In the world of marketing analytics, every software-as-a-service company tries to tell a similar story: their product is the Ferrari or Lamborghini of analytics with ever more horsepower and data juice. Before you know it, you’re in a carwash of catchphrases.
According to Kelly McGuire, executive director of the hospitality and travel global practise at SAS, the company’s biggest difference, when it comes down to it, is its actual analytics capabilities.
“A lot of analytics companies and tools just aggregate data and then create business rules,” said McGuire. "These rules of thumb have a lot of grey area."
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Founded by James Howard Goodnight, a programmer and statistician, SAS began as an analytics company first and foremost. With clients spanning government, defense as well as banking and finance, the company has evolved into the marketing space over time.
“In Hong Kong, for example, we also work with governments,” said Wilson Ho, general manager of SAS Hong Kong. “And we look at text analytics online and on social media and develop models for things like public sentiment, which shape government planning.”
In addition, SAS Hong Kong works with a number of the region’s top casinos, embedding its own statisticians, data modellers and software into casino gaming teams to figure out and optimise casino layouts, gaming systems, strategies and flows.
“We’re not like other analytics companies,” said Ho. “We draw on all kinds of data and very serious mathematics.”
Specifically in the hotel and resort market, SAS combines marketing and customer analytics. Perhaps its biggest differentiator to competitors such as Adobe Marketing Cloud, which also works with hotel and resort brands such as Starwood, is its operational analytics dimension.
These metrics look at things such as staffing, human resources, and a range of relevant hotel and resort operational points.
“Say you’re a casino hotel or resort and you do this great marketing campaign that attracts a lot of customers,” said McGuire. “But then they get there and there isn’t enough staff to greet them or their rooms aren’t made, then that’s a big detractor.”
With tight competition in the travel and accommodation sector from online travel agencies and disruptors such as Airbnb, McGuire believes that hotels and resorts need to ensure their brand promise is aligned with their operational realities, which makes measuring this area in relation to marketing and customer experience all the more important.
“Hotels need to track reputation, not just pricing,” said McGuire. “A bad review online is a bad review that doesn’t go away. Even lowering your prices doesn’t save a bad review.”
While SAS competes with the likes of Adobe and IBM in areas of overlap, SAS also works with its competitors when it proves complementary.
“We’re open to incorporating other technologies and services,” McGuire added. “We know what we do best. We’re mathematicians who are good at cross-collaboration and we reinvest 25 per cent of our profit back into R&D and the math.”