Ai Editorial: Knowing a passenger inside out – the journey has just started

First Published on 16th August, 2017

Ai Editorial: It is the dream of every marketer to have a rich set of customer data that is consistently available at every touchpoint. Can one unified marketing stack strengthen the pursuit of “single view of the customer”, probes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta


The concept of “single view of the customer” has been around for a while. But, for me, as a passenger, it has repeatedly fallen short of expectations.

To put it simply, an interaction with a brand, be it via a company-owned digital touchpoint or any physical one, isn't a seamless one i. e. not based on every data trail or the data strategy seems to be disconnected. So, for instance, as a leisure traveller I have had indifferent experiences with a couple of airlines in the recent past, and despite sorting the issues out via a call, when I have accessed the website (from the same device and IP address), there hasn’t been any recognition of my previous activity and experience.

Transition has initiated

However, there are certain travel suppliers that are working on platforms supporting the idea of customer profiles.

Over the years organizational silos have proven to be too big a snag to fully focus on the customer.

Organizations need to reform themselves to make all of this a possibility and there are doing so.

As we highlighted in one of our recent articles, Bangkok, Thailand-based ONYX Hospitality Group is capturing data right from what triggers the search to the next trip, and this entails what people tend to do and what are the opportunities to influence the behavior of the traveller.  

There is clarity on the following areas:

·          What data needs to be collected from each touchpoint?

·          What system will be involved at each touchpoint?

·          Where the data will be stored at that touchpoint?

·          Who will be the owner of that data once is collected?

Airlines that are looking at maintaining single view of the customer aren’t leaving any opportunity to make the most of data from “log-ins” (could be a social login-in on their website) or their members. “If we know there is a booking from an OTA, we instruct our front staff (in hotels) to get customers’ email id,” said a senior hotel executive. The main focus in letting customers experience rich, experience via a direct touchpoint, and this is one way to do so is by enrolling them into a loyalty program.

So the level of sophistication is rising with initiatives, propelled by today’s open platforms, such as:

1.     Being aware of all interactions with a company.

2.     Pre-empting what a passenger would be looking for based on profile, interests, and actions taken, may be a spa package for a couple on their next anniversary.

3.     How to optimize experiences at each touchpoint? For instance, how to interact with guests at the hotel reception desk of the hotel or with passengers at the check-in counter at the airport?

4.     Automating delivery of content or offers when conditions for a rule defined are met

5.     Data is integrated from various systems and this can result in empowering staff with relevant information when it is needed most. For instance, staff at the hotel front desk is being today offered two screens – PMS plus actionable information about the customer via another screen.

6.     Where is the traffic originating from, site behavior etc.? How is the conversion coming along?

So clearly these platforms are enabling airlines to be in better control of what they can do on their digital assets. This reflects in terms of what is being shown to users in real time, based on past behavior, on the IP address etc.

Outside company-owned assets

It is the dream of every marketer to have a rich set of customer data that is consistently available at every touchpoint that they would want to use to personalize the experience – be it for buying a banner ad, tailoring an email or how the staff recognizes the guest and greets a loyalty program member.

But considering that people are using more and more devices, across more platforms, this explosion of data at different locations continues to pose a bigger challenge. Not a straightforward task to gain a single view of the guest.

More than automated decision-making, it looks as if disconnected data is a bigger challenge. If technologies are disconnected across channels, then there won’t be any single view of the customer journey, and this means one would struggle to personalize in context. The promise of shaping these profiles on the basis of real-time data is fine. But if we talk of the same being collated from every source or channels, there is still a long way to go. There are certain areas that are beyond the control of a hotel or an airline. For instance, the level of data transparency in case a travel e-commerce works with ecosystems like Tencent, Alibaba or Facebook would wary. Also, travel suppliers really don’t expect sharing of data when we talk of experience of a customer who has booked via an OTA.

“So what we are trying to do is leverage a marriage of 1st party data and 3rd party data to deliver the most effective marketing spend and relevant marketing content,” said a marketer. “It is also important to handle local intricacies – for instance, mobile numbers and not email addresses are used for matching criteria between data sources in China.”

The advertising technology space has evolved considerably and continues to do so. For instance, 3rd party data is facilitated in a swift manner as compared to even few years ago. Travel e-commerce players can buy data, avail APIs to upload lists and do matching and lookalike modeling. But is it enough? Travel marketers need to sort out issues related to single view of the customer to deliver contextual experiences and eventually 1-to-1 personalisation – be it for time and cost of implementation, how to integrate with channels, how to activate data, dealing with cultural challenges within an entity etc. Other than managing 1st party data, airlines also need to act on other sources of data. The key question one needs to consider – how can one unified marketing stack strengthen the pursuit of “single view of the customer” and also overcome the elusive match rate hurdle.


Where do you stand with your data strategy? Hear from the travel industry executives at the upcoming The Mega Event Asia-Pacific 2017 - 4th Annual Profitabilty Summit, to be held at the Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel in Singapore (23-25 August, 2017).

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