Author: David Newington, Commercial Director APAC, AirPlus International
Travel companies have a wealth of data at their fingertips on each individual customer who has approached them for bookings. However, it’s only recently that travel companies have started analysing and putting this data to good use, rather than simply storing it.
Here are four ways the trends of big data and personalisation are impacting the corporate travel industry right now:
- Dynamic pricing
Using big data to learn more about humans enables pricing to fluctuate based on the behaviour of the individual. If an individual looking to book flights or hotels repeatedly completes a particular search, prices appear to increase as the airlines and hotels are able to use data to recognise a repeat visitor. This has been present for years in hotel revenue management where Best Available Rates (BARs) have been a reflection of supply and demand and corporates have received set discounts from those BARs. Airlines are also now testing dynamic pricing for individuals travelling for business.
However, for corporates, there is a higher chance of better pricing if your company is a known entity to the ticket seller. With the use of sophisticated revenue management and data analytics tools, combined with methods to track travellers and companies, price and service offerings can be adjusted per booking, instead of annually, as the needs of the business change. This assists with corporate travel spend and recognises trends within certain companies.
- Collaborative robots
Collaborative robots (or co-robots) provide the ability to easily perform repetitive and physically demanding tasks with unerring precision, while humans are given the flexibility to deal with many changes thereby enabling a far greater degree of personalisation. Co-robots, based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) can assist corporate travel agents when dealing with customers over email or the phone.
The robot listens to the customer request and learns over time, the human behaviours and preferences, providing ideas to the booking agent who can then make suggestions to the person they are speaking with. This use of AI (instead of big data) and personalisation enables fast, effective assistance to travellers without relying on an encyclopedic memory from the agent or decades of experience.
- Cross platform marketing
Big data enables collaboration by companies, often part of the same group, to collectively analyse an individual’s behaviour and then personalise offers across platforms. For example Booking.com for business and Agoda.com are both part of the Priceline group. A traveller might use Agoda for personal travel and Booking.com for business but the data can be combined to gain a far more detailed view of offers that would be of interest to the traveller even when travelling for business.
The traveller may be unaware that Agoda and Booking.com are both owned by Priceline. It’s interesting to note these offers are shown to prompt leakage from corporate travel programs to suppliers not preferred, and services not expressly required.
- Handling delays and cancellations
Knowing more about a traveller can help make decisions without having to directly involve the traveller if they are unavailable. For example, if a flight is cancelled or delayed due to weather conditions and there may be a need to book an overnight hotel, data can assist to understand the level of comfort the traveller prefers or perhaps the traveller would rather change their flight or airline to avoid the delay. Furthermore, AI would enable the optimum time to secure the reservations and therefore minimise fees or lost bookings by modelling inventory as opposed to delay/cancellation likelihood.
As an extension of big data and personalisation and assuming privacy issues are addressed, AI in corporate travel will likely be the next big trend as we begin to understand patterns in human behaviour and use these to our advantage. Meanwhile, being able to analyse data and incorporate information already collated into travel plans, provides flexibility of pricing and gives travellers a unique, personalised experience. It is also an easy and cost effective way to provide high quality customer service as travellers appreciate a tailored approach.
About AirPlus International
AirPlus is a leading international provider of solutions for the day-to-day management of business travel. 51,000 corporate customers count on AirPlus for the payment and analysis of their business trip costs. Products and services are marketed worldwide under the AirPlus International brand. The AirPlus Company Account is the most successful central bill account based on UATP. More information is available at www.airplus.com.