Director, Performance Strategy and Planning
Boosting brand performance dramatically with SAS
SAS helps Intercontinental Hotel Groups compete more strategically
As one of the world’s largest hotel companies, IHG collects massive amounts of data. Its challenge was to use data from multiple sources and gain the insights needed to help drive performance. With help from SAS® Analytics, the owner of the iconic Holiday Inn brand (and several others) is doing just that.
IHG has seven brands, 4,400 hotels and more than 650,000 rooms in over 100 countries. Along with Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, its portfolio includes the luxury InterContinental Hotels & Resorts brand, the upscale Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts brand, the boutique brand, Hotel Indigo, and the Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites extended-stay brands. David Schmitt is tasked with bringing in external data and tying it into sales and marketing to understand what drives performance. "Like most sectors of the economy, the hotel industry was really impacted by the recession," says Schmitt, Director of Performance Strategy and Planning. "The industry saw a pullback in travel from both business and leisure travelers, resulting in the biggest decline in industry performance that we've ever seen. But as demand is returning we continue to look for increased opportunities to attract guests," Schmitt explains.
In the past, Schmitt's group tried to analyze data but kept knocking up against data set limitations and spent too much time trying to pull all the data together. "We deal with a lot of external and internal data. Historically, we've struggled to pull that data together on a regular basis in a format that we could use to analyze more easily and understand what was going on." He described the previous process as "digging at the data and stitching it together. We spent so much time configuring, manipulating and assembling data that it left us very little time to actually analyze."
SAS has changed that. “In the last year we’ve used SAS to pull together all of this different data in a very fast fashion, so we have a lot more time to find insights. With more time for analysis, we’re better able to discover new insights into what drives the performance of our brands.”
Specifically, IHG is able to understand how the combination of sales and marketing activities and industry and competitive factors impact performance. "Our investment in SAS has returned value that is quite remarkable. There's been a lot of information that has been locked up in our data that we have not been able to get our hands on because of the complexity and the time it would take to do that."
I definitely think SAS is helping us gain a competitive edge. We're finding new insights in how our sales and marketing efforts are driving our brand performance.
Schmitt cites as an example a recently completed analysis on the factors that drive top-line performance for a specific brand. Using SAS, he was able to unearth an insight into how the nearby presence of certain competitors affected the performance of the brand's hotels. Before using SAS, doing this analysis was too labor-intensive. "The amount of effort that it would take to evaluate every one of those competitors' brands and to see which ones even mattered just wouldn't have been possible," says Schmitt.
In addition, Schmitt's group has more confidence in the information it is producing. In the past, the tedious process of trying to get the data together left concern that something was missed. "The way we're assembling our data is more reliable and robust, so we spend less time questioning how we put that data together. We have the tools that really help us provide robust models and extract insights that we have much more confidence in than we had before.''
Schmitt says he feels his group has only scratched the surface of what SAS can do for IHG. "We're only just now learning about some of the features and capabilities,'' Schmitt said, noting that the training that came with SAS has been excellent. "Going forward, it is a matter of improving our skill sets within the team and better understanding what those opportunities are.''
Ultimately, what Schmitt's team is gaining is the ability to compete. "I definitely think SAS is helping us gain a competitive edge. We're finding new insights in how our sales and marketing efforts are driving our brand performance."
A need to work quickly and efficiently with large data sets to understand how prices and offerings stack up against the competition.
Increased insight into how the distance to certain competitors impacts performance.