Monday, 23 April 2018

Insights from the Smart Travel Data Summit North America 2018

In an era of digital transformation, companies that master data and analytics can outgrow their rivals and boost loyalty among customers.

This is a wide-ranging task, however. They must trace travelers through virtual space, build leading-edge data science teams, create rich customer profiles, optimize revenue and personalize pricing.

It’s a time for innovation, but not all the rules are clear. Disruptors abound in the industry taking advantage of technological developments, such as blockchain technology, which was a growing area of interest at the Summit. New privacy rules are taking effect, and data breaches can significantly damage even the foremost travel brands.

EyeforTravel’s Smart Travel Data Summit NorthAmerica, held in Miami on February 27th and 28th 2018, delved into data-driven insight through insights from top executives from Amazon, Expedia, Airbnb, Southwest Airlines, Hyatt, Wyndham Worldwide and Delta Airlines among others. 

To find out what they were talking about, click here to download the full Round-up report now.

“Every individual in this room is in a fantastic position,” said Leo Langford, EyeforTravel global conference director. “Whether you are part of a nimble startup or you are a more established, traditional travel brand, it is a boom time to be in data.”
Companies with advanced analytics are five times more likely to make decisions before their industry peers, said Priti Dhanda, director of revenue management analytics for Hyatt Hotels Corp.

Over the next five years, about USD800 billion in revenue is expected to shift to the 15% of companies that get personalization right, said Stuart Greif, a former Microsoft executive who now leads the travel and hospitality practice for Amperity, a Seattle software firm that is disrupting the industry with its “intelligent” customer data platform.

“You have everything that would make amazing customer 360-degree profiles. It’s pulling all that data together,” Greif said. The stakes are high as, according to Greif, 41% of customers dropped a brand last year due to poor personalization. “It is no longer just a nuisance. It is standing in the way of you and your customer and potentially losing them.”

The audience also agreed, with data-driven personalization thought to be the most important game-changer for the industry, chosen by 63% of the audience polled at the event, although this slightly lower than at the 2017 Smart Travel Data Summit North America.

Will Coleman, partner of travel, transport and logistics for consulting firm McKinsey & Co. noted that travel brands have key leverage when it comes to personalization: “You as travel suppliers are better positioned to do this than any other industry. You operate hotels and airports where people spend hours of their lives. You interact and engage with customers via social media, and they interact with you more than in any other industry.”

Coleman said 57% of travelers feel brands should tailor their experience based on their past behaviors. “Increasingly we are seeing customers are expecting, and even demanding, this type of customization,” he said.

Meanwhile, technology is increasingly complex. Consider Apple's new iPhone X, which features facial recognition. "It does 600 billion calculations per second and it's the first mass-produced artificial intelligence chip," said Abhijit Pal, head of research for Expedia Inc.’s Global Partner Group. “Facial recognition is absolutely a game changer.”

This growing power is becoming married to more powerful data connections. Verizon just announced its 5G Network that can power 10 gigabits per second. That translates to downloading an entire high-definition movie in less than one second, Pal said. 
Expedia allocates USD1.3 billion a year for technology and content spend as it focuses on becoming a mobile-first company, since one-third of its bookings come from mobile. It’s forays into technology currently encompass machine learning and artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and using voice technology with Amazon Echo: “Voice is becoming an important aspect of what we do. That will enable us to personalize. You want technology to know about your tastes. Alexa is going to offer that,” said Pal.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are quickly becoming the backbone of many innovative travel platforms, including Airbnb.

“Airbnb is totally built in-house,” said Theresa Johnson, product manager at Airbnb. Machine learning is critical to the success of the short-term rental platform. It’s used at every step of the user experience, she said.

“Data scientists are people who take a lot of disparate information that you have scattered all over and organize it in a fashion that both humans and machines can understand,” Johnson said. “Machine learning is people, not algorithms. Data is really the voice of our customers speaking to us at scale.”

Click here to download the full Round-up, which features insights from:
·         Expedia
·         Airbnb
·         Hyatt
·         Amazon
·         Wyndham
·         Hertz
·         Allegiant Air
·         Greyhound Lines Inc.
·         Winding Tree

And more …!