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1 May 2014

Big Data: Insights for Sore Eyes

We have all heard people talking about it, news items regarding it, and businesses trying to make the most of it, but what is 'Big Data'? In its essence, it is what it says it is, 'a large and complex collection of ever-growing data sets'. These data sets are growing so rapidly that, in 2014, an estimated 2.3 trillion gigabytes of data is being created everyday – so much that 90% of the entire world’s data has been produced in the last 2 years.

Data has always been valuable to any organisation, whether it simply be names and email addresses, or more detailed information like internet browsing habits, shopping habits, interaction with social media sites, and so on. However, it is projected that by 2017, big data will grow into a $53.4 billion market; up from $5.1 billion in 2013.

There are various types of data available to businesses to use to their advantage which can be grouped as below:

  • Contextual Data - i.e. what, where, when, with what device etc.
  • Behavioural Data - i.e. actions, preferences, 'likes' etc.
  • Personal ID Data - i.e. demographic, psychographic etc.

Almost all organisations collect data on their customers/clients, both potential and current, but not all know what to do with said data and most don't really know why they are collecting the data. It's a common occurrence that a business will simply collect data because “that's what their competitors are doing”.

But how will that help them? For instance, how does it help a restaurant to know that Mr Jones likes to browse the internet on a Samsung mobile device, during his lunch break, based in Kent? In truth, the data alone doesn't help much at all.

Instead what organisations need to be doing is analysing this data. More specifically, analysing the data to produce insights - insights that are repeatable, actionable, and linked to their objectives.

For example, Google Analytics can be an incredibly useful tool for producing insights regarding your website and advertising campaigns. However, it won't do the work for you, it will give you all the data you need but you will have to dig deep to find those elusive insights that will help you improve your business.

The first step towards making use of big data is to ensure that your current ‘traditional data’ is correct and reliable. Transactional Data, Google Analytics reports, POS reports, CRM reports etc. all contain valuable collections of data that can be analysed in conjunction with big data to provide useful insights, however, you must first ensure this data is reliable – the saying goes ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ – in the sense that if you analyse unreliable data then the insights generated would too be unreliable.

Once you have cleansed your traditional data sets you can then begin to use big data to enrich and improve the insights you have already gained; making them clearer and often revealing previously unnoticed intelligence.

Big Data in Hospitality

The biggest opportunity for the use of big data within the hospitality industry lies with enhancing the guest experience. High-value guests can now be profiled in-depth using traditional data alongside big data to personalise the service offering for these guests and ultimately improve the guest experience. Using big data sources such as GPS data, blogs, guest service calls/emails, social media feeds, mobile devices etc., hospitality businesses can continually build a guests profile in order to tailor their next visit to suit their preferences; from having the mini-bar stocked with their favourite beverages, to programming the TV with the guests favourite shows. Each visit and interaction with this guest will continue to build and adapt this guest profile.

Facial recognition cameras can then be used to identify when a high-value guest enters a property and alert relevant members of staff in real-time to so that they can provide the most personal service possible and thus allowing the hotel to really ‘wow’ the customer.

This personalisation doesn’t have to stop in property either. Social media platforms can be used to interact with guests in a personal manner pre and post stay which can in turn assist in building and retaining brand loyalty with your customers by encouraging them to become advocates for your brand in the digital space.

Using big data analytics, hospitality organisations can also develop strategies to ensure guests and customers keep coming back; organisations can anticipate guests’ needs, predict potential threats from competitive offerings, and alter operations to save guests’ time and money, simply by analysing their traditional data alongside the vast quantities of big data available.

The uses and benefits for big data are almost endless but it must be remembered that it is not the answer to every question. First, an organisation must decide what questions they would like answering and firmly establish the outcomes they are striving to achieve – they may just find that big data will only confuse things further.

Is your organisation currently making use of big data analytics? Did it produce useful insights? Let us know in the comments by email to