AI is everywhere, but very few truly understand what it means to business and how it can be implemented. bd4travel will explain what it means to be AI-ready and how a travel business can be digitally transformed.
Historical data no longer provides insights necessary to get a grasp on the market. Now, more than ever, we need to be responsive to travel search and buying activity in real-time, requiring the utilisation of a different set of data points and metrics.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) provides the ability to respond within a live environment, removing the delay in response caused by manually crunching numbers, compiling reports and processing actions. Working with live data shows what is happening now and allows instant action.
Covid-19 has forced almost all travel businesses to adopt survival mode, resting firmly on Maslow’s pyramid of needs – where serving customers well is a central pillar for survival and growth. This is especially important when visitor traffic is at an all-time low because you need to capture and convert as many customers as possible, putting more emphasis on the business to present the most relevant offering and not overwhelm them with too much noise.
1. Relevance of AI today
Changes in consumer sentiment mean that companies need to reconsider their customer engagement model – moving towards customer intimacy where data plays a central role in creating intelligent visitor profiles from which to present the most relevant product and message to each user.
Travellers are looking for trust and confidence when making bookings, relying on the most appropriate messaging in their decision-making. The travel product availability has been massively impacted, therefore it’s essential that travel businesses steer visitors towards available and feasible products through intelligent dynamic product selections.
Travel companies can improve the search and booking experience by showing the most relevant and available travel products to each user and presenting only relevant complementary products to earn more ancillary revenue. AI makes your site dynamic and personalised for each user.
2. Buzzwords explained in a nutshell
Data – existing information that is ready for further usage or processing. A collection of raw facts and figures often referred to as “data-points”: this can be everything from visitor traffic, booking information to product details. Data allows us to visualise relationships between what is happening in visitor interactions with products, contents and services.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) – the digital simulation of human intelligence by algorithms that are programmed to think like humans and predict their behaviour and actions. AI mostly processes data with self-learning algorithms (see “ML”) so that it improves its predictions automatically based on the real-time stream of captured data.
Algorithms – a defined set of rules, procedures and steps to process data automatically to the intended requirements. In travel sales, algorithms react to visitor engagement recognised through signals created through website engagement: with each customer activity on-site, the algorithms respond and perform accordingly.
Machine learning (ML) – a subset of AI where algorithms improve automatically through experience. It represents a system’s ability to learn and improve without being explicitly programmed and reprogrammed.
Real-time – working in a live environment where events are occurring, captured and processed at this very moment. Businesses able to react immediately in “real-time” are more likely to relevantly engage with a visitor and capture their booking.
Customer intimacy – Individual customer engagement beyond customer centricity and not treating people as averages. Each individual consumer is at the heart of your digital strategy to enjoy an intuitive, tailored experience.
Personalisation – moving towards a comprehensively tailored service and sales approach that is direct and representative of every customer across all touchpoints. The more data points sourced and processed to be used for various personalised interventions, the more individually relevant the shopping experience. Usually travel sellers are moving from micro and behavioural segmentation to a fully personalised user engagement.
Tracking – recording all engagement signals and actions each user takes. This enables you to create dedicated profiles of each visitor, and predict actions based on how your visitors interact with your products and promotions.
Data Management Platform – control, configure and customise how bd4travel’s personalisation solutions engage with your visitors. The self-service control and monitoring platform is provided with full support and guidance from bd4travel specialists including setup and training.
3. Customer listening
Being relevant in today’s digitally savvy marketplace requires a deeper understanding than traditional segmentation can offer. With 91% of consumers preferring personalised offers and 74% willing to actively share their data, speaking directly to individual users with tailored messaging must be the pillar your ecommerce strategy is built upon.
Data can be used to its fullest to stop treating individuals and groups as averages, allowing you to respond to each and every visitor’s needs as if you were interacting with them directly.
User engagement with meaningful data
Unknown or anonymous users can be tracked and understood from their first visit using self-learning algorithms which have been developed specifically for travel purchases. These algorithms provide the scalable automated intelligence to respond to each visitor interaction in real-time to present the most relevant messages, services, contents and products to guide your visitors from Looker to Booker.
It’s essential to avoid overwhelming the traveller with extensive and comprehensive product details but instead to focus on only the features and characteristics which are most relevant to the individual user. Taking this approach will provide a flexible and responsive buying journey which enables visitors to enjoy a tailored travel shopping experience package that meets their needs in the shortest time.
Understanding customers with first-party cookies
Investing in improving the collection and use of your own first party interaction data will enable you to profit from the most recent and direct customer input and feedback you can get hold of. At the same time this avoids the cost of buying third party user data (which comes with its own legal challenges). The data you own will give you powerful insights to understand your users one by one and unlocks the revenue opportunities of each customer profile to support your overall business objectives:
- Identify the calculated revenue potential
- Know what is driving engagement and conversion throughout the buyer’s journey – with a full set of visual data records.
- Understand micro-activity of consumer segments to better know your visitors through consolidated audience demographics and market segments.
- Review website hotspots and on-site actions, as well as viewed products and the level of buying intent across your visitors, and assess the uptake of specific products.
- Audit product supply and technology providers to assess issues impacting conversion including availability, rate/price issues, frequency of product issues.
4. Apply your commercial optimisation: Steering + Personalisation
AI-driven algorithms support wider Sales and Commercial goals by steering the visibility of specific travel products during each customer’s journey. Factoring into your algorithms a set of rules tied to your core commercial drivers allows you to weight products within personalised results.
Product result pages and listings can be personalised taking into account factors like profitability, supply, availability or a need to drive a quick clearance sale. This allows you to be more agile and responsive to customers while enabling you to focus on offers that will push up your key performance indicators (KPIs).
5. AI for marketing automation
Implementing AI into your Marketing and Sales platform provides the automation to replace manual updates so you and your team can focus on strategic and tactical activities and plans. This will enable you to:
- Deliver highly targeted marketing campaigns effortlessly and instantaneously without the need for manual web updates.
- Your promotions become more responsive with product sets created for specific profile types that can be optimised through iterations in the algorithms.
- Manage campaigns closer with metrics tied to specific goals for each campaign, whether it is based on conversion, engagement or clicks.
- Define audiences to target specific segments among your users with dedicated products or campaigns combining filters like intended booking revenue, travel criteria or travel types and immediately see the predicted size of this audience.
Marketing automation frees up time to focus on highly targeted campaigns and messaging while improving the visibility of relevant products and the site’s overall booking performance.
6. bd4travel can get you started with AI
AI will take your Sales and Marketing strategies to the next level, where you can intelligently:
Match your user interests and search profile with specific products.
- Present the most relevant alternative destinations and products to each user.
- Interact and engage, improve customer retention and loyalty.
- Apply commercial steering to support core business objectives.
Track/ Listen: Embedding into your data layer, we collect and process all visitor actions and signals recorded during each visit.
Profile/ Understand: Taking this visitor data we create Live User-Profiles of each visitor, and begin applying and testing our algorithms.
Match/ Serve: Integrating your product information into the bd4travel data management platform, the algorithms begin working their magic to match relevancy of product to each user in the Live Profiler.
Test/ Learn: Setting the algorithms to work, we assess how the personalised visitor interventions perform against a neutral test.
Adapt/ Improve: Initiating the learning loop, we work with your team to constantly test and experiment with the interventions while the self-learning algorithms become bespoke on your own sales platform.
7. Make it happen; build a business case for AI
Mindset – ensure you and the team are ready to move towards marketing automation and personalisation. It’s important to get buy-in early on and delegate responsibilities to the team to ensure it is a collaborative effort.
Personalisation targets – know what your expectations are. Be sure of your goals and objectives with a realistic timeline of delivery.
Defining responsibilities and resources – give each team member a role in the transition and operation – from supplying comprehensive product information to handling the data management platform and deliver the technical integrations.
Skills development – this is a learning process. Make sure each team and team member dedicates time to learning about personalisation, its potential and the data needed to make it work.
Processes – collaborate with other departments such as Sales, Product, Digital, eCommerce and Marketing – getting them involved from the outset to begin developing specific targets and new internal processes.
Focus on the data layer – this is where it all begins – without you are flying blind. If this task is done right and well maintained, you can quickly get the algorithms to work with highest precision.
Competitive USP/differentiation – know how you want to stand out in the market and define your personalised use-cases and interventions accordingly – this will ensure these will complement your market goals.
Definition of requirements – once you have your plan in place and your team are onboard, work with them to identify the key requirements that need to be part of the personalisation strategy.
Scope – take your chance to speak to us to discuss your specifications so we can propose an approach for implementing personalisation across your travel sales sites.
Patience – it takes time to observe, learn and model, especially when traffic volumes are low. Also show that same patience when running AB tests to ensure results are statistically significant.
Find out how we provide AI-driven personalisation
bd4travel’s self-learning algorithms have learnt from more than 650 million user profiles and 1.3 billion travel search sessions. The company’s AI-driven Live Profiler creates profiles of all your users to understand each visitor’s intent and interest – whether they’re an early-planning Looker, an advanced Planner, a Booker, or an existing or previous Customer.
Find out how we provide AI-driven personalisation with traveller-facing tools and back-end data management and what they could do for your business: Register for our newsletter to get informed about new articles and insights – or directly request further information below.