Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Twitter

Let’s get personal

Traveler and guest marketing in the Cognitive Era


Let’s start with a staggering statistic: by the year 2020, about 1.7 MB of new information will be created every second, for every human being on the planet.1

What does that mean to your business? With so much structured and unstructured data available and growing, what do you really know about your customers? For example:

  • How well do you know the travelers who take your flights or book rooms at your hotel properties? What are their preferences and what are they saying on social media about where they like to stay for business or pleasure?
  • Can you send them the right offer at the right time and make promotional changes on the fly based on their unique needs?
  • Are you connecting with today’s connected travelers? Do you have the analytical insights to get them on your property in good weather or bad?

Answering these questions requires a deep understanding about real-time promotions. It takes cognitive systems and predictive customer intelligence. It takes IBM.


Beyond loyalty programs: Why engaging today’s travelers requires more than just collecting data

Keeping track of loyal customers and rewarding them with discounts and offers have always been key in the travel, transportation and hospitality industries. But in today’s always-on, global, value-conscious and competitive market, traditional loyalty programs are no longer enough.

It’s time to get personal. Use all the cognitive tools currently available—machine learning, natural language, social media and analytics—to form a single, continually evolving and real-time view of each and every customer. Then use that view to adopt a new level of engagement—a critical transformation as the travel industry undergoes dramatic changes.

How do you reach out to travelers and guests at the right time with the right offer? You need the deep insight that comes from cognitive systems—smart systems that can identify, in real time, consumer patterns and sentiment from a host of data sources so you can construct a dynamic profile of each and every traveler. Without that insight or dynamic understanding of why, how and where your guests search, visit and travel, it will be increasingly difficult to capture market share against competitors, generate much-needed affinity revenue or drive higher occupancy rates.

3 key shifts in the travel and hospitality marketplace

Consumers now possess greater control over their travel choices.

  • 24x7 access to information is the norm wherever travelers go.
  • 70% of millennials say they want an immersive experience when traveling and want to learn something new.2

Many of today’s travelers, especially millennials, create their own travel packages, often on the fly: 49 percent of millennials booked at least one last-minute trip in the past 12 months, according to research from MMGY Global. And they’re using all channels—mobile, web, travel agents—to source information and book their trips. How well are you tuned into the multichannel approach taken by today’s connected travelers?

The industry is experiencing tremendous growth in mobile travel bookings and purchases.

  • 52% of millennials use mobile devices to book hotels.3
  • 50% of millennials said they planned to spend more on travel in 2015.4
  • 94% of leisure travelers and 97% of business travelers bring along one or more mobile devices.5

People are taking more trips. They’re using a growing variety of services and websites to make travel arrangements. And they’re taking multiple mobile devices along with them. Even in the middle of their vacation, they can sign up for skydiving lessons or a wine tasting in seconds by using their smartphone or notebook.

Competition is increasing and sales channels are proliferating.

  • 2/3 of customers have made a purchase in the last six months that involved multiple channels.6
  • Millennials typically review 10 sources before booking a hotel.7

What’s more, competition is exploding. In almost every major location, travelers and guests have more choices than ever for lodging, restaurants, excursions and activities, all available at the touch of a button or with a simple voice command. Additionally, the rising trend in consumer-to-consumer (C2C) accommodations is dramatically changing the hospitality industry. In this highly competitive environment, the competitive edge is analytics.


Meeting customers along their buying journey

Planning and taking a trip involve a lot of decisions, many involving some level of research, often on different devices over the course of days or weeks. Social media can play a big part: 83 percent of surveyed consumers say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends8—recommendations they often get from Facebook, Twitter or other social sources.

The buying journey can span a whole series of mobile, web and phone sessions to read reviews, check schedules, explore side trips, bookmark options or make reservations. That gives you great opportunities to engage the customer with personalized, real-time offers at timely points on this journey to achieve the best possible action. Be ready to change offers based on real-time analysis of actions taken by the travelers. Did they just search for eco-friendly lodging? Jump in with a relevant suggestion and discount.

A multichannel experience: Planning a trip




Traveler checks in

Case in point: Kayak or cruise?

As a local travel agency, you know that one of your customers, a 23-year-old male traveler, likes adventure travel, donates to environmental causes and enjoys eating local foods. How do you know this? From his natural language selections, social media queries, past travel choices, charitable contributions and other data. Based on the insights you’ve gained about this customer, and the dynamic profile you’ve built leveraging cognitive systems, you’re not going to offer a leisurely 14-day river cruise. Your analysis predicts that this traveler would prefer to kayak, zip line and end the day at a craft brewery. He might even like a behind-the-scenes tour to take part in the brewing process. Now you can send an affinity offer best suited to him based on your predictive customer intelligence work. And you can send it at the start of May just as he is thinking about summer vacation plans.

This ability to predict and personalize is at the heart of cognitive analytics. Over time, cognitive systems provide deeper, more personal insight based on new information, actions and outcomes. They learn.

From data to action: Getting personal in 3 steps

Making relevant offers that are personalized and delivered in real time based on actual insight is critical. But how do you do it? Here are key steps for improving marketing with deep analytics, cognitive thinking and predictive intelligence.

Step 1:
Construct a single 360-degree view of the traveler or guest.

You have to know a customer inside your property and outside in the world at any given moment. Get information from internal and external sources, including social media networks, to give your predictive analytics and cognitive efforts a deep foundation to draw on. Leverage that 360-degree knowledge to deliver multichannel, multidimensional promotional campaigns. Use instantaneous predictive intelligence to give customers a seamless, responsive experience across all channels—digital, face-to-face and mobile.

Step 2:
Create a real-time behavioral profile.

Build a DNA roadmap that is unique to each specific customer. Tap into all the critical data and cognitive sources of information to help you continually assess who this person is and the choices he or she will make. For example, does the person place high importance on technology? Over 70 percent of millennials have said that the availability of free Wi-Fi plays a role in their hotel choice.9 Is the prospective customer vacationing with a family and small children? Free breakfasts, babysitting services and local amusement park discounts may be the deciding factor.

Step 3:
Make the moment count.

Things change, especially the weather. That’s why it is important to deliver promotional discounts and offers in real time. During the 2014 snowstorms that hit the northeastern United States, data showed travel to warmer climates increased 27 percent for destinations including Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean.10 Tapping into the weather analytics can put a profitable silver lining even on an impending storm.


You’re already investing in promotional offers. How successful are they?

300 percent ROI on a customer winback program. That’s the success realized by a hospitality group in New York City—one of the most competitive markets in the world—after deploying IBM® Customer Analytics software.11

With IBM Customer Analytics, your business can:

  • Understand behavioral profiles and predict future behavior to pinpoint offerings a customer is most likely to accept
  • Identify which customers to target with specific campaigns, and when
  • Predict lifetime customer value and reverse-engineer your offers to reach high-potential guests and others like them
  • Establish omnichannel visibility and coordination of all engagements
  • Reach a new generation of customers and win their loyalty
  • Drive revenue, grow the business and increase market share

It’s all about prediction and personalization. And by 2018, some predict that organizations that offer personalization will outsell companies that don't personalize by 30 percent.12

What success sounds like

If your analysis and marketing are right, your guests will feel understood and valued. Here's a real-world example: watch and learn how the Denihan Hospitality Group and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens used a 360-degree view of their customers to improve loyalty and revenue.


Travel the cognitive road to better returns and results

Learn more about faster, better analysis of all data types for creating and delivering personalized marketing to travelers and guests.

Check out the latest on IBM analytics solutions for the travel and hospitality industries:

Follow us and join the conversation


1 Marr, Bernard. “Big Data: 20 Mind-boggling Facts Everyone Must Read.” Forbes. September 30, 2015.

2, 3, 4 Daylighted. “Millennials in the hospitality industry: how hotels need to adapt.” 2015.

5 Street, Tarran. “Analyzing the results of the 2014 Expedia Mobile Index.” Expedia Viewfinder. October 15, 2014.

6 Hartjen, Ray. “Retail’s Main Event: Brick & Mortar vs. Online.” RetailNext. December 18, 2014.

7 Daylighted. “Millennials in the hospitality industry: how hotels need to adapt.” 2015.

8 “Global Trust in Advertising.” Nielsen. September 2015.

9 Daylighted. “Millennials in the hospitality industry: how hotels need to adapt.” 2015.

10 Baskas, Harriet. “Warm weather travel spikes as ice, snow return.” CNBC. February 12, 2014.

11 “Denihan Hospitality Group.” IBM Case Study. June 30 2014.

12 Demery, Paul. “Personalized web content will be crucial for B2B sales, analyst says.” Internet Retailer. January 21, 2014.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2016

IBM Analytics
Route 100
Somers, NY 10589

Produced in the United States of America
June 2016

IBM, the IBM logo, and are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at

This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates.

The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific cofigurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.