What is advanced reporting in today’s travel industry? In this article it's defined as leveraging Big Data and data analytics to make smarter and faster strategic, operational, marketing and sales decisions. Big Data? It means there’s a huge amount of travel data available to mine for insights on: strategy; service offerings; pricing; marketing and user personalization. While every travel agency owner or manager would agree better information can only help to improve performance, odds are they are also part of the 81% that have no business intelligence (BI) solution in their travel business.
If that’s the case, advanced reporting and Big Data – despite apparent benefits – probably sounds like an expensive, complicated and intimidating subject. However, hold those thoughts and keep reading. Coming up are two examples which illuminate how they are very powerful and practical tools.
Data & Analytics = Travel Agency Benefits
The first example is an agency with a good CRM system in place. While it aggressively went after new business the agency was careful to give very attentive personal service to established customers identified by their travel software. One of those customers was a traveler who flew into Paris for business three times a year, always extending his stay through the weekend.
This pattern had gone on for more than five years and the agency valued the traveler’s loyalty. However, when the agency integrated external data with their CRM data, reports showed this business traveler was actually visiting Paris nine times a year, and showing even greater loyalty to another agency, airline and hotel on the other six trips. Without the external data and travel analytics the agency would never have had a true picture of this customer – and the opportunity he represented for more business.
The second example is a visitor to the agency’s OTA feature. Before leaving the site the traveler makes several searches for two airfares to London and a range of hotels for Thursday to Saturday night occupancy.
With a captured name, Big Data and analytics reveal: the traveler’s carrier preference; flight patterns – out early morning during the week and late afternoon on weekends; hotel reward program and previous side trips – lunch reservations in Oxford.
Within minutes of leaving your site, the traveler receives a discounted fare offer from the favored carrier with matching flight patterns and a corresponding offer from his hotel rewards program. The traveler only needs to use the link back to your site and click ‘purchase’ to wrap up his travel plans. Without the enriched data and analytics this highly personalized and rapid response wouldn't be possible.
An Overview of Advanced Reporting
The irony in this age new data and analytic technologies is that many companies are struggling to produce more accurate and timely information. A principal reason is that data & information management skill sets are challenged to keep pace with growing analytic and advanced reporting expectations.
In response to this situation, BI/Analytic software vendors and service providers have developed products designed to typically support two types of customer data and information management services.
Integrated BI; Analytic & Reporting Services: this level of support covers the advanced reporting process from Big Data to Analytics; with reporting typically handled by the customer’s software – either ERP or CRM.
Integrated External/Internal Data & Data Mining: this level of support covers the process up to Analytics, which is handled by the customer’s software, along with reporting.
In both instances, customers are able to create reports with high quality data and based on a single book-of-record foundation. As a result, travel companies can leverage travel technology and analytics to: generate targeted campaigns; market product personalized for customer; forecast sales; guide inventory decisions and optimize pricing and profit margins.
Four travel company operational areas benefit from these data management; analytics and enriched reporting capabilities.
Marketing Analytics: integrating analytical data with a company’s travel technology enables it to invest in marketing programs with a higher probability of customer conversion and resulting revenue generation. Analytical data will support modeling of alternative marketing mixes and more granular segmentation and profiling of contacts, prospects, leads and customers.
Sales, Pricing & Inventory Management: robust, high quality data will enable more accurate: market demand/sales forecasting; inventory requirements and fluctuations; pricing strategy and highly disciplined responses to changing market conditions.
Customer Transparency: accurate data from multiple sources allows travel companies to plan and operate with a much deeper understanding of their customers – providing more effective actions around customer: acquisition; behavior and differentiation; and reward values.
Online Analytics: good reporting practices, combined with book-of-record data quality, brings high value to these specific areas: traffic conversion and abandonment; visitor profiling and segmentation; user personalization; and an effective use of multi-channel marketing campaigns.
In the final analysis there are two compelling reasons to seriously evaluate enriched reporting possibilities for your travel agency. One is the strategic and operational benefits arising from decision-making based on abundant, accurate data from multiple sources. The other is the certainty that more and more competitors will be investing in this emerging travel technology. Not seriously investigating advanced data, analytics and reporting capabilities may give other travel companies in your market a significant and growing competitive edge.