From Data to Contextual Personalization and Beyond

The First Step to Attaining the Ever Elusive “Delighted Customer”

By all reasonable means, I consider myself a frequent traveler. And speaking of frequent, the other thing that I do at a reasonable frequency is online shopping. Over the years, a lot of my offline shopping has gone online thanks to Amazon. As an online shopper, I love Amazon for the range of products it offers. However, what really engages me are the very thoughtful recommendations that pop up regularly (and often not necessarily correlated to the items that I am purchasing during that session). Of course, the result often is that I buy items that I wasn’t considering prior to my online session.


Looking at my online shopping experience and attitude towards it, I like to analyze this and understand what’s going on from Amazon’s perspective. I’ve been a “loyal” customer of Amazon for the past 12 years. Over the years, Amazon has shown it “knows” me as a person from the kind of transactions I’ve carried out – both for purchases for myself and my family as well as gifts that I’ve purchased. Amazon also knows about my key life events, like the birth of my children, when I’ve bought cars, etc., based on the information I’ve provided along with transaction patterns. I like the way Amazon has put together all this information to “personalize” interactions with me!

I travel frequently, and I often wish my experience was more like the engagement Amazon provides. I’ve flown an average of 100,000 miles a year over the last 5 years … a significant enough amount of travel with one single airline. When I compare interacting with this airline with my engagement with Amazon, the transactions are higher priced and the amount of time that the airline has “face time” with me is larger – there are significantly more “moments of truth.” The same can be said about the hotel chain with whom I’ve stayed for several weeks in total. Yet, in analyzing the time that I spend on travel and the transactions therein, I see very little successful personalization during my interactions.

I’ve spent just over a decade in the travel industry, and I like to think of myself as someone who knows how much he doesn’t know about the industry. As a traveler, here’s one thing I know – if travel companies reflected what they know about me in their interactions with me, I would become that ever elusive “delighted customer.”

The first step to nudge me towards “delighted customer” status would be for the travel company to understand the data about me as a traveler. Let’s walk through how my preferred airline should be approaching this:

As a baseline, I assume that the airline is utilizing “stated” data, which is the data that I’ve explicitly provided as part of my profile. Next, I expect them to combine my stated data with commonly derivable demographic data to personalize its interaction with me.

Then, given the fact that I have flown thousands of miles with this airline, I hope it would have insight into various psychographic attributes about me, such as my location over time from using its mobile app. In addition, since I provided my Twitter handle plus my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and used these channels to interact with the airline, I have given it access to a wealth of personal information about me. This is the point that I would like to assume that the airline has employed predictive analytics to capture a more complete profile of me that it can employ to enhance its interactions with me.

My firm belief is that this combined data is the first step toward contextual personalization, delivering the right offer at the right time in the right situation. Today, travel companies have the ability to bring all of my implicit and explicit data together to build a holistic profile of me as a customer and to engage me at a much higher, very personalized level.

As W. Edwards Deming said... “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” If retail can utilize my data to create better experiences, I expect that airlines, hotels, and other travel companies can as well. They would have a larger timeshare from me and definitely delight me, ultimately resulting in more reasons for me to remain a loyal customer as well as increased revenue from me.


Coforge has deep experience in the travel industry. Combined with our Digital Foresight predictive analytics capabilities, we work with companies to not only collect and synthesize customer data but also to align the output to gain a real-time understanding of their customers and their market. Learn how our personalization expertise can help your company gain more “delighted customers.”