The only thing more ubiquitous these days than the term Big Data is the actual data itself. Generated by everything from social media to online activity to cell phones, Big Data creates a relentless torrent of potentially valuable information about travelers’ plans, interests, and needs. In fact, according to IBM, the world is generating about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day. That’s a massive amount of information for even the most sophisticated businesses. For travel management companies, tracking and capturing Big Data is a necessity.
Big or fast Big and fast
Beyond just capturing the data, it must also be processed quickly so it can be used right away. Instantaneous processing enables real-time decision making. Rapid decisions provide efficiency to business travelers and increased revenues to TMCs. This is what is known as Fast Data. And while Big Data is literally everywhere, Fast Data is in short supply.
Why? Put simply, the ability to interpret and analyze information so that it can be acted on quickly is rare. The volume and velocity of Big Data have yet to be harnessed in real-time to improve the economics and experience of business travelers.
Even when relevant data is captured, it often becomes useless. Many times, the data is stored incorrectly or without key attributes. Once stored, data is sometimes forgotten, losing its peak power when left without instant action. Seventy-seven percent of respondents to a study from Capgemini and EMC Corporation on Big Data say that decision-makers require data in real-time.
Fast Data is the future — but not something so far ahead that it can be left alone. All TMCs should be planning on incorporating Fast Data into their operations in the next year. New scalable technology solutions are emerging to automatically translate raw data into intelligence. TMCs, and most critically their customers, will unlock new value from existing resources thanks to the merger of Big and Fast Data.
How Fast Data delivers
One of the benefits is the utility of predictive analytics. TMCs could provide cost savings to a price-sensitive client by continuously monitoring hotels and airfares to destinations to which its employees frequently traveled. For example, if employees routinely travel from London to Tokyo, a TMC could inform their client when fares are lowest. The suggestion could lead to organizing business appointments to take advantage of cheap plane tickets and hotel rooms.
Another example of the virtuous union between Big and Fast Data is when it provides agents with information that can enhance the experience of business travelers. For instance, imagine a circumstance when a TMC’s agents are receiving a flood of requests to book travel for a client’s employees attending a conference. Big Data can reveal that a large proportion of conference attendees are arriving a day early and playing golf. By taking note of that trend, agents can then offer others who call to book their conference travel the option to add golf to their itinerary — a networking benefit for the employees and a revenue boost for the TMC.
The value TMCs can offer their clients by using Big and Fast Data goes beyond immediate offers. By identifying trends in meeting locations, TMCs can propose economical and attractive spots their clients might have never considered. Maybe Cuba is a good alternative to Miami for a company’s annual gathering? Big Data and Fast Data together can provide the answer.
These are just a couple of examples of harnessing Big Data’s remarkable ability to monitor changing market conditions in a way that yields genuine value. By pulling live data into decisions, TMCs can create the type of added value that builds loyalty and sustainable differentiation. The true expert becomes indispensable, and Fast Data delivers.
Ben Vinod, Sabre’s Chief Data Scientist also contributed to this article.