Travel companies are beginning to take a broader view of their consumers while considering the overall consumer journey, in a shift from a previous focus on lower-funnel transactional efforts, said Ethan Chuang, vice president data services – loyalty, at Mastercard, at the recent Skift Global Forum.

“This is increasingly interesting as consumers are looking at the ways in which they travel and as they’re becoming more conscientious about the modes in which they travel,” said Chuang.

As a data and analytics partner for numerous travel clients, Mastercard has identified three key areas of focus as the sector broadens its view of today’s consumer. “Acquisition, engagement, and optimization,” Chuang said, is where the opportunities lie.

On the first point, travel brands can use cross-sector analysis to find new consumers, Chuang said, highlighting one case study with a luxury hotel group that studied where its prospective guests liked to shop. By determining niche affinity groups, the hotel brand could better market to the correct audiences and increase the conversion rates of particular marketing campaigns.

When it comes to engagement, “each interaction with [consumers] is a signal to understand more about them,” Chuang said. By considering various data points, travel firms can better understand — and engage with — consumers wherever they are on a journey. Using new tactics like “card linking,” that lets travel firms better understand that the payment method used for a trip is representative of a particular traveler, airlines can better compensate individuals in the case of a delay. That gives travel brands “the opportunity to take a service disruption and make it a service recovery,” Chuang said.

As for optimization, Mastercard is working with travel partners to create new and interesting experiences that make loyalty programs more valuable, Chuang said. They’re also collaborating with airlines to optimize ancillary sales, including upgrades to premium cabins. “As a result,” he said, “they’ve been able to engage with new customers” who never would’ve considered “bidding up” to those most expensive seats.

“We believe there’s a huge opportunity to leverage customer insights and data analysis,” Chuang added.

For the complete conversation, watch the full video of the session, Rethinking Loyalty and Innovating with Confidence, held during the Skift Global Forum 2019.