Taking it back to basics with hotel big data
NB: This is a viewpoint from Frank Vertolli and Ryan Fitzgerald, co-founders of Net Conversion.
Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, estimates humans now create in two days the same amount of data that it took from the dawn of civilization to 2003 to create.
Big data is a hot topic across business sectors, but in many ways the travel industry has been a data-rich channel for years. Make it more manageable, and effective, by getting back to the basics and evaluating current data as it relates to your goals. There is an ever-increasing amount of guest intelligence available to hoteliers, and it can be overwhelming.
Start simple. We find when working with clients that most hotels and resorts already have a substantial amount of data. It’s just not organized and accessible. Using the tips and tools below, you can gather a surprising amount of data on your consumers and begin to put together the puzzle of who is coming to your website, who is staying with you and how they are getting there.
- Website Metrics: The website is the most important consumer touch point, outside of the travel experience itself, as it offers the most comprehensive source of what your business has to offer, branded your way. Also, travelers are often in the early stages of the planning process when they visit your website. This is a gold mine for data, from click-throughs to bounce rates and other behavior.
- Call Center Data: In the new world of mobile browsing, we’re finding that the phone is going through a renaissance. People prefer to book via phone when they are browsing on a mobile device. And, even the most archaic systems capture insights from callers so there is data to be collected!
Relatively new, inexpensive and powerful tools enable the measurement of phone calls and associated bookings. We use sites such as CallTrackingMetrics, which is affordable (pricing as low as $30 per month). For additional resources, check out our blog.
- Consumer Profiles: Almost every hotel has some type of hosted email solution through a newsletter or database with permission for marketing purposes. These systems collect an array of demographic data and contact information. People who like your product enough to give you their information – is it mostly men or women? Where are they located?
You can also collect booking data from previous guests. This is a great resource and, depending on what you find, you might come up with additional questions you want to ask your guests when they stay with you. For example, a Florida property can see when a large number of Floridians are staying, which might help the team decide when to target marketing efforts to locals and regional consumers.
- Transactional Data: By analyzing credit card data from guests, you can monitor on-property spending for trends. Credit card data can also help you decide which loyalty programs you should consider partnering with, among other things. You can also purchase average household data from credit card companies to research your guests, find out their average income and more.
- Survey Data: There are two types of data hoteliers can retrieve from surveys: quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (feelings). In order to collect this data, you can offer comment sections or surveys on your website, comment cards onsite at the hotel and even send guests a survey after their visit, encouraging them to share their experience on social media and review sites such as TripAdvisor. One of our favorite, and free, survey providers is SurveyMonkey.
- Publicly Available Data: Google controls 70 percent of all search in the United States. Since search is so important when it comes to travel planning, you can go to Google’s trends site (no cost!) to measure search trends about your industry, service, competition and more. The data is indexed and available in real time, while most CVB information is from the previous year.
A good starting place would be to look at last year’s searches compared to this year, as it relates to your brand and category. A smaller hotel might not be able to search for their name on Google Trends, but they can still research the market to see where they stand.
Trending, Reporting and Analysis
You can easily spend hours, days reviewing all of this data. ‘Analysis paralysis,’ as we like to call it, is common and it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole without a strategic approach. Don’t stress! Look at your goals and break the data down by what is imperative for your business. Start with your brand and the category. Look at last year versus this year.
Look at how the data is trending over time to identify weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. Make a few key benchmarks for yourself that you can track over time. For example, start by analyzing the overall number of calls per day compared to the number of bookings, or how guests’ pay for their room. You’ll be amazed at how quickly valuable insights start to surface.
What you measure, how it is organized and how it’s trending over time will help you make important decisions about allocating marketing dollars that will effectively drive business, instead of throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping it sticks.
The Big Data Journey
There has always been data. At some point we just start to call it ‘big.’ The lesson is that you can start small and simple with what you already have and will see the benefits from organizing, processing and analyzing it against your goals. Measure the things that are most important to your business and go deeper over time. The basic fundamentals of business still apply; balancing what you spend with revenue generated to maximize profit.
Paying someone to help make your quantifiable data more efficient makes sense but, like any other business decision, you need to know it will add value. There are many expensive ways to measure what’s on your website and, depending on the size of your hotel, this might not be an option.
We recommend starting with the free solutions. When you start asking questions that they can’t answer, then it’s time to look at alternatives. Understanding your data will make it easier for you to understand the value of and make educated decisions about paid solutions.
Big Data is not an elusive destination. It’s a journey, and the data you need to advance your business is available today. How will you put it to work for your hotel?
NB: This is a viewpoint from Frank Vertolli and Ryan Fitzgerald, co-founders of Net Conversion
NB2: Customer data image via Shutterstock
Special Nodes is the byline under which Tnooz publishes articles by guest authors from around the industry.