One of the themes at this year's PhoCusWright conference in Hollywood, Florida, was the role of personalization in travel. Especially as technologies increase in sophistication, effortless personalization - or tailored offers customized according to previous behavior without direct input from travelers - is already happening across the board.
In this era of Big Data, inexpensive storage and easily deployed technologies, there are many concerns when it comes to personalization: privacy, transparency, user control of their data, opting in versus opting out, and providing the right product at the right time in the right channel.
Personalization is clearly good for companies, as they are likely to see better conversion rates as they improve their ability to retail the appropriate product to each customers.
But what about consumers? Is there a line that can't be crossed, or will the decreased time-to-purchase due to effective personalization improve the customer experience in a way that makes the related loss of privacy worth it?
Tnooz sat down with Layton Han, who is the CEO of Adara, a firm that focuses on putting travel sellers in front of hyper-targeted buyers in a seamless connection platform. We spoke in-depth about the opportunities - and realities - of travel personalization.
The following are all direct quotes by Mr. Han.
What is personalization?
"Personalization has been around forever. The sophistication and the technology has made it much more interesting recently - and that's all based on harnessing the data.
The ability to surface and aggregate data cheaply and effectively is the game changer that happened with cloud computing 4 or 5 years ago. Now there are a lot more ways to personalize.
The way that we look at personalization is across the whole digital marketing space - it's not just advertising, it's not just e-commerce, it's not just merchandising. It's a spectrum of all that. It's not just personalizing the ad, the website or post-sale, it's the ability to sequentially personalize as people go through the purchase path - this is important and powerful, and people are waking up to this."
From a consumer standpoint, ultimately personalization helps them because it provides choices."
Personalization = simplification
"Personalization is getting easier and it helps in the sense that the ability to provide recommendations on what the customer is looking for helps consumers. I won't say it's a freedom of choice, but it provides guidelines on what they're looking for."
We try to simplify. The way you simplify is the ability to provide the right content, the right ad to that individual. Travel is complicated because people tend to shop. Our recent research on hotels shows that users are searching 8 sites for hotels showing that users are searching 8 sites for hotels, so if we have the data around you and the ability to provide the right choice, it simplifies the buying decision.
And that's the case throughout the whole travel space: Data and personalization should simplify the shopping experience of an individual instead of making it more complicated."
Does personalization invade privacy?
"I think that privacy is an issue if you're not transparent. If people know how their data is used, they are more comfortable or say that they don't want to share that - basically, provide choices.
Where privacy becomes an issue is when there's a lack of transparency, and the brands we work with tend to have very robust privacy policies. I think that's required so people are aware of how the data is being used. Maybe Millennials cares less, because their data is everywhere, on Facebook and Twitter, versus the older generation who was even worried about things like the privacy on direct mail."
Like any business or anything, you don't want to be surprised. If you know that certain things are happening to your data, that a company wants to use it to personalize a website, as long as the consumer is ok with that they are ok with that. I think that's about choice. Consumers want to have that choice."
Why is personalization getting so much attention now?
"I think there are two real trends that are prevalent. One is the adoption of mobile as the new channel for travel, and I think that's going to have a huge impact on the business going forward.
Every company I talk to has underestimated the growth of mobile. I think that the mobile trend is going to be be significant, and that trend will translate into how the data will be used.
The cookie targeting becomes less important, so how the mobile data gets surfaced and used is the game change in the next couple of years. The companies that will do well in the travel space will have to figure out how to do mobile better than everything else, and worry less about how you target using cookies.
We're further integrating with our partners to provide the ability for us to be more smart about the mobile platform.
Ultimately it's all about the full experience. Online is only a piece of the travel experience, it's not the whole travel experience."
NB: Diversity eggs image courtesy Shutterstock.