How to Use Data to Stand Out in Crowded Market

CARY, NC—Good intel has its rewards and, if used properly, can help hotels stand out in a crowded market. Hospitality brands are utilizing business analytics to get a 360-degree view of their customers and harnessing the data to drive marketing campaigns that produce positive results.

SAS, a business analytics firm based here, has been a resource to brands such as IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group), Vail Resorts and Foxwoods Resort Casino to boost brand performance, create customer experiences, understand their preferences, and more. As a senior industry consultant for SAS’ Hospitality and Gaming Global Practice, Natalie Osborn takes the capabilities of the firm’s software and solutions and then translates them to help businesses solve problems or put true insights into action.

“Generally, what we help hospitality and gaming companies do is improve the guest experience. We are in the service industry, and we have to make sure it’s top-notch. Second thing is to maximize revenue and profits through revenue management, operations analytics, workplace planning, etc.,” Osborn explained. “We optimize operations to control costs and offer financial solutions to gain a grip on the operation and understand what’s happening. Lastly, and most relevant to marketing, we seek to increase the value of the relationship with the guest.”

According to Osborn, it’s not just how the hotel interacts with guests and how to make it profitable; it’s also about how guests value what they receive. More than ever before, hospitality companies are able to determine what’s motivating a guest and make smart decisions based on the technological advances available to them. Today, the industry is seeing a lot of activity in terms of mergers and acquisitions, the rise of OTAs and arrival of booking intermediaries, which has presented multiple rivals for hotel brands with bigger marketing budgets to boot.

“In order to compete, we have to focus on the entire stay. We provide data management and bring data and quality together. We help with segmentation, attrition and customer lifetime value models to understand what are the right things to do,” Osborn said. “Whether it is executing on a newsletter, direct mail or mobile campaign, we provide visual tools to get information about guests to people who need to have it.”

One of the solutions Osborn employs is SAS Customer Intelligence 360, a digital marketing software application that helps with planning, analyzing and tracking the guest journey across all of the various digital channels. According to Osborn, it includes digital intelligence and engagement capabilities to place digital content in the right places to get the best outcome.

“Many touchpoints are digital, whether we are ready or not, and those relationships are complex. We need this type of solution to manage those interactions. We can’t rely on great team members and front desk agents because the interactions are now device-to-website, not just person-to-person. This type of marketing application can help,” she said.

So, how do we stop thinking about marketing as an activity we are doing to customers and think about it as a seamless service experience? To answer this question, Osborn believes you must first start with good analytics to help drive your business forward.

“We need to know three main things: What is the intent, what ability can we influence and guest preferences. Do I engage with the customers and think about how they would like to engage with me? The amount of interaction has exploded,” she said. “Also, am I measuring actions such as click-through rates and downloads, or am I measuring contextual elements—what they like to do or what they could do, but haven’t done? We can’t just rely on good service and team members; we need analytics to get our arms around it.”

—Corris Little