How hotels can bank on big data


Big data can solve some of the key challenges faced by the hospitality industry and help them to increase a loyal customer base. By Titir Pal and Nanak Banerjee

For hospitality industry, big data has the potential to become a game changer. Today a lot of players in this space are struggling to increase customer loyalty, customer engagement, convert bookings from online travel agencies (OTAs) to direct channel, increase incidental revenue per customer. For all of the above challenges, there is data, tools, techniques and solutions available to solve them. The challenge is to identify the right approach that will work and will be easily adapted across departments. A lot of key players have moved in early to build big data capabilities but are still struggling to use big data in the right way to solve for their key challenges.

Following are a couple of key challenges that can be solved effectively by using big data:

Increase customer engagment: Big data allows companies to capture and integrate customer level data across multiple platforms like social media, mobile, customer feedback, past transaction, customer level preferences, etc. to create a 360 view of customer. This customer 360 data can be used for generating powerful customer level insights which can then be used for personalised targeting at a customer level based on their propensity to respond to a particular offer/ campaign. Advanced big data techniques help in identifying the right offer, right channel, and the right customer. This leads to a huge increase in customer engagement, customer spend, customer loyalty. For example, Sam is planning for his next vacation and is searching for possible destinations at a beach resort in the US. He is going through various reviews, comments on the social media. He has also searched for possible offers at various OTA and large hotel chains. During his previous leisure stays at brand A, he has stayed in properties with golf facilities and has preferred beach facing rooms. During his previous stays he had asked for sightseeing facilities of the property. Now using this insight, if brand A targets Sam with offers in resort properties (having golf) in Miami, Hawaii it will make the offering relevant to his need. Also during his visit, if the property proactively offers a sea facing room and suggests sight-seeing options it will definitely delight him.

Improve brand perception: Companies are investing in exhaustive market research exercises to measure consumer perception. Unsolicited customer feedback is freely available across various social platforms which if mined can help map strong and weak areas for self and competition. Big data allows companies to use social media analytics to help in identifying brand perceptions through application of machine learning techniques like contextual discovery, semantic profiling, natural language processing, regionalism variation detection, sentiment analysis, etc on unstructured data. This helps in identifying areas of opportunities to focus on improving brand perception.

Improve customer conversion: Customers generally leave a digital trail of their online whereabouts which can help refine path to purchase and also help a brand identify the phase in which a customer falls during the purchase journey (research, compare, recommend, purchase etc.). Big data helps decode complex digital trails which can help predict future customer action. Based on this understanding, brands can push relevant content and administer marketing actions in order to maximise the likelihood of a customer moving into the next phase of the journey. This helps improve ROI on marketing spends.

Hospitality industry has always focused on world class service to build a loyal customer base. Big data capabilities can add the element of in-premises and off-premises personalisation in the experience that a brand offers to the customer. A time will come when the hotel front staff will be guided by a Siri like voice assistant proposing personal customer level actions to improve guest experience.

(Titir Pal is director of Analytics and head of Absolutdata Labs at Absolutdata; Nanak Banerjee is practice lead, CRM Analytics, Travel Leisure & Hospitality, Absolutdata)

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