BrandMAX: Marketers should unleash their 'inner geeks' and embrace analytics

Gurmej Bahia: director of global customer marketing at Expedia
Gurmej Bahia: director of global customer marketing at Expedia

Marketers and creatives should unleash their "inner geeks" and embrace analytics to give them a competitive advantage, according to Gurmej Bahia, director of global customer marketing at Expedia.

Delivering a keynote on "Competing on analytics – real time, marketing investment" at Haymarket's BrandMAX 2011 conference in London, Bahia said that utilising data analytics will allow marketers to listen to their customers and understand their needs.

He said: "Analytics can seem so overwhelming but it is about giving you insight into what you are doing, how can these numbers help you and what is effective what is not."

The online travel industry, Bahia said, has become commoditised and it has become "very difficult for players to differentiate themselves", with deals looking the same and pricing not being the main differentiator anymore.

Bahia added that, although these companies now face competition from the likes of Google and Facebook, who are increasing their presence in the space, there is still "a lot to play for" with 68% of travel purchases booked offline.

Expedia has an in-house analytics team, explained Bahia, which "empowers the company" offering flexibility and speed.

"On a week to week basis, things change for us so we need to be moving quickly.

"It is important that the info is readily available, it needs to be digestible and trusted."

Touching on a theme introduced yestersay by MediaLink chief executive Michael Kassan, namely about marketers having to take measured risk to keep pace, Bahia said that having an in-house analytics team at Expedia has allowed them to "test, measure and learn".

"We have made lots of changes which can be subtle and risky, but analytics have let us to look at how these changes have helped drive conversion," he said.

Bahia gave the example of how the analytics helped the company understand that customers now think of travel before they come to Expedia. Because of this it has adopted content strategy and launched a "social" app on Facebook.

"The analytics team looked at what worked and what didn't. Analytics lets you measure and learn and so gives us a competitive advantage."

Bahia also gave an example of this helped shape its mobile app, which uses GPS to allow users to book accommodation and deals based on their location, after its analytics found that 70% of consumers book them on the same day.

He wrapped up by noting that although there are a a high number of "creatives" in the audience, everyone should "let the geek come out."

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