How big data reshaped Ngong Ping 360's customer strategy

The need to stay firm in the ever-growing competitive tourism market has always been a big topic for tourist destinations in Hong Kong.

Under the dominance of two leading tourist spots Ocean Park, Disneyland and head to head rival The Peak, smaller destinations like Ngong Ping 360 must go an extra mile to win visitors while at the same time balancing budgets.

Instead of pumping money into aggressive advertising or PR stunts, Ngong Ping 360 is waking up to a smarter way to advertise its attractions - big data.

Without much presence on billboards or in print, the natural attraction on the remote Lantau Island, which pulled 1.65 million visitors last year, seems to have a good understanding of how to get the most valuable data for their business.

"With limited marketing budget but a large target group, which basically points at anyone who has potential to travel to Hong Kong, it's necessary to narrow down our target on the web and identify ideal spots for online ad placements.

“Big data plays a crucial role in obtaining valuable data for us, such as visitors preferences and behaviours," Stella Kwan, head of commerce and marketing of Ngong Ping 360, told Marketing.

For a long time, the core portal for Ngong Ping 360 to acquire feedback from visitors was questionnaires or surveys, from both online and offline channels. But these proved difficult.

"The purpose of the questionnaire is to gain access to what visitors are hoping to get from our place. However, accuracy of the data gained form this channel is not guaranteed as the result can easily be influenced by the environment, mindset of the respondents and the quality of the questions."

It wasn’t until last year when Google launched an ad targeting tool to automatically deliver ads single customers and identify potential customers, that the penny dropped.

The system goes with another useful ad tool - remarketing - which allow advertisers to show ads to users who have previously visited relevant websites.

It’s all based on a much more reliable data type - search data.

"Usually we preset around 1,000 keywords in search engines like Google and Baidu, such as 'Hong Kong travel' or 'tourist attractions in Hong Kong". The system can detect users who key in the search on search engines that match with our preset keywords, in order to display ads on the web they visit."

While 46% of its visitors came from Western countries and Asia, 35% came from China and Macau and the rest from Hong Kong residents, scooping potential visitors on the internet is like looking for a needle in haystack.

Kwan said the tools help narrow down its target users and identify potential visitors to Hong Kong.

More importantly, search data can convert online advertising into sales, she added.

"This kind of data collecting leverages on existing data on search engines, not only does it bring higher ad campaign ROI, it also help save on advertising costs."

She said search data has become the main channel the company gain information to back its marketing planning, amounting to 70% of its data pool. Followed by social media.

"In comparison to survey, social media is a more reliable channel to gain reaction and comments from users. Additionally, social media is equipped with tracking system to record users behaviour on their pages.

"We are not a commodity but a tourist attraction. Some easily obtained data such as users' contacts or personal information are not as valuable as the data of users behaviours tracked on web. Behaviour is now the key of big data."