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How to harness your smart data

Today’s travellers have more tools at their disposal than they’ve ever had. From Google search and sites like TripAdvisor, to travel blogs, OTAs (online travel agents) and social media networks, information abounds. And this doesn’t take into account interactions with offline sources like television, magazines and newspapers.


To make it all the more challenging, modern travellers are interacting with and consuming this content on any number of devices: phones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs.


With this many touch points, it’s no surprise that the process of travel booking is far from linear: Travellers typically start their search across multiple sites visiting, on average, 38 sites before finally deciding to book. That’s 38 digital touch points, without counting interactions with billboards, TV ads, etc.


Travel is far from being the only industry affected by the new behaviors of a savvier consumer who researches products and does price comparisons before any purchase. So how exactly does the modern marketer influence the consumer in general and the traveller in particular in such a complex environment?
 
One answer lies in the very data generated by all of this consumer activity online - harnessing your smart data and adding relevant third party data to it can help marketers shed some light on consumer intent. So a consumer just visited your website - now what? You should be collecting data about what the consumer looked for, when they looked for it, and whether they signaled purchase intent, as intent data is key to unlocking conversions.

The best approach for travel brands (but not only) is to combine your own onsite behavioral data with other key data you own — or you gain access to through specific data partnerships: product yield and availability, consumer loyalty status and, critically, future intent. Use this intent data to tweak your messaging so that it targets consumers based on their real intentions and desires and, most importantly, on your ability to fulfill their desire.


Timing, as always, is of essence. For instance, in travel, Sojern data shows that there can be as much as a 28-day period between the moment when a consumer decides to travel and making an actual purchase. A hotel room purchase could happen on day two, but renting a car may not happen until the week of travel - we see a lot of variability between different types of purchases, so you, the marketer, need to dig deep to find the key timing patterns that are right for your brand to be in front of this traveller.


How to deliver the message? A mix of methods might be better than a single-pronged approach. Search engine marketing can get expensive, and display ads can be extremely effective at cutting through the clutter of actions and touchpoints surrounding the process of booking - but the key is serving them to the right audience at exactly the right time. A mix of both, plus a better understanding of your target audience’s motivations and behaviors will push your marketing campaigns to perform at higher levels.


The conclusion? To run an effective marketing campaign, you need data at scale and you need to know how to use it. That means you need to invest in tools and platforms that help you interpret your own customer data, but it may also mean that you should partner with a third-party data provider who can enrich your insights - that’s step one.


Step two, and the one which can make or break your marketing strategies, is to use that data smartly, focusing on things that can make your conversation with the consumer a personal one and one that comes at the right moment in their research and purchase process.


Remember: There is no such thing as “an average consumer” and only smart data, harnessed smartly can help you define what that unique offer is that can convert a consumer when presented to them at the right time.

I head up digital strategy and planning at CMW. Over the last decade and a bit I've worked with brands as diverse as Microsoft, Samsung, Visa, National Express, Kellogg's, McCain and Cadbury Creme Egg. Previous roles at Saatchi & Saatchi, Ai London...

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