Travellers Choice marks 40 with data vision

Travellers Choice marked its 40th anniversary in style last month, drawing a record attendance to its annual conference held in its hometown of Perth.

Taking the stage in the city’s new landmark Crown Towers, the group celebrated its humble origins as a small West Australian buyers’ cooperative and outlined a “20/20 Vision” for the years ahead.

More than 160 members came to join the festivities, representing almost 100 agencies in a group that now numbers around 120 independent businesses — a far cry from the original six stores that united in the 1970s to maximise their collective airfare purchasing power.

And just as the scale and nature of the business has changed, so too have the issues it has on the table.

In a conference dominated by the increasingly familiar themes of disruption, technology and artificial intelligence, Travellers Choice managing director Christian Hunter announced the pursuit of data and intelligence would become a critical focus over coming years.

“We are in an era where data is king and the more you know about your customers, their likes and preferences, their families, hobbies, their travel plans and bucket list items, the better positioned you will be to provide them with really relevant and targeted marketing,” Hunter said.

“We need to be more strategic about what we promote and who we promote it to. Having a deep understanding of your customers can really assist this and research shows that targeted advertising has a much greater response rate, so we need to embrace the concept of data.”

Citing as a leading example the Woolworths loyalty card — and its ability to deliver the supermarket group vast and detailed information on its customers’ buying trends — Hunter said his ultimate aim was to achieve rich, real-time sales information. This would allow more intelligent, predictive marketing strategies, rather than responsive activity often based on months-old data.

“Imagine the scenario where we are able to operate like a genuinely integrated system, where we have access to real-time sales information, where customer databases are so detailed we can drill down to the fine detail and produce marketing activity that can predict and shape the market,” he said.

“That is where I would like to see the group get to in the future and where I think we need to be in our continual drive to add more value to members’ businesses.”

A key disadvantage in this quest was the decentralised nature of Travellers Choice, Hunter said. Members weren’t required to compile onerous sales reports, meaning the group was heavily reliant on data provided by suppliers to gain sales insight.

This could be overcome, Hunter said, and predicted that a combination of new technology and better systems created in partnership with suppliers would in coming years make significant advances in the quality of available data.

 

In the meantime, Travellers Choice announced several other initiatives designed to provide better support for members. One is the new TC Mail platform, an email marketing system that allows members to generate more targeted campaigns.

 

The system has been designed to allow users to more easily segment their databases based on customers’ past travels and current interests. They can tailor campaigns for each segment and either mount their own activities or hand the process over to the Travellers Choice head office marketing team at no cost.

“A lot of members either don’t have the time or the resources to be able to do that themselves, to I think this is a great opportunity for them to be able to free themselves and allow somebody else to do it for them…and just focus on the enquires that come as a result.”

 

The introduction of TC Mail follows other initiatives including the expansion of the extranet platform TC Hub, the launch of a Facebook-based member network called TC Connect, and the recently announced partnership with online package provider TripADeal which aims to give Travellers Choice members an avenue to compete with web-based retailers.

All of which gives Hunter an upbeat view of the decades ahead as the group moves beyond its 40th anniversary year.

“I think we’ve got a great story, I think we’ve got a great culture and I think we’ve got a lot to offer,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there for us to really grow our membership and grow our footprint.”

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