How data science can benefit the travel industry

The global travel industry is constantly evolving and is expected to grow to 10% of the Global GDP by 2022 (approx. £8 trillion). The amount of data generated in this burgeoning industry is huge and these ever-growing volumes, when processed correctly, give businesses in the sector an edge over their competitors. Combine all the data a travel brand holds with the appropriate tools and partners and we instantly have a goldmine at our fingertips to be explored and monetised.

In this blog, we will delve into how data can offer a myriad of benefits to travel companies by learning more about their current customers, identifying new ones, improving and altering marketing strategies and how they communicate to the market.

Ways data inform the marketing communications in the travel industry:

Travel customers are so varied in who they are, what they are looking for and where they come from, that understanding what motivates and interests them in order to market to them in a way that is relevant, is essential.

Starcount data scientists looked at customer’s online behaviour and purchase patterns, as well as general demographic data and consumer motivations in order to determine the types of products travel enthusiasts might be interested in, the locations they like/should be recommended, most relevant influencers to them and the channels they most like to engage with (print, online, TV etc).

This level of insight can enable brands to tailor their communication plans and overall strategy to achieve greater engagement with existing and prospective customers, giving them more ‘cut-through’ in what is an already crowded marketplace.

Customers First, always

“Our study revealed that 14.1% of TUI’s social following base their travel decisions on the type of content generated by influencers.”

We have used our pioneering data science product The Observatory which has a consumer panel of 1.3 billion people based on their social media and online behaviours. By segmenting those that are interested in travel (follow travel brands, read travel magazines, visit holiday websites etc) we get a detailed view of the motivations and mindsets of travel enthusiasts in the audience of two of the most well known holiday providers, TUI and Thomas Cook to understand their decision-making processes which will ultimately help TUI and Thomas Cook market better to their customers and prospective customers.  

Our study revealed that 14.1% of TUI’s social following base their travel decisions on the type of content generated by influencers. Compare this with 2.9% of Thomas Cook’s audience and you can start to see the difference in preferences and where partnering with micro and macro influencers could drive engagement and ultimately sales.

In terms of media, we can see that 7.9% of TUI’s following are influenced by TV with an affinity to channels and programs such as:

  • Sky TV
  • Good Morning Britain
  • This Morning (ITV)
  • Celebrity Juice
  • Saturday Night Takeover

1.9% of Thomas Cook’s audience (very low) on the other hand seems to have different preferences in media brands with the top 5 consisting of:

  • Metro Entertainment
  • Huffington Post Lifestyle
  • Cityline
  • Yahoo Movies
  • BBC Travel

Therefore, this insight would allow TUI and Thomas Cook to focus their media budget on the channels that their customers or potential customers engage with most, a more efficient use of budget and more relevant for customers – win-win!

Our study can be used to provide travel companies with a better understanding of brands that resonate with customers and identify where there might be opportunities to partner for marketing, offers or competitions. In the instance of Thomas Cook, we saw that 88.35% of Thomas Cook’s following are influenced by brands like:

  • Nectar
  • Asda
  • Next
  • Priceless Cities by Mastercard
  • Sainsbury’s

The examples illustrate that when data is used intelligently it allows companies to make more informed decisions around:

  • Influencer marketing initiatives – facilitate the discovery and evaluation of the appropriate influencers for their brand and establish the appropriate content quality to achieve transparency and measurable results.
  • Media buying – buy media space on the platforms which resonate with the passions and motivations of their audiences and inform sponsorship opportunities, e.g. Viking Cruises sponsoring ITV mystery Dramas.
  • Content Development – develop targeted promotional content delivered based on time, location and other data.
  • Strategic partnerships – determine what types of partnerships are the best match for the brand’s strategic goals to maximise success, reduce risks and drive growth.

“We discovered that Balham in South London is an area where many travel lovers reside.”

Location, location, location:

Part of our research was focused on identifying areas in which travel and leisure were trending passions amongst UK residents. We looked into Starcount’s Audiences platform that allows us to identify the drivers and motivations of customers and map them across the UK, enabling us to identify various areas in the country where travel enthusiasts live.

We discovered that Balham in South London is an area where many travel lovers reside, whose trending interests are:

  • Snowboarding
  • Winter Sports
  • Financial Technology
  • Mountaineering

In contrast, we observed that for Streatham’s residents (only one postcode sector away) travel doesn’t seem to be one of their key passions and instead they show an affinity for:

  • Talent Shows
  • Architecture
  • Urban Music
  • Performing Arts

These insights can inform the content, seasonality and volume of the marketing communications for a travel brand. In an area like Balham for example, the content of a travel company may focus on winter holidays, promoted via OOH campaigns or direct mail and carefully selected media outlets whose audience is predominantly winter sports lovers.

Conclusion:

The above examples show how data can benefit those in the travel industry in a number of important ways. It allows them to make more evidence-based decisions, including the ability to anticipate future demand, use marketing spend more efficiently and improve customer communications and ultimately their entire brand experience.

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