Two heads are better than one

Friday 21st June 2019, 10:20am

Optima Connect and Designate explore top marketing challenges facing the travel industry at inaugural joint workshop

Fish and chips, gin and tonic, strawberries and cream, aren’t just the makings of a very enjoyable Saturday evening, but also pairs that are all inextricably linked to one another. Think of one and you automatically think of the other.  Brand strategy and data insights don’t necessarily flow off the tongue in the same way, but they are increasingly being used together to increase brand engagement and drive sales.    

Understanding this relationship between data and brand was at the heart of an inaugural event for the travel industry, held in June 2019 at London’s IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising). Jointly hosted with Campaign Top 50 agency Designate, the event was an opportunity for Optima Connect and Designate’s experts to explore the intersection of data and brand on a travel customer’s path-to-purchase. It revealed how best to target customers on their purchase journey and demonstrated how customer preferences can be used more effectively.

Research into the travel customer’s buying habits has shown an interesting split between customer behaviours. Around one in four holidaymakers will always choose the cheapest package, pretty much no matter what. Three in four are far more likely to buy from travel companies that, they feel, not only recognise and remember them, but who are also sending out relevant and useful recommendations based on purchase histories.

So, this 75% must feel that they’re being looked after and that they’re receiving well-targeted brand messages, yes? No. Research shows that fewer than 50% of consumers believe that travel brands know them or are sending out relevant communications. Which means that a big chunk of customers are almost literally flying blind, missing out on the comfort and reassurance of a ‘3D’ brand proposition (distinctive, defensible and desirable) that’s one of the most powerful drivers of online holiday bookings or reservations.

Technological advances, and specifically online preference centres allied to the use of advanced analytics, are enabling progressive travel brands to gain a competitive advantage. Beyond making the brand easy to think of and easy to buy, data insights – defined as actionable, data-driven findings that create business value – have a genuine, positive and quantifiable impact on consumer engagement and, by extension, on business success.

With this in mind, the Optima/Designate workshop ran two demos to illustrate how quickly and easily travel brands can pinpoint key segments from their customer data and reduce customer leakage through ‘unsubscribes’. Data visualisation software and a machine learning model were used to access 83 different attributes such as NPS scores, advance bookings, communication history, ancillary spend, demographics, booking timelines, purchase history, preferences and consents. The whole process of identifying the main booking drivers for the next key trading period took just 20 minutes! 

There’s a clear business opportunity here for travel companies that can pinpoint key insights and understand the benefits of targeted activation.  The corollary is that there’s a real danger for those that do not. Modern customers expect you to know them.  They know that you have their data, plus access to a whole lot more, so they’re going to be less than impressed if you can’t turn their freely-given data into effective and helpful messaging.

The enormous volume and variety of data that’s now available offers up the prospect of a new brand and data insight model that can help you navigate your way along the marketing funnel.   You can more easily influence customer behaviour in today’s data-rich world if you understand the process flow from brand awareness, perception, consideration through to brand engagement. Data insights can help differentiate your brand and help you stand out at every touch point on the customer journey – not just from your very first contact, but all the way to that first holiday mojito and beyond.

A brand that recognises that there are different, targeted, data-driven ways to increase consumer appeal will enjoy increased trust and empathy scores too.  Teaming brand and data insights can increase customer engagement, deliver superior experiences, change customer behaviour and drive value growth.  That’s why we are looking forward to hosting our second joint travel workshop with our friends at Designate.