The amount of data in the world is doubling every two years according to IDC. Social media,
multi-media and location-based services are all contributing to the data explosion, continuously generating information about what and where people buy, their personal preferences and the brands and products they recommend to their friends.
For organisations in the hospitality sector, these vast sets of data hold insights about customer behaviour that could transform their business and allow them to stay one step ahead of their competition. Times are tough - but there are huge opportunities for those that get it right.
However, the hospitality industry is lagging behind when it comes to using data to make informed decisions. In the retail sector businesses are already mining data in clever ways to spot anomalies or correlations between sets of data that can lead to growth opportunities. Retailers link supplier and customer data together to eliminate silos via web-based exchanges, for example. And with their ability to analyse consumer sentiment, take appropriate action and elicit positive recommendations from their online customers, many web-based retailers are giving their bricks and mortar competitors a run for their money. Other companies are using the analysis of big data to pinpoint customer motivations, understand brand preferences and to use this insight to drive sales.
So what can hospitality organisations do to catch up with their retail counterparts?
• Embrace evidence-based management and strategic decision making - in today's economy, no manager can afford to base their decisions purely on gut instinct
• Use business analytics tools to create a single source for all business critical data, so that timely and accurate information can be used by all business areas to make faster, more informed decisions.
• Ensure that your system can take data feeds from a wide variety of third party applications and internal and external sources so that you have a complete view of your operations
• Use dashboards to display single source data, such as table turnover rates right through to a fully integrated multi data source balanced scorecard, in real-time and on multiple platforms such as smartphones and tablets.
• Capture customer trends on social media to make rapid decisions on what promotions you can offer, to whom, in what location and when. Track the success of your promotions through your Point of Sale (POS) systems
• Use promotions, voucher campaigns and loyalty programmes to gather information about your customers' preferences and use the data they generate to develop insights and trends to evolve your marketing campaigns. When this is linked with data from your POS system in one central business intelligence (BI) application, you have an incredibly powerful platform to make automated, informed and dynamic business decisions e.g. real time marketing campaigns that target specific customers based on their location and previous purchasing behaviour by sending store specific promotions based on real time sales performance.
With the inexorable rise in the use of mobile technology, customers are becoming increasingly connected on a peer-to-peer level. As such, personalisation of content, experience and all brand interactions are vital to continue to remain competitive.
Getting to grips with big data also brings opportunities for hospitality businesses to streamline their internal processes. By gathering and analysing information about staff working patterns, for example, they can track trends, and use this information to bolster business performance by optimising staff rotas, benchmarking individual site performance against its peers and intelligently improving cost efficiencies to enhance business performance.
As a McKinsey Global Institute report on big data notes: "The use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual firms. From the standpoint of competitiveness and the potential capture of value, all companies need to take big data seriously. In most industries, established competitors and new entrants alike will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete, and capture value from deep and up-to-real-time information."
In order for the hospitality industry to keep pace, it must start to deal with its big data and begin to streamline its processes. Huge swathes of valuable data are being generated every second - hospitality organisations now need to harness it to understand their customers and develop more strategic marketing and sales strategies.