel data alone doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to planning targeted travel campaigns.  These days it is essential to understand the changes taking place in different markets around the world at any given time, and how this can impact on travelling audiences, and consequently, how brands need to be more agile and reactive to a shifting landscape.

To better understand how global events can disrupt the way people travel and how brands can make sure they are still targeting passengers in the right places, it’s important to analyse real-time and intention data from a variety of sources.  We work in partnership with the travel intelligence company ForwardKeys to monitor and analyse global aviation capacity, future flight booking data and flight searches to accurately understand changing travel patterns and forecast where and when specific audiences will be travelling.

For brands looking to target a Chinese travelling audience, for example, using historical data right now would give you skewed results when planning a campaign for the future.  ForwardKey’s latest analysis has revealed that the coronavirus has caused a substantial setback to the Chinese travel industry since its emergence.  As of 26 January, when Wuhan airport closed, outbound travel bookings for the Chinese Holiday period were 6.8% behind the same period last year, while inbound bookings were 7.2% behind, having been up 4.5% only the week before.

In an ever-changing world, to stay ahead of the curve it’s important not to rely on past data to predict the future. It is only through this kind of context and with access to future reservation data that brands can start looking at how to tailor and optimise their media approach in real time, and in response to emerging and quickly changing situations such as the coronavirus. While there will always be value and insight in historical data, the weighting is changing to focus on future behaviour as brands push for more context in the data that underpins their travel retail insights.

Where historical data still plays an important role is in helping companies establish where and when certain messaging and communications should be used.  For a recent campaign for Diageo to promote specific Johnnie Walker whiskies to specific nationalities, we overlaid flight data with actual sales to understand which audiences were driving sales of which particular product when travelling; whether that was Chinese leisure travellers from Shenzhen driving sales of Johnnie Walker Blue or Indian travellers flying back to Delhi driving sales of Johnnie Walker Black.

Combined with future reservation data, this correlation allows travel retail brands to understand when brands should be doing certain messaging in what global location at what moment.  And importantly, access to this future facing, granular passenger information can also help to measure more effectively the impact of campaigns.

Similarly, consumer mindset studies are an important resource for tracking changing behaviour among travellers and understanding more clearly how and where to reach them throughout every stage of their journey.  At PSI, we’ve developed a consumer survey that takes into travellers emotional state, mixed with dwell time at each stage of the key stages across the entire passenger journey.

This allows us to understand how receptive passengers are likely to be to what types of advertising messages, and more specifically, how they respond to these messages.  For example, our latest study has revealed that once at the airport 10% of travellers use the internet to help them make in-airport shopping decisions and 12% will do other shopping online, while travellers’ response to airport advertising is just as multi-channel.  Almost a fifth will consider searching in duty free shops for products they’ve seen advertised, whilst 14% will visit the brands’ website.