Published on Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Simon Bowker, MD eCircle UK, explains how travel companies can take advantage of cloud technology.
"The world is getting smaller. Travellers are able to pick and choose their destination like never before. Via the click of a mouse, a touch screen, by pressing the TV remote control or even a face to face conversation, we are able to book all elements of a holiday - flights, seats, rooms, restaurants, spas, treats, activities, kids club etc. You name it, we can book it. Travellers are inputting data like never before.
One could argue that travel operators have never been so knowledgeable about their customers, and until now, they have not been able to take advantage of the data at their fingertips - the data that will help give them a far richer, deeper and more personalised means of talking to their customers.
The evolution of cloud technology offers you a whole new way to structure, connect and access your data, dramatically changing the way you can use information to connect and talk to your customer base, as well as developing long standing relationships.
Why is the cloud beneficial to travel companies?
Travel firms now have the means to talk to their customers as individuals and are genuinely able to understand their travel habits; what they like to do and where they like to go. Not only does this allow you to target customers with highly personalised content, it also equips you with the ability to identify potential segments to target. Operators can look at the demographic, previous holiday destinations, and choice of holiday, whether it is a European break, a long haul sun seeker, an adventure or a business trip. This combined data can then be used to automatically generate email messages that are highly personalised, precisely targeted and detail rich, which can then be delivered to millions of customers in matter of minutes.
The cloud is a huge step forward, and allows companies to integrate an unlimited amount of data, in its original format. Even extremely large databases, constantly changing data sets, recipient-independent data, product catalogues and extensive customer purchase histories can be effortlessly uploaded directly into the data cloud.
Furthermore, you can use this existing data to pull in highly relevant information such as the specific weather forecast for their destination. The cloud gives greater flexibility for those companies that need to nurture and build long term relationships. Booking a holiday or a trip away involves much research, advice and collaboration with fellow travellers, and with so many variants in a decision process, cloud technology is ideally suited to travel firms looking to give their customers added value.
Putting it into practice
You need to ensure that you maximise the amount, variety and depth of customer information you integrate into email campaigns. If not, emails will risk being generic, lack creativity and fail to transfer into future sales or recommendations. If personalisation search loops are used as well as an intelligently designed message template, you will be able to use the varying quantities of data held about their customers, both new and existing and create very different messages that optimally reflect the needs of customers. Furthermore the benefit of the cloud is that it provides companies with the complete flexibility to change and modify their email programs as new data is collected, in addition to greater insight into the programs' performance, which can provide better targeting for future communications.
By using cloud technology, Center Parcs was able to save its customers time by encouraging them to pre-book holiday activities before they arrive, and thus increasing the relevancy of their emails and improving their overall customer experience. By splitting the emails by location, Center Parcs could highlight different activities and promotions by site and guest arrival dates. Over 20% more click throughs were generated plus revenues generated from pre-booked activities increased and over 80% of pre-booked activity booking now comes from online.
Ultimately, the cloud offers intelligent information management and integration of vast amounts of data - flexibly and more seamlessly than ever. The cloud is the future of email marketing and as futurologist Dr James Bellini said last August at a cloud computing conference, companies who fail to embrace cloud computing and induct it into how they conduct their business, will struggle to survive beyond the next decade as technology advances and data storage and constant accessibility to software becomes increasingly prevalent."
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The recent insolvency of Low Cost Travel Group, one of the large players in the travel industry had a big impact on the travelers, hotels and all related players from both wholesale & retail arms. There were about 27,000 people on a holiday who had booked through the company comprised of a €200 million wholesale arm and €500 million OTA / retail arm.