binary-1327493_1920If you’ve scrolled through your Facebook or LinkedIn feed today, you’d have come across pictures of friends, quotes, videos and some ads. The last thing on your mind would’ve been that what you’re reading has been carefully selected for you. Using clever algorithms  and machine learning, technology has become today’s gatekeeper of information. The sheer data volume of your recorded preferences and likes is used to personalise your feed. Not based on what you want to see, but what the machine THINKS is best for you.

Take it a step further, and see how the analysis of people based on their social media  activity may have helped to propel Donald Trump to victory by tailoring content to influence voters’ behaviour (as expressed in a recent Das Magazin article).

Having read this, I dubiously ran a profile on my own online persona based on just 17 of my Facebook  “likes”. The result was shockingly accurate!

Scary stuff – but let’s not make this about the Presidential Election. Rather, let’s think about the methodology behind it.

In corporate travel, the travel manager is the gatekeeper of information about traveller behaviour within an organisation. The focus is on using data to refine travel policy, to maximize cost efficiency, and protect travellers from harm.

Today’s travel programme may now be evolving to include more traveller-centric markers, encouraging engagement, whilst still balancing the need for safety and savings.

But what if we take that a step further? What would (could and should) one do if you have access to the traveller’s online persona?

Is it possible to incorporate this information into the travel programmes? And use it to engage with travellers to predict behaviour? And/or influence/encourage compliance? And that then begs the big question: should we?

Personalisation is the topic “de jour” and we know with the impending arrival of NDC, suppliers will be better equipped to distribute richer content. As well as tailor offerings to clients based on their user history– thereby effectively influencing behaviour.  This is, of course, a cause for concern to travel managers who need their travelling colleagues to follow company policy.

As a result, there is much conversation in our industry about treating travellers as a customer.  Pretend we’re in a B2C market and give choices. The strategic framework of how to put this in practice is just starting to emerge  – but where does that begin and where does it end?

It’s already a delicate balancing act, using the information at your disposal to achieve positive business outcomes, delivering a traveller-centric programme and managing cost efficiencies.

At what point would we be crossing the line? Using past booking data at our disposal to influence our travellers’ behaviour? Sending tailored texts to achieve compliance? Or using social media information for personalized content (and potentially infringing on the right to privacy)?

What do you think? How far could (and should) we go to achieve saving, safety, and compliance?  I’d love to hear your views!