Counting on data analytics for identifying and recognising customers
Travel marketers are expected to capitalize on the prowess of big data and analytics. ChinaTravelNews learns how Qyer.com is approaching the same for tangible results.
ChinaTravelNews - Every time a traveller accesses a particular website or an app for new trip ideas or any other trip requirement, the onus is on travel companies to make the most of it. It essentially means that every digital touchpoint should seamlessly help travellers whenever they are seeking information or ready to complete a transaction.
To work this out travel entities need to capitalize on structured and unstructured data associated with a traveller. Such data needs to be aggregated and analysed to identify the intent of the traveller, and when this is done appropriately, it results in a unique user profile. This accounts for online visits based on in session data, behavioral data, historic data, CRM data, 3rd party data etc. The focus of such exercise is on offering meaningful content or cross-sell and up-sell recommendations. These are directly related to the profile of the customer, their behavior and the stage of the traveller’s journey.
Let’s assess how Chinese website Qyer.com is using big data and analytics to serve customers in the multi-channel, multi-device shopping environment. (Alibaba made a strategic investment in Qyer.com in 2013).
- Gearing up for multi-channel experience: Qyer.com’s main focus is to help outbound independent travellers with their travel decision-making.
The team at Qyer.com acknowledges that travel itself means consolidating data from multiple channels.
“Customers might book air tickets and independent travel in Qyer’s Discount Deal app, plan their trips with our Itinerary Assistant and complete their hotel booking on our website. During the journey, they can search for nearby restaurants and attractions with Qyers app or mobile site, and upload photos and ask questions on Qyer Community. When the journey’s over, they might revisit the community and post their experience and share with other users. In recent years, Qyer has crafted tailored solutions for PC, mobile site and the app, which includes versions for the iOS, Android and Windows phone,” says Qi Zhang, VP of Qyer.
- Identifying customers: Zhang says multiple platforms and apps are making up Qyer’s multi-channel data-acquisition system. “However, it is what “unified” that makes sense rather than the “multiple” ones. For example, as a platinum member of one hotel chain, I could choose any brand under a hotel group. But I know that no matter which one I choose, their front desks will identify my membership and even my preferred room type when I step in. Qyer offers products in multi-channels because customers enjoy more options. And they care about whether their roles could be unified and identified, such as whether the itinerary they plan on website can be automatically accessed on the mobile app,” explains Zhang.
Qyer believes its biggest competitive advantage comes from product experience and big data technology.
Offering the unified user experience across all platforms is the number one priority when the team design its multiple channels and products. This unification enables users to easily recognize different products of Qyer and engages them to log in or register.
“For instance, if a user plans her itinerary on our website, he/ she might log in and access to his/her itinerary when he/she finds the “check itinerary’ function in the app. Actually we encourage users to log in on every platform and product to gain better experience. This is not compulsory but an option for users,” says Zhang. “Big data technology is another way to solve the problem of user identity. We hope to offer personalized experience for users as well when they are searching and reading information without log-in, which provides them more related contents, like what Google and Netflix does. To achieve this, we use machine learning to analyze and study user behaviors at different times (at day or night) and at different places (at home, in the office or on the way) to identify a user on different platforms.”
- Being relevant to customers: The company is diligently working on real-time personalization.
For example, Qyer’s big data platform starts real-time analysis when a user frequently reads travel tips, famous attractions and restaurants of a city, say Rome. As machine learning assesses that this user is interested in Rome, the system will then automatically send an email which contains best discounts, hottest tips and other related information pertaining to Rome to the user.
“This is what we called personalized email of destination. The conversion rate is eight times of the traditional marketing emails. Rather than annoying and distracting traditional marketing emails, the personalized emails are quite popular among our users, some even ask for the emails. There was once a user who mistakenly deleted our email and got out of his way to contact us for another one,” asserts Zhang.
He added, “We attempt to offer every single piece of information what users need. When we provide personalized information to our customers, we don’t mind whether it’s a local discount, a restaurant recommendation or a useful tip from other users.”
“Actually what we really care about is how to offer the right information through the right channel in the right place at the right time. We will send users personalized email of destination during the trip planning phase and promote hot snack bars two blocks away from them when they are in travel. It could be a mistake if we provide information via wrong channel in wrong place at wrong time,” cautioned Zhang.
- Using data for revenue generation: Booking.com, for instance, is one of Qyer’s strategic partners. The two entities launched a cash-rebate program in November last year. Users could get 10% cash rebate if they were directed to booking.com from Qyer and booked rooms. Besides the primary hotel reservation process, users weren’t required to do anything more. “We could automatically complete the cash-back through our data connection with booking.com and the users can receive the money after they check out,” shared Zhang.
- Try to take a holistic approach: How should a travel entity, be it for a supplier or an intermediary, start with analytics – should one start small and focus on one channel or one objective – like strengthening email marketing or just focus on abandonment of shopping cart? Zhang says focusing on one channel or one objective is a growing trend at present, such as email marketing, shopping cart method, supplier and intermediary platform. “They are all good touch-points. However, every method may face the problems of consistent customer acquisition and competitive advantages at certain stage. Gaining deep understanding of users behavior and offering personalized product experience are the key advantages we are trying to build,” shared Zhang. (Report by Ritesh Gupta)