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商业 - 航空和运输

航空业:大数据有大作为

Katherine Noyes 2014年06月23日

行李追踪、个性化服务、提高旅客忠诚度和优化业务操作,大数据在航空业拥有广阔的应用前景。可以说,航空业已经迎来大数据时代。

    旅客搭乘美国联合航空公司(United Airlines,简称“美联航”)的班机时,通常还会涉及一连串潜在的附加服务,比如升舱、是否有权进入贵宾室等等。

    美联航电子商务与经营副总裁斯科特•威尔森介绍说,按照公司过去采用的“收集与分析”数据法,美联航会把旅客选择这些服务的信息汇总到一起,来看“什么才是最成功的产品,然后据此进行营销。”

    现在,这种方法已经发生了变化。自从今年年初起,美联航已经把“收集、探测、行动”定为新的数据收集三步曲,同时还在革新服务旅客的方式。

    威尔森介绍说:“现在我们会研究旅客是谁,以及他是否有购买我们某种产品的倾向。”现在美联航为了实时评估一名旅客的可能动向,会加入150多个影响旅客消费的变量,以及旅客之前的旅行目的地进行计算,而不再只是把大量旅客数据汇总到一起。

    计算结果大概在200毫秒后就会得出,可以说它是根据一名旅客的实际情况量身打造并动态生成的服务建议。另外,它的服务条款、页面布局、拷贝和其它因素也会根据旅客的具体信息而有所不同。采用新的收据分析法后,联合航空的副业收入年增率超过了15%。

    “航空业催化大数据”

    欢迎来到航空业的大数据时代。从很多方面来看,航空业都是大数据最早的参与者之一。

    R.W. Mann & Co公司的行业分析师鲍伯•曼恩指出:“航空业是一个浸泡在数据中的行业,其中有大量数据是无组织的。直到最近,各大航空公司才能依靠大数据技术来“解决如何识别和提高旅客价值以及如何培养高价值的旅客等问题。”

    美联航的威尔森指出:“航空业一直在收集数据上做得很好,但他们在利用数据上却并不是一直都很擅长。”现在尽管各大航空公司收集的数据越来越多,但存储和处理数据的成本却已经显著下降,因此也降低了航空公司运用数据的难度。联合航空公司的系统中无论任何时候都在处理着1兆兆字节左右的数据。威尔森说:“我们不会保存所有数据,我们必须有选择性地攫取有用的数据。”对于被选中的数据来说,会有一个实时决策引擎负责相关的处理工作,将它们变成有用的信息。

    从行李传送带开始

    大家可以在处理旅客行李方面清楚地看到大数据技术的效用。达美航空(Delta Air Lines)发言人保罗•斯科贝克说:“我们花费了好几年的努力,在行李跟踪上投入了数百万美元的资金。它是我们为旅客提供的核心幕后服务之一。”

    达美航空每年都要处理成百上千万件行李。斯科贝克表示,2014年,达美航空预计总共将处理1.3亿件行李,而且,“每名旅客都有托运完行李上了飞机之后,担心行李是否会丢失的经历。”

    When a customer checks into a flight with United Airlines UAL -0.30% , there is typically an array of potential add-on offers to navigate through: flight upgrades, access to the airline’s United Club, and more.

    Under United’s old “collect and analyze” approach to data, the airline would use information about customers’ choices about those items, in aggregated fashion to “see what the most successful products were, and market with those [insights] in mind,” said Scott Wilson, the company’s vice president of e-commerce and merchandising.

    That approach has changed. As of the beginning of this year, “collect, detect, act” is United’s new data-focused mantra, and it’s changing the way the airline serves its customers.

    “Now we look at who the customer is and his or her propensity to buy certain products,” Wilson explained. More than 150 variables about that customer—prior purchases and previous destinations among them—are now assessed in real time to determine an individual’s likely actions, rather than an aggregated group of customers.

    The result, delivered in about 200 milliseconds later, is a dynamically generated offer tailored to the individual. Its terms, on-screen layout, copy, and other elements will vary based on an individual’s collected data. For United, the refined approach led to an increase in year-over-year ancillary revenue of more than 15 percent, he said.

    ‘Airlines evolved big data’

    Welcome to the big data era in the airline industry, which in many ways was one of its earliest participants.

    “Airlines are awash in data, much of it unstructured,” said Bob Mann, an industry analyst with R.W. Mann & Co. But only recently have airlines been able to use big-data techniques “to solve, among other objectives, how to recognize and enhance customer value, and how to cultivate high-value customers,” he said.

    “Airlines have always been very good at collecting data, but they haven’t always been good at using it,” United’s Wilson said. Now that the costs of storing and processing data have dropped—even as airlines collect more and more of it—it’s becoming easier for a company to act on it. At United, roughly a terabyte of customer data is floating around at any given time within its systems. “We don’t keep it all,” Wilson said. “We have to be selective about what we grab.” For the data that is selected, a real-time decision engine does the crunching to turn it into something useful.

    It starts at the baggage carousel

    One area in which the effects of big data technology are visible is in the handling of customers’ luggage. “We have over a number of years invested millions of dollars in baggage tracking,” said Paul Skrbec, a spokesman with Delta Air Lines. “That was one of those core, behind-the-scenes services for our customers.”

    Millions of bags are checked each year with Delta DAL -0.33% —a total of 130 million are projected for 2014, Skrbec said—and “every customer has had the experience of boarding a plane after checking their bag and wondering if it was there.”

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