By Travolution

November 7, 2014 11:25 AM GMT

Online travel retailers can shift the conversation with customers away from price if they capture and use data to build up the digital DNA of their clients.

Andy Owen-Jones, founder of big data specialist bd4travel, told a WTM session organised by digital consultancy Genesys, said it is possible to predict the likelihood of a website visitor to book.

He said this can now be done with a much greater accuracy than simply guessing by picking up on cues building profiles and analysing patterns of behaviour.

This allows firms to react to requests from customers in a much more tailored way, based on the specific context of their interaction with the brand.

“We have got very good at predicting exactly what price people are going to pay. Their [customer] behaviour tells you what they want, just as it would if they walked into a shop.

“If you get this right you can change their preference away from price. All value chains are built on understanding the customer. In travel too often we start at the other end, the offer, and work back.”

Owen-Jones said travel companies focus on the 1% or 2% of web visitors that actually convert and become customers.

But he said this was ignoring a wealth of data about the vast majority of visitors. He also warned against treating everyone as an average customer but said people were predictable.

“People, as a group are predictable. When you get down to the individual people are far more predictable than you think.

“Every website I know treats people like an average customer until it comes to retargeting or tying to sell them other things.”

Owen-Jones said due to the nature of the product, travel was far more complex than other sectors so using generic e-commerce techniques can risk over-automating and be counterproductive.

“You need to know what’s going on behind the scenes, pull all the insights together. We try to work out the digital DNA of everyone who comes in to a travel shop. We can identify what their intention is.”

Owen-Jones said the “magic moment” for bd4travel’s clients is when it reveals to them what their customers look like.

He said there was a “sweet spot” of companies with around 100,000 unique visitors a month able to take advantage of data mining to personalise their offering.

However he said smaller companies are still able to benefit but do not have the volume of data to fine tune their algorithms.