This is your recommended read: The Murky World of Data Mining
So now we have it. Mark Zuckerberg has finally emerged to address the Global Facebook issues via CNN – the very news channel that Donald Trump claims to have been leading the thrust of ‘Fake News’.
The global scandal which has engulfed the Social Network in the last 10 days relates to the use of our data – not only causing a huge share price slump, but also opening a Pandora’s box in relation to how our personal information is trafficked for profit in a seemingly dark market.
But did Mark Zuckerberg finally face the world to address those consumer data demons, or did he really come out just to rescue his share price?
Of course the blame game will run for months, if not years. It’s already started on both side of the Atlantic, with Zuckerberg being invited to address various Regulatory Bodies. His one curious quote during the CNN interview was about regulation, where he said:
” I think in general technology is an increasingly important trend in the world and I actually think the question is more: what is the right regulation, rather than ‘yes’ or ‘no’, should it be regulated’?‘.
One way or another, the global ‘Analytica Event’ is going to have ramifications for all of us – whether through regulation or how we actually control ourselves and what we do. There are clear question marks around today’s self-regulation, though.
This is a Travel Retail blog, for all things TR related. You read it on your desktop, laptop or on your mobile and NOT via a customised app. Yet, if there was an app, you would need to log in somewhere and download it to your device.
But, guess what, to use the app you will need to authorise a series of ‘Permissions’ and – almost always – this means that the app provider has the right (literally) to strip you naked, however and whenever they want. Otherwise, without you saying ‘yes’, you simply can’t use their app. That’s a virtual monopoly of your data, not a democratic facility for consumer choice!
Has anyone ever actually spent time and scrolled down the ‘Permissions’ page and fully read what rights you are passing over? Well, the fact is, there is very little they haven’t demanded a right to do. This author once had an app for a website project and, the moment you downloaded it, we could see all the emails used in your device, not just the one you registered with. We knew your device, your location, your phone numbers, your cell phone provider and more! Can you imagine what Facebook and the other tech giants know about you?
That was the bad news. The good news is that Travel Tech is one of the leaders in the field of Personalisation. Just scroll Linkedin daily and there won’t be a feed or an article that doesn’t include a post about how Travel can best engage with consumers to maximise sales.
So, what about travellers? These are the billions of people that annually get on a plane or boat or train and who somehow pass by a travel retail store. They can’t buy anything in a Duty Free shop without first buying an international ticket. And to buy that ticket they are going to have to go to Travel Tech.
Fortunately, Travel Tech is not murky. It is one of the few industries that needs your personal data to facilitate the travel booking. BY LAW. Authorities need to know who you are, your ID and other information in order to issue the ticket. So we should be able to have confidence that, in this sector, the world of ‘Darcos’ has not been extended from alleged ‘political influencers’.
But, here lies the rub. Travel Tech may know everything about who is travelling – where and when – even perhaps where they went before. They know your age, gender and maybe even the reason for the trip. In effect Travel Tech know – almost to the hour and certainly to the day – when someone is going to walk through your airport, airline, cruise or ferry store. They know when you will arrive and even when you will likely reach downtown. And they know when you are coming back.
Just like the dark world of political promotion, this data is valuable. Very valuable and, apparently, much more convertible to a vote or a sale than those who are just looking around on Google or Yahoo. Search engines might give you exposure from their targeted ad lotteries, but no specifics related to the actual day of travel or the destination.
Whereas, there’s a cost to all this data trading, which is seemingly trafficked on what appears to be a secondary market. Or it is put to good and proper use by those in the Travel sphere to generate sales.
There has been much talk about Digital at the Spring conference season for Travel Retail. Last week was ACI Europe in Tel Aviv, this week it’s IAADFS in Orlando and Passenger Terminal Expo in Stockholm. Much talk, certainly.And action? Well, not quite so much.
There is more than a glimmer of hope at Heathrow, at Budapest and on Singapore Airlines. Meanwhile others, notably Dufry, the world’s biggest airport travel retailer, stated that they do not want to be a digital company, rather a retailer that maximises retail.
The big question is: how do they intend to acquire all the traveller data traffic that is out there and maximise it to the full as a retailer? There’s another big conference season coming in the Autumn, so perhaps we will hear more from them and others at that time.
One thing is for sure. Travel Retail now needs to move fast – certainly faster than Google, who have already muscled in on flights and are about to make their move on Duty Free, too.
Bearing in mind that their algorithms can’t work out the similarity between a ‘fag’ and a ‘smoke’, it’s unlikely that they will care much about how they profit from the difference between Tax Paid or Tax Free shopping.
At the same time, media moguls are moving in on inflight wifi and entertainment streaming. For sure they will let you watch the next episode of ‘Darcos’ for a fee, interspersed no doubt by ads provided by your local high street store and/or major brands that sell in them. Further cannibalisation from land-based travel retail?
Importantly, the much quoted threat to Travel Retail is not likely to be Amazon after all. Rather, it comes from within. The inability to innovate, be flexible and versatile and change the habits of a lifetime. TR suffers from real inertia.
The ’ house’ needs to manage itself and its external challenges a whole lot better if the passenger conversion factor does not plummet even further.