Dark Data: The Billion Dollar Opportunity


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How can airlines, hotels, and travel companies leverage dark data capabilities?

Every organization collects, stores and retains portions of dark data. It’s the digital equivalent of emotional baggage which hangs around after every user interaction, transaction, and customer engagement.

In fact, not using data effectively is costing United Airlines almost $1 Billion annually in lost revenue.

Gartner Inc. describes dark data as “information assets that organizations collect, process and store in the course of their regular business activity, but fail to use for other purposes.”

For travel companies with a strong online presence, dark data represents a sizable portion of all data stored. Such examples might include:
– How many times a user resets their password
– IP address when a user logs into your website/app
– Last email communication date to your customers
– Mobile handset type, or web browser version
– Free text feedback on a hotel stay or recent flight
– Additional passengers or guest names on a ticket or hotel room

These data points or features are often overlooked by marketing teams as serving any useful purpose, as there is a perception that this type of information is only collected for compliance, fraud or regulatory requirements.

infographic by lucidworks

How can you turn dark data into active, revenue generating data?

This is where data science, marketing, and business intelligence need to get their heads together to find new ways of activating dark data to provide new opportunities for the organization. While dark data can appear dull and uninteresting on the surface; there are methods to turn it into highly granular, rich customer insights.

Here are a few key steps to get you started:

  1. Log-ins to your website or mobile application, what city/country are the IP addresses? Are you logging each location a user visit and creating a virtual map of their travels? This is particularly compelling when creating a 360-degree view of your customer.
  2. Additional passengers/guest names on a reservation. Not only does this give insight to homophily of the user and fuel your social network graph of which users are centrally connected and influential, but it also provides rich insight into their family and workplace. Link this data with social graphing, and you’ll quickly obtain age, gender, and behavioral traits.
  3. Mobile phone data. This simple piece of data will illuminate an array of new product and marketing opportunities, and provide an additional segmentation layer to improve marketing effectiveness. From mobile phone data, it’s possible to know which telco partners you should bring on board (which will activate even MORE opportunities), you’ll know where your users are in the world, in real time, if they have recently purchased tickets with another airline etc.
  4. Free text input, such as feedback can be passed through cognitive text analysis tools to determine if the general sentiment of the feedback is positive of negative. Linking the user profile to your internal database can also determine if this user is sending mixed messages on social media compared to surveys and feedback forms.

Dark data can be a tremendously powerful weapon when executed. It’s the key to finding new insights, creating new revenue opportunities, developing new partnerships and shifting your business into the data-driven century.

Mark Ross-Smith
Mark is a big data and loyalty specialist in the travel industry. Advising airlines, hotels and loyalty programs on strategies to drive new revenue through big data innovation.


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