The knowledge gap around data for today’s marketers remains an issue, but it’s not as big as some suggest, according to Expedia CMO Aaron Price.
Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific in Singapore, Price says everyone knows harnessing the power of data in today’s marketing world is critical. But given how quickly the industry has moved in the past few years, particularly in the digital sphere, marketers aren’t doing as badly as many think.
Coming from a technology background, Price says that anecdotally he’s noticed a big shift in the types of conversations happening across marketing departments.
“I’ve been a core marketer now for three years, and when I started I would have conversations with peers that would only be around the softer metrics,” he says. “Now data is much more ubiquitous and everyone’s starting to speak the same language.”
What’s helped, Price adds, is that marketers are finally “able to make more effective choices” because the data and measurement available to them has significantly improved.
“Broadly marketing is getting better at measuring, and I see it more every year” he says. “Traditional marketing had good metrics, but they were always more or less survey based, and sort of broad approximations of your reach or your lift of an audience.
“Nowadays those numbers are becoming hardened and discrete. So even in TV today, for example, you’re getting really discrete measurements about whether your ads are creating lift for your brand.”
For Expedia, data and the subsequent insights drawn from it are all geared towards a simple goal, Price says: “Help customers go places better and faster, and help us be more effective at marketing”. In Asia-Pacific specifically, it has led the brand to make investments in new technology, specifically chatbots, thanks to the propensity for travel consumers in the region to be mobile-first.
“We’re putting a lot of effort behind chat-based applications in Asia, which just from a broad ecosystem perspective, will become a larger part of most ecommerce platforms and experiences,” he explains.
In APAC, Expedia began a collaboration with Line in March 2017, launching its first chatbot outside the US in Thailand. That partnership has been expanded in Japan, and Expedia has since signed an agreement with KakaoTalk in Korea.
Price says for Expedia, technological investment is a critical part of the marketing mix, but it must be backed up by the data. When it comes to VR and AR, he’s keen not to put the cart before the horse.
“I find them very interesting, and we might do a little bit more as a brand-building tool,” he suggests. “But as a way to shop travel I’m not sure it’s going to be big anytime soon.” Where he’s seeing more definitive growth is voice search, thanks to the rise of home assistant devices.
“Being there and having comprehensive answers is something we’re definitely exploring amongst all the providers,” he says.
With the online travel sector being so competitive, Price says its vital for Expedia to continue learning consumer preferences and providing products accordingly. This includes its latest offering, the Add On Advantage, which gives users access to significant hotel discounts after booking a travel package up until the day they travel, encouraging bundled purchases but without consumers having to make all the decisions—flight, hotel, car hire—in one go.
“Most people like to buy their flight and then come back and buy their hotel,” Price explains. “We’re excited to bring some of the benefits of bundling and saving in a more step-wise function.”
A more consumer-focused marketing and product tool is often referred to as better personalisation these days, but Price prefers to stay away from this term.
“I usually don’t like to say personalisation because it means something else to what I mean when we’re talking about use of data,” he says. “It’s the use of data and insights to build a better product that caters to what somebody’s looking for. It’s not necessarily building that data set so that a specific person has a discrete set of preferences just for them.”