Big data vs. bigger data - which reaps the most rewards?

29/03/2018 By Katie Vosper

How do different organisations in the attractions and travel sector use ‘big data’? I recently attended the Visitor Studies Group 'Big Data' conference to find out just that.  My conclusion?  Not at much as you might expect.

Only TfL demonstrated a significant use of big data – in their case, that which they collect automatically through their systems and processes, recording actual customer behaviour.  Their dedicated data team uses this massive dataset to address a variety of issues. One example is their ability to pinpoint crowding problems down to five minute slots on specific tube platforms, which then allows them to take positive action in managing the issue.  I’ll try to remember that next time my nose is pressed against someone’s unwashed armpit at rush-hour…

They are the exception that proves the rule. But we were there to learn, and with the sector adopting more sophisticated CRM systems and the possibility of monitoring visitors’ online behaviour, the potential to use ‘big data’ is growing.

However, discussions at the conference about the 'big questions' facing attraction management suggested that big data is unlikely to be the answer.  These questions tended to focus more on the external market environment and where their respective site sits in relation to other attractions.  This is best answered through 'bigger data' – market research data with large sample sizes.

Bench-marking surveys, such as ALVA's visitor attraction bench-marking (now with over 90 leading sites bench-marked), offer huge datasets for in-depth analysis of market trends and site performance against peers, and are tailored to the questions that attractions need to answer.

ALVA’s benchmark encompasses the entire visitor experience, from conception (marketing, motivations for visiting) through the experience (what people think, do and feel) and outcomes (financial – through secondary spend, and reputational – e.g. revisits and recommendations).  We run the benchmarking survey on ALVA’s behalf, conducting 37,500 interviews annually and obtaining an excellent dataset for in-depth market analysis.

Want to know more about social media analysis, or how ‘bigger data’ could help your organisation? Drop us a line.