Last week’s ITB trade fair in Berlin showed us that one thing is on the minds of hoteliers and OTAs alike: data. Talks from the biggest players in the travel game all centred on the opportunities that ‘big data’ can bring to the industry – and in particular, how that big, nebulous cloud of data can actually be used to provide each customer with a perfectly tailored, ‘personalised’ travel experience.
The excitement of this message, though, risks blurring the lines between segmentation and ‘true’ personalisation – with one being a lot more difficult than the other to get right. In an often-bewildering technology marketplace, the distinction is important. With 60% of adults irritated by emails with no relevance to their personal interests, delivering the right message at the right time is crucial for engaging your customers and driving your direct bookings.
So, what’s the big difference? Put simply, segmentation as a marketing strategy is ‘one-to-many’, while personalisation is completely ‘one-to-one’. Segmentation is the process of using data to split your market into groups according to the attributes and interests they share – that way, you can target each group with material relevant to those attributes. Personalisation, on the other hand, employs algorithms to deliver tailored, dynamic content that changes according to the recipient.
Good-quality individualisation depends on a ‘learning ecosystem’ running advanced analytics to deliver appropriate messaging: if customer A does action B, it will send item C. The content sent could be based on any number of things – from purchase history, to their local weather forecast. What sets it apart as ‘personalised’ is that it would only be shown to that person at that time and in that particular way.
Whilst many companies employ segmented marketing strategies without personalisation, it is impossible to provide personalised content without proper segmentation. Whilst the big data hype can often make you feel that you need an entire team of dedicated data scientists just to have a hope against the OTA giants, the most important thing, according to Revinate’s Maarten Plesman, is to choose your battles and do the basic things well.