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11.12.2015

The keys to Big Data in tourism and retail: everything has changed

Image | Jaap Joris

In the 21st century the way of travelling, buying and finding information about our surroundings has changed. Citizens have gone from being passive users to participating actively in their surroundings, using their smartphones as their main tool. The physical networks of the 20th century, such as the electricity grid or the public transport network, have evolved into digital infrastructures. Use of materials and systems such as optical fibre, Wi-Fi and sensors have converted cities into hyper-connected units, living things that over time have become known as smart cities.

The cities, which used to be static, now interact with citizens and visitors, as thanks to new technology, a digital path through all actions undertaken is being laid. This invisible imprint feeds the digital network, which day-in-day-out is storing all of this behavioural data, such as emotional functions: where to eat and sleep, but also places where citizens can shop and spend their free time. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and forums or travel websites like TripAdvisor and Minube, are digital tools that reflect the user’s physical activities.

Big-data-journey

Currently, only citizens are capable of living in an integral manner with the digital experience; Companies, however, function independently from it, therefore not acknowledging the way people act beyond the borders of their business. Each shop, museum and restaurant can extract information based on the digital and physical visits made; however they do not have access to the same citizen that other trades do. How is it possible to contact the user in order to offer them a better and more personalised experience?

A company’s future in the data

A few years ago, it was companies who were the first to have access to technology, and then it was sold to the user. However, nowadays, it is the user who is the first to arrive at the technology; to overcome this obstacle and offer a better sales experience, it is fundamental that companies adapt themselves to this new situation.

Technology known as Big Data will be the technology that will help companies to advance to the needs of the hyper-connected user. The Big Data goes beyond simple data analysis; it consists of extracting valuable conclusions from the analysis made using algorithms capable of processing hundreds of millions of records from sources that were apparently lost forever. The birth rate vs the weather conditions or the number of takeaway orders vs what was on the television are just some examples to list a few.

In order to obtain accurate analysis and generate better value proposals for the users, on the one hand, it is necessary for companies to establish their objectives before applying the technology; for example identify which data they want to ascertain and what strategy they want to follow to achieve this.

On the other hand, they should stop competing with each other and group themselves into ecosystems. Collaboration between companies from the same ecosystem in order to share, to a greater or lesser degree, the data generated, will lead to a better understanding of the industry or retail, which will ultimately benefit the whole community. New professional profiles such as data scientist, data analyst and data strategist, which will be generated by implementing this technology, will be responsible for assisting corporations throughout the process. More efficiency, more personalised experiences and a better loyalty strategy are some of the challenges that companies will have to assume in the future.

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These are some of the conclusions made by Carlos Cuffí, manager of the Mobile World Capital Barcelona’s Smart Living programme, during the “Big Data in the smart destination era” conference, which was held under the framework of Big Data Week, a week of Big Data events that was celebrated in Barcelona in November.