How Dublin airport uses big data to improve the customer’s journey

We live in the era of ‘big data’, and that’s a fact. Each day we create over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. In the last couple of years we’ve created 90% of the world’s data, according to an IBM Marketing Cloud report. In the past data was a marketers ‘holy grail’ – now that they are flooded by data the real skill lies in separating what can add value from the rest.

Ahead of the Digital Content Summit, taking place this month in London, we caught up with Jan Richards, Head of Insights and Planning at Dublin Airport, to discuss the challenges marketers face processing data and the ways to deal with it.

“Although the era of big data helps us create a singular view of the customer, which is what we need, it’s harder and harder to get specific insights from it. Distilling all this data down to a single thought, that shapes strategy, or helps market a product, becomes very challenging,” says Jan Richards. “I haven’t found an organisation that can stand up and say they’ve solved the ‘big data” challenge,” adds Richards.

Customers, for their part, nowadays expect companies to know them and cater to their likes, needs and wants, which piles pressure on the marketers. Jan Richards thinks that, in order to create that perfect customer journey, marketers should take a step back: “You have to keep clarity of purpose. So what is it that you are actually trying to do?  When you have so much information, it’s easy to get sidetracked. You’ve got to learn what information to say ‘no’ to and how to be completely focused.”

She says that, for Dublin Airport, the purpose is building a more rewarding customer journey. Once the purpose is formulated, there are four simple but crucial questions that marketers need to answer: who, what, when and how. “You have to know who your customer is, what it is they need, and when they need it, and finally, how you are going to deliver it to them.” These questions, she says, will help you to stay focused and serve as good filters for incoming data. She warns, however, that it’s not easy to answer these questions.

“Every department in the organisation will often have a different view of who the customer is. The challenge is to create the same view of the customer across your whole organization,” says Richards.

Also, she adds, it’s important that the data on the customer is not ‘owned’ by one department: “At the moment, the one thing that people are struggling with in organisations is IT. Because it’s the era of ‘big data’, it is natural that IT might assume they own the data. But they actually own data processes, which isn’t the same as owning the customer.”

After you’ve figured out who your customer is, you have to understand what the customer needs: “That’s about understanding the universal trends, the trends of your target market, your environment, your passenger or your customer journey and what the customer or data trends are.”

The challenge here, she says, is to “keep it personal”: “Because there is so much information, it’s hard to see people as people. The information on one person is personal and human, but the information on millions turns them into statistics,” says Richards. “So what we at Dublin Airport are doing is putting the person back at the heart of everything and not just seeing them as a ‘car park’ or a ‘lounge’ user”.

Richards says that if you have a clear vision of who your customer is and what they need, you will be able to understand when they need it and how to deliver it.

Richards and her team have created a number of digital solutions that create a better passenger journey at the airport: “You have to use digital to answer all of their needs and there are lots of different ways to do that. So you hold information and you focus on a person and what that person needs, but you don’t regard that person as somebody to be sold to, rather your purpose is centered around how you can help improve their time at Dublin Airport. So you work out what devices the person is using and make sure you deal with that digitally and you put on those devices what they want and where they want it: an app or a website for instance,” explains Richards.

Knowing that people want to be entertained at the airport, for instance, they’ve provided a free fast-speed Wi-Fi and introduced Dub stream, an entertainment channel that’s only available at the airport and is divided into 15-minute entertainment slots: “It’s not just any entertainment, we provide cultural experience with it. It’s Irish content and you can’t get it anywhere else. It’s different for kids and adults, Irish comedy, Irish food items, Irish drama, interviews with famous Irish people.”

“Transfer passengers, by contrast, have very limited time. So, for them, we launched an app called Dub Hub which works like a mini Google map to help them navigate through the airport,” explains Richards. “We have also introduced services where passengers can easily book car parks, business loungers, even some VIP services.”


To hear more from Jan Richards, join her at the Digital Summit that’s taking place on the 23d of May in London.


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