Ms. Wiesenfeld

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Staying Relevant with the Consumer is the Holy Grail of Personalization

By Nancy Wiesenfeld, Vice Presidentt of Strategic Accounts, iPerceptions

The hospitality industry is in a constant state of evolution. As new players enter the landscape, from properties to boutique hotels to online peer-to-peer marketplaces, hospitality brands continuously look for creative ways to win guests by competing on price, amenities, loyalty program benefits and other perks. With so many options to consider, it is becoming increasingly important to stay relevant with the consumer at each point of their brand journey in order to promote conversion and foster loyalty. The latest platform for differentiation is in delivering the best customer experience. This has led to large investments in personalization efforts and solutions, so that brands can delight their guests and foster a strong brand connection.

Personalizing the Experience for the 'Unknown' Audience

Thanks to enhancements in technology, hotels now have access to more data and intelligence on their guests than ever before. Data is being collected across the customer lifecycle from booking to check-in to loyalty program profile information. With this data, brands are able to recognize guests when they enter their hotel, ensure their room reflects their preferences, send them appropriate content and promotions in line with their profile and lifestyle. It also allows brands to communicate with consumers directly throughout their stay (as well as before and after) in order to ensure that their expectations are met and even exceeded.

However, this level of personalization applies to actual hotel guests - or what is referred to as a brand's "known" audience. What about a hotel's "unknown" audience - those that have not booked yet? This unknown audience is most likely in the research or "dream" phase of their trip - considering locations, hotels, price, amenities, etc. Indeed, hotel brands leverage many different technologies and data to personalize the experience of their unknown audience. However, since little, if anything, is known about this audience, the data is limited to the behavior they exhibit on a website, and then rules are applied to inform various marketing technologies based on that behavioral data alone.

The result is that the personalization net is cast very wide, where the initiatives that some consumers are exposed to might not be entirely relevant. How many times have consumers made a purchase and then been retargeted soon thereafter to purchase that same product? Or been on a website's support section for a product they have, and then retargeted with an ad to purchase that very same product?

This lack of congruency means that there is an opportunity to further optimize personalization efforts and strategies by providing more granularity on a brand's unknown audiences. And that opportunity lies in leveraging Voice of the Customer (VoC) data. By further informing customer profiles and segments with VoC data, hotels can put the most compelling content and offers in front of their audiences, so that brand interest, and ultimately conversion, are secured.

How the Voice of Your Customers Can Power Personalization

Voice of the Customer programs have been around for almost 20 years. Most programs started with analyzing the online experience by gauging satisfaction, understanding the visitor profile, visitor intent, and so forth. Not long afterwards, it became important to use VoC data to contextualize behavioral data streams, thereby understanding the "why" behind the "what".

Today we are living in an era where marketing technologies are at the core of every marketer's digital strategy. A visitor profile comprising of VoC data, along with behavioral data can be integrated into these marketing platforms so that their digital experience can be optimized and personalized in real-time. What's more, this visitor profile can be projected onto a brand's broader website audience through machine learning and modelling algorithms.

At iPerceptions, we are modeling behavioral data labeled with stated intentions and experience from survey results to predict the profile and objective of a broader website audience. Specifically, when a visitor begins their journey on a website, they are usually being monitored by a behavioral tracker, such as Google Analytics or Adobe Site Catalyst. At some point during their visit, the visitor may be asked to participate in a short survey where the goal is to understand their intent and obtain a representative, reproducible sample. This website visitor, therefore, now has two sources of digital experience data associated with them - behavioral, as well as attitudinal. VoC data provides that strong signal, and with machine learning, properly tuned, can observe the behavior of visitors to make an accurate prediction on the intent, the perception, or the consideration stage for each visitor to a digital property. AI capabilities can process the multitude of patterns and when fueled by structured VoC data, can label visitors that have never responded to a survey.

Specific Applications in the Hospitality Industry

For the hospitality industry, there are many ways to use Voice of the Customer data for personalizing the unknown traveler's experience. The first step is to look at a brand's overall objective - is it to optimize the retargeting spend? Maximize sales and/or minimize costs associated with deploying a live chat agent? Identify visitors in distress? From there, a very short survey can be designed to capture VoC data that would be aligned to that objective.

With the survey data, hospitality brands could optimize their retargeting efforts, for example. Retargeting rules vary from website to website - as most of us have experienced, sometimes all visitors are retargeted, regardless of where they went or what they did on a website. And some other times the rules are more complex, only retargeting visitors who clicked on specific links or got to a certain stage of the booking funnel. Regardless of how strict or lax the rules are, however, the accuracy of retargeting efforts can be lacking, since little is known about the consumer or their intent. VoC data, such as intent or booking horizon, brings an additional layer of intelligence to audience segmentation that allows for a more refined and smarter bidding strategy. For example, recognizing that a certain visitor is "in-market" to make a booking in the next two weeks would allow a brand to bid on this traveler for an ad impression rather than someone who is looking to book a trip in 6 months. Similarly, a website visitor labeled as a booker at risk of not converting would in all probability be more valuable to retarget than someone who already booked and was looking for the exact hotel location, or a loyalty program member who was checking their points balance.

Retargeting Using VoC Data - A Real World Example

Recently, iPerceptions was able to use VoC data to improve retargeting initiatives for Telus, a leading telecommunications provider in Canada. In a highly competitive industry, Telus was looking for new and innovative ways to increase the ROI from their retargeting campaigns. By collecting feedback from a small sample of visitors coming to the Telus website, iPerceptions accurately segmented all website visitors by their likelihood to purchase. Telus then ran a 6-week A/B test of two retargeting campaigns: one using standard rules-based retargeting, and one using iPerceptions' audience segments. To easily compare how these two campaigns performed, both campaigns used the same ads and landing pages. The campaign running iPerceptions' audience segments outperformed all other campaigns, including Telus' search campaigns. Telus saw a 135% increase in the Click Through Rate (CTR) and the Cost Per Click (CPC) went down by 49%.

Voc Data and Improving Live Chat

Finally, VoC data can be leveraged to identify visitors in distress, which can then be used to integrate with solutions designed to save their experience. This can be achieved by modelling on visitors who have low satisfaction scores as determined by the VoC survey, in conjunction with behavioral cues such as spending a long period of time on a page. This approach could be applied towards optimizing the deployment of a website's live chat solution. More specifically, the live chat solution can be activated to those visitors considered to be having a poor experience so that their issues can be resolved in real time before they leave the website for a competitor's. The advantage is that instead of showing this solution to all visitors or those whose behavioral metrics alone identify them as having difficulties on the website, VoC data adds another layer of granularity that helps further qualify individuals as being "in market" for an intervention by the live chat solution. As result, the live chat solution can be launched more effectively to a more refined audience, thereby reducing associated costs and positively influencing chances of conversion.

With every hotel brand competing for Bookers, hospitality brands will continue to invest in technologies that will give them a competitive edge. Therefore, it is essential to put the most compelling message in front of audiences at all points of the brand consideration spectrum. Thanks to a plethora of data available, brands currently have a lot of intelligence on their guests. However, there is still a lot of guesswork that comes with trying to understand the intent of the unknown traveler. Leveraging Voice of the Customer data is one way of enriching this information. That's why in 2017, VoC data will go beyond a small sample by combining it with machine learning to make accurate predictions about a website visitors' intent and profile. And projecting this more robust composite onto the broader website universe will allow for a better understanding of the different segments that comprise a brand's audience so that they can make the most effective and timely marketing decisions.

Nancy Wiesenfeld is the Vice President of Strategic Accounts at iPerceptions , esponsible for overall account management, growth, and retention. Managing a team of Strategic Account Managers, she ensures that deep, strategic relationships are developed with top customers and that iPerceptions’ brand footprint is expanded through existing customer networks. Previously, she was Director of Insight where she supervised deliverables for all analysis projects and directly managed clients in the Hospitality sector. She joined iPerceptions in 2005 with 15 years in the market research and advertising industries. At Tandemar Research (now iPSOS ASI), Ms. Wiesenfeld was a Data Specialist where her focus was on data synthesis and analysis. Her position grew to Manager of the Data Specialist team. Ms. Wiesenfeld can be contacted at 877-796-3600 or nwiesenfeld@iperceptions.com Extended Bio...

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