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Data mining made simple

22 April 2013
Data mining made simple

There are many wyas to interpret a marketing message, but sometimes the simplest are the best, says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock

Albert Einstein said "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted". This is true in every sphere but for those of us who market hotels it couldn't be more apposite. We are now awash with statistics, especially those relating to web site usage and online reservations, while some of the facts that matter most remain out of reach.

A good example of this is the rapid rise in the number of hotel bookings made from a mobile device. These are overtaking the number made on PCs and it would be easy to conclude that more of our customers are making snap decisions on the move. Delve deeper and we see that over two thirds of bookings made by smartphone are actually conducted by customers at home.

If you are excited by really big numbers, however, look no further than the latest social network stats which show that Twitter now has over 200 million active users, while Facebook and YouTube are both used by over one billion individuals worldwide.

Are these figures important? Who has counted the number of letterboxes around the world? A conservative estimate would be at least two billion. Is growing usage of one method of communication a good enough reason to dispense with all the others?

The other day I had a very interesting conversation with a senior executive at a leading car manufacturer. They spend a lot of money on sponsorship and know in their bones that linking their brand with top quality sporting events is good for business. But can they measure the number of cars sold as a direct result of sponsorship? Of course not, any more than a hotel can put a figure on the number of rooms sold because of landscaping or new photographs. These are things that we instinctively understand will help us appeal to customers even though we have no statistical evidence.

In some ways we should feel sorry for all modern marketers. The sheer volume of data is impossible to handle, we do not have the time or brain-power to make full use of it. Yet there is one especially valuable piece of data that many hoteliers overlook every day, perhaps because it involves asking a question rather than scrolling through reports. The question is this: "May I ask how you heard about the hotel?" If you are among the majority who seldom pose it, you may be surprised by the answers.

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