It used to be easier for advertisers. When someone purchased a flight, the travel agent was there to sell them a hotel room and car rental.

The massive proliferation of ways consumers can now research and book travel online — OTA, meta, direct booking to name a few — means that a significant shift has occurred as consumers can gather an enormous amount of travel information themselves prior to booking.

In fact, 62% of consumers now prefer to arrange their itineraries and do their booking online rather than through traditional methods.
In fact, a Google Pathway analysis suggests that travellers research more than 15 sites over a 30 day time period when booking holidays online. Visits to price comparison sites are no longer isolated events, but instead ingrained in consumer booking habit.

With this in mind, it’s increasingly challenging for companies to stay abreast of their audience’s needs, interests and desires. In order to stay competitive, brands need to adapt to new consumer desires which can only be done through an intimate, and data-based understanding of their audience. Not only does the question of who they are need to be answered, but advertisers also need to understand their associated behaviours and purchase patterns.
 
The opportunity nowadays is huge. With the advent of big data solutions, brands can capture and use consumer data for analysis. It’s more critical now than ever that brands present the right message to the right person at the right time. Discounts should be communicated to price-sensitive consumers throughout the purchase funnel, while value offers, such as free golf or spa amenities, are much more effective with higher income travellers. Through the power of big data, this is all possible. If you don’t seek to understand your audience, your competitor will instead and you will lose out.
 
Information can be gathered about past and present behaviour, however the most valuable data is what can be gleaned about actual audience intention. While understanding what your audience will do based on historical preferences is important, you can also capture intent data during the planning process. Obtaining and leveraging this data gives travel companies profound information-related advantages.
 
It is becoming increasingly vital for travel suppliers to utilise big data in order to drive revenue and stay ahead of their competition. Companies need to not only value their data, but also leverage it in order to gain insight into their audience’s behaviours. While it is important to be targeting the right person with the right message, this is useless without it being the right time in the purchase funnel as well.

Through the use of data, you can begin to identify your audience’s purchase patterns to know exactly the right time to target them with, say, an advert for a hotel booking. A business class male, travelling to Berlin alone, may tend to book his hotel at a different state in the funnel than a female travelling economy with her family.

Consumers now have the power and control to take advantage of the vast amounts of information the digital world offers. Companies — especially those in the travel and tourism sector — need to harness this data in order to better understand their audience and target them with more relevant offers.

The advent of big data suggests another paradigm could emerge, one that marries a truly big data capability with the long-range visibility on traveller intention possessed by travel agents. The visionary who cracks that code will undoubtedly reshape the industry.

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