Location Insights: If you don’t own your customer data, your competitors will
Data – big or small – is necessary to become successful in a connected world. IDC predicts there will be a tenfold increase in the amount of data that exists in the world between 2014 and 2020. However, a great deal of data is still not being tracked, never mind analyzed.
To understand how this can be the case, it’s useful to think in terms of discontinuities, especially between different “silos” of data and different stages of the guest journey in hotels. In the travel and hospitality industry, online travel agencies (OTAs) and review aggregation sites like TripAdvisor are concerned with what a guest does and says ‘before’ and ‘after’ their hotel stay, not ‘during’.
What a customer searches for, how they make their decisions and what kind of feedback they give afterwards are all in the OTA domain, but data collected by the hotel during the “at-stay” portion of the transaction isn’t available to them (and vice versa). This fragmented approach to data means that the typical guest will not enjoy a seamless, integrated experience – no single entity owns end-to-end data to truly delight their customers.
Do You Really Know Who Your Customers Are and What They Want?
To illustrate how this plays out in practice, let’s say Allan used an OTA to book a room in a hotel he’s never stayed at before. Even as he unpacks his bags, the hotel still doesn’t know his email address, unless Allan wrote it down on his check-in card. Nor do they know what kinds of amenities he searched for online: is the on-site gym or the ocean view more important to him? Room service and other charges will be recorded for billing purposes if nothing else, but there will typically be no digital record of him asking about train schedules to nearby towns or directions to local attractions. Later, Allan is back at home and leaves a review of his stay online – only there’s no way to link the digital Allan to the one who slept in room 243, or the one who will be returning in March.
At the end of the day, the hotel’s marketing department has no way to connect these disparate dots into a coherent picture of Allan’s journey. If they want to segment their market, they’re more or less reduced to working with basic demographic data. They also can’t target Allan and people like him with messages that they’ll find interesting, thereby both increasing revenue and the quality of the guest experience. While much relevant and useful information could have been gathered, too many discontinuities were allowed to get in the way.
At-location insights – An Untapped Opportunity
‘At-location’ (or at-stay) data, tracked through a WiFi Analytics platform, is already becoming a powerful insight in numerous sectors, improving service outcomes, marketing efficiency and a variety of operational metrics. The key strength of WiFi Analytics is that, when a customer is at your venue, they can easily provide you with a trail of data without you having to explicitly ask them for it. Also, they can easily be served with personalized engagements, tailored to their anticipated needs.
Embracing location data places you at the intersection of two mutually reinforcing trends:
- Mobile is the name of the game. The number of active mobile connections worldwide passed the global population back in 2014, a tendency which shows no sign of slowing.
- Customers of all ages now expect digital interactions to be tailored to their individual needs. 74% of guests appreciate hotels and resorts that customize messaging and offers.
Any hotel can serve guests; any OTA can facilitate bookings but an enterprise that can combine the digital with the physical and use it to anticipate and satisfy their guests’ requirements at all touchpoints is going to be the true winner.
The Consequences of Your Competition Owning ‘At-location’ Data
There’s every indication that investment in location analytics will soon be a major differentiator between companies that delight their customers and those which struggle to hold on to their market share. The gathering and interpretation of at-stay data is fast becoming a source of competitive advantage.
We should expect to see individual hotels and chains guarding this data closely, as well as the formation of strategic partnerships between physical properties and online booking agents.
Large-scale corporate acquisitions point to how some of the data driven companies out there assess its potential. All signs point to early adopters gaining a competitive lead that their slower counterparts will find difficult to overtake.
- Amazon bought Whole Foods not only to gain a customer-facing physical footprint, but also to better understand customer behavior in the real world.
- TripAdvisor used to be highly reliant on Google, but Google is now eating their lunch through a new service called Google Trips.
A company that relies on high levels of customer service, but doesn’t take advantage of what at-location analytics can offer, will be fighting an uphill battle in future. This is because a tangible, physical experience is simply the most effective way of building a personalized bond with customers.
July’s SaaS tool, Proximity MX digitizes physical spaces and allows you to leverage real-time at location customer data to make better business decisions. If you want to own your customer’s behavioral insights in your premises, click the below button to get a free demo: