How Big Data Analytics is redefining the travel industry

Gunendra Patil explains the potential of Big Data Analytics in transforming the travel sector in India


Gunendra Patil explains the potential of Big Data Analytics in transforming the travel sector in India

201605etw66The smart phone penetration, fast mobile internet access, and social media influence has brought in unprecedented growth in the travel industry. Mobile travel space has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years. Apart from multitudes of online travel portals, many mobile apps are there to provide real-time travel plans, suggestions regarding hotels, GPS tracking anywhere, booking tickets, comparing prices for the travellers and collect their feedback regarding a travel. This digital transformation era has brought in great powers to consumers. Travellers are now well aware and informed on the wide variety of choices and services they can get from travel service providers. This, in turn, has made them more demanding in terms of their expectations regarding customer experience and the quality of services. While technology has brought in huge opportunities for travellers, on the flipside, travel service providers are exploring ways and means to effectively utilise technology to overcome the challenges of competition, reach, and service quality and customer preference. They are now embracing new age disrupting technology concept like Big Data Analytics to increase their business efficiency, stand out among competitors and to transform customer experience into a true delight.

Let us have a glimpse of how Big Data Analytics is improving customer experience and increasing business efficiency in this arena.

The travel industry handles and generates vast quantity of data around reservations, enquiries, itineraries, hotels, rental cars, trains, airlines, fare charts, customer feedbacks etc, thus leaving long trails of data. A potential traveller leaves behind large quantity data from multiple channels and devices at various stages like research, planning, price search, comparison, booking, cancellation, feedback etc. Existing as well as new players in the travel domain are now looking for innovative ways to leverage this information generated from customers to provide them better, more targeted and ultimately profitable services and products. With an in-depth understanding of the markets, travel service providers are now looking for innovative ways to forecast market trends and customer travel intentions. The industry has realised the potential of big data analytics on the volume, variety, velocity and veracity of travel data to bring in actionable business insights. Many players in the travel domain have already adopted big data analytics to deliver real-time, personalised and targeted travel experience.

Below are some of the improvements that travel intelligence, via Big Data Analytics, can bring in the two areas – customer experience and business efficiency improvement.

Personalised customer experience

True personalisation of the traveller’s experience is one of the key factors which Big Data Analytics can offer. With the availability of personal data from social media platforms, Big Data Analytics help in making travel more responsive and focused around the traveller’s needs as well as preferences. Better targeted services and products bring in better customer relationships or more loyal customers and eventually better business outcome.

Customer recommendations

Consumers are transforming from consuming content to creating and aggregating it. They are writing reviews, providing ratings and recommendations which can strongly influence other potential travellers who access digital media for travel related queries. Consumers have become much more influential that they even hold the power to impact the reputation of travel service providers.

Better pricing strategy

Price is often a deciding factor for consumers while considering their travel plans. Big Data Analytics can effectively replace traditional manual fare analysis with smart automation by gathering, indexing, filtering and analysing existing and real-time data from multiple sources. Dynamic analysis of  competitors’ pricing will help service providers in creating a better pricing strategy. Big Data Analytics allows travel sites to forecast changes in pricing over time for better serving their consumer requirements.

Customer analytics and betterment of services

Understanding customer buying patterns, grievances and feedbacks by analysing data collected from online forums, social media platforms, call centre conversations etc will help to identify customer intent and to design a service strategy. Tracking and analysis of overall consumer behaviour will help service providers to figure out offerings they may want to bring in the future.

Marketing and sales optimisation

With increasing competition, travel service providers are looking for more targeted marketing by attracting, engaging and converting their customers. Big Data Analytics can be used to optimise marketing efforts on targeted travellers by customising the offers based on their requirements. By analysing vast quantity of unstructured data, service providers can gain valuable insights which can enable them to deliver targeted offers or services at the right time, place and through the right channel or device. Service providers can also track their customers and make location relevant real-time offers by enabling GPS technology with data analytics.

All this shows that Big Data has the potential to reshape the travel industry. To identify consumer trends, travel patterns, business pulse and opportunities, a sound Big Data Analytic strategy is becoming indispensable. Though Big Data Analytics in the travel industry is still in its stage of infancy, the industry is trying to overcome the challenges like lack of data scientists, affordable infrastructure, and deployment costs. However, considering the current pace of digital revolution, it is evident that the early adopters will have an upper edge.

Technology is advancing very rapidly and with wearables, advanced analytics and augmented reality in the horizons of the IT industry, we can expect that the travel industry will also experience more revolutionary changes in the next few years. We might be moving from ‘one touch’ era to a ‘touch free’ era, where we can book our tickets with no touch, but at the blink of our eyes!

The writer is vice president – retail, travel and entertainment industry head, Happiest Minds Technologies

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