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Fundamentals of Data-Driven Marketing in Travel – Key Statistics

Jed Mole Created at July 10th, 2019
Fundamentals of Data-Driven Marketing in Travel – Key Statistics

Marketers have talked about data-driven marketing for decades. But it’s still a challenge for most.

We know that consumer expectations for more intelligent, data-driven engagements with brands are ever-evolving. Success today hinges on the ability to leverage data to drive smooth, personalised experiences aimed at real people, not device IDs, creating seamless interactions wherever customers are.

We also know that the travel industry is experiencing growth; the rise of low-cost travel and booking aggregators have ensured that global gross bookings reached £1.2tn in 2017, and global travel is expected to increase by 11.1% by 2020.

To make the most of that growth and see results, travel marketers must be able to face change with a data-backed approach and to drive a seamless personalised customer experiences, aimed at real people.

Yet leveraging the right data can still be a challenge for travel marketers.

So how is data-driven marketing in travel looking? Where are data-driven marketers prioritising their efforts, and what should they do to take their approach to the next level?

Let’s look at some key statistics.¹

These statistics are a result of an Acxiom survey with Savanta, interviewing 250 senior marketers, data influencers and decision makers on the state of data-driven marketing.

Travel Marketers Recognise the Value of a Data-Driven Approach

Firstly, it’s important to recognise that travel marketers, regardless of their ability to leverage data, recognise data’s importance in driving smooth, personalised customer experiences:

  • 96% of marketers and data influencers in the travel industry agreed that the data they hold on their customers is important.
  • 91% said that businesses that capitalise on data are more likely to be successful.
  • 86% of senior managers recognise it as a key investment area.
  • 87% believe their business couldn’t operate without data

In fact, data has become a key differentiator to achieving business priorities in travel. Travel marketers are already using data to:

  • Maximise value from customer data (51% of marketers),
  • Grow online presence (49% of marketers),
  • Acquire new customers (59% of marketers),
  • Optimise marketing spend (47% marketers)

Not coincidentally, data is also crucial in helping marketers to overcome their biggest challenges today. As consumer expectations and buying habits change, it’s increasingly important that marketers are able to drive seamless, personalised customer experiences at all times and via all channels.

Indeed, key overarching challenges for travel marketers today include:

  • Tackling changes in customer buying habits (a challenge for 45% or marketers),
  • Customers demanding personalised services (a challenge for 42% of marketers),
  • Increasing competition (a challenge for 40% of marketers)

A cohesive, unified approach to data is the answer to solving these challenges. Yet brands still struggle to make sense of the petabytes of data pouring their way.

Travel Marketers Face Challenges in Getting the Data Right

Despite understanding the shifts in the travel landscape, and although we have more data than ever before, data-driven travel marketers still face multiple challenges – particularly when it comes to getting the data right.

For example, marketing silos make it hard to get a unified view of individual customers across touchpoints. Adhering to ever-changing legislation can also be tricky – 38% of those working in the travel sector specifically name ensuring compliance as one of their key challenges.

Core challenges for marketers looking to get their data right, include:

  • 44% – Making data usable,
  • 40% – Balancing personalisation vs privacy.
  • 38% – Consolidating data across multiple touchpoints.
  • 38% – Adhering to legislation.

So, What Should Marketers Do?

Truly effective data-driven marketing is about getting three core fundamentals right. None of these fundamentals are complex in principle. But it’s often because of how simple they are that so many marketers struggle to get them right in practice.

It’s key to:

  1. Get the right data
  2. Get the data right
  3. Use data in the right way

Get the Right Data

Not all data is created equal – and quantity is not necessarily a measure of success. Rather, quality of data is key.

Most businesses in the travel industry already recognise this:

  • 39% of marketers are focused on getting more out of their data
  • 37% want to get more data
  • And 36% of travel businesses see improving the quality of their data as a top priority.

However, while 70% of companies use their proprietary data, only 42% and 37% currently use 2nd and 3rd party data – even though 79% agree that data is the most important factor in delivering a positive customer experience.

But, as 2nd and 3rd party data offerings evolve, travel brands have more opportunities than ever before to enhance, validate and augment their data to develop a fuller picture of their customers – and should prioritise this to deliver more personalised and relevant experiences.

Get the Data Right

Once you have the right, quality data, the next step is to make it right – that is, to make the data actionable. For travel marketers, this presents additional challenges:

  • 43% of travel marketers say making data ‘useable’ is one of their main challenges, and,
  • 38% say consolidating data from multiple touchpoints is a prime difficulty.
  • Additionally, with the customer journey increasingly fragmented across devices and channels, 45% of marketers cite changing customer buying habits as the biggest challenge facing their business.

As each new device, customer touchpoint and technology is a new data source, making the data actionable – linking up those channels, (for example via a unified data layer) and keeping track of your customer across their journey – is a powerful way to gain a real edge over competitors, especially in travel.

Using an identity resolution solution to achieve a single customer view is a way forward here, though in reality it’s still a difficulty for many marketers. Despite 90% agreeing that data helps us stay close to our customers when facing a disrupted buying process, only 23% say centralising data in the business or bringing offline data online is a key priority.

Use Data in the Right Way

Once you have the right, actionable data, it must still be used in a privacy compliant way, be leveraged within a considered strategy, and effectively monitored.

Starting with ethical data usage, adhering to regulation is not only a requirement – it’s a tool to build customer trust. Customers share their data in exchange for a better experience – one that doesn’t compromise privacy, but does improve customer experience.

  • While we outlined that adhering to legislation is a challenge for 38% of travel marketers, there is some good news; 92% of travel marketers and data influencers felt confident in their ability to be GDPR-compliant.

Data must also be considered within a data-driven strategy, that puts data at the heart of everything for a true, unified and personalised approach.

  • Many marketers already recognise this, and 38% say that using data effectively to shape the marketing strategy is a top priority.

Finally, of course, no data-strategy will be a success without effective analytics. Advanced analytics provides the opportunity to analyse customer behaviour and identify key opportunities to target customers at certain stages in the relationship with your business – enabling increased upsell and cross-sell opportunities, plus reduced churn.

Follow the Fundamentals

Data-driven marketing in any niche can appear complex.

But really, marketers should focus on these fundamentals to achieve an effective, actionable approach that drives greater customer experiences, loyalty and trust.

You can read more about the 3 Fundamentals of Data-Driven Marketing in Travel in our latest report, here.


¹ All statistics from: 3 Fundamentals of Data-Driven Marketing – Why travel marketers struggle with them and how to get them right. Acxiom, 2019