Big Data – what is it and how is it being used?
In our current digital climate, the effective use of Big Data has already transformed a range of industries including the travel sector. But what is it and how are TMC’s leveraging its value?
The term Big Data essentially refers to extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations especially relating to human behaviour and interactions. And it has enormous potential for the travel industry, because of the vast amounts of data that is generated by day-to-day transactions.
Big Data can assist with developing personalised, targeted and real-time travel experiences for clients, and TMC’s are continuously looking for innovative ways to optimize both market trends and customer travel intentions.
There are three basic stages in terms of the actual use of Big Data – Reporting, Analytics and Data Science, and TMC’s like FCM are not only leveraging the value of the first two stages but are well on the way to advancing the third.
Stage one: reporting
The collection of data or ‘data mining’ is a relatively easy part of the process – TMC’s can harvest data from transactional processes, including through the industry’s Global Distribution System (GDS), which offers insights into services used like hotels, flights and car hire.
Harvesting data can provide valuable insights into customer behaviour by providing comparative data that allows decision makers to be more strategic about their travel spend. Retrieved data can help personalise a customer’s travel needs, but also improve an organisation’s overall business operations in terms of marketing strategies and business outcomes.
Stage two: analytics
This analytics stage involves drilling down to a granular level and analysing data to obtain even more relevant insights. By uploading your current travel budget across a range of spend channels you can then compare it to set KPI’s in terms of how your current budget is tracking compared to your overall spend.
You can also compare spend activity against organisations of a similar size across a range of industries in order to facilitate business travel change and improvement. TMC’s can then determine which suppliers can be negotiated with more strategically, evaluate supplier contract performance to enhance pricing strategies and improve an organisation’s overall compliance.
Stage three: data science
The ‘holy grail’ of data evolution is what’s known as data science, which is not just about retrieving data and acting on it (which is known as descriptive analytics), but using analytical processes to pre-empt a customer’s travel patterns and behaviour (known as predictive analytics).
FCM's Travel App is a great example of how the organisation is currently using both Big Data and AI technologies to enhance the traveller experience. An industry first, it enables customers to access online itineraries and it provides real-time assistance like flight status, traffic and weather alerts.
However, technologies like this are also continuously being enhanced in terms of automation, pain point minimization and predictivity. In the future, a combination of GPS technology and data science will allow TMC’s to track customers and offer travel solutions that are not only personalised but offered at the right place, time and through the right channel or device.
Although the area of data science is still in a stage of relative infancy, technology is advancing rapidly and more revolutionary changes are expected in the next few years. Big Data is set to reshape the travel industry as we know it and it’s not if it will happen, but when!