Tackling a Serious Business Problem
The Avis Budget Group is devoted to providing customers with the best vehicle
rental experience possible. But, decentralized data meant the company was
unable to guarantee vehicle availability every time a customer clicked an online
ad. Technical limitations made it impossible to correlate ads to fleet availability
or the revenue opportunities generated by local price fluctuations.
Instead, different teams tracked inventory, pricing and digital marketing data.
Each team had limited access and was making isolated decisions. This created
a variety of challenges:
- Ad-bidding decisions were made on a keyword’s past peformance rather
than a forward-looking view of where new leads were needed.
- Ad-bidding decisions were not aligned to fleet inventory.
- The media buyers couldn’t align their strategy with fleet location and inventory.
- Without access to dynamic price changes, media buyers couldn’t align
to price fluctuations.
With no way to integrate the ad buying, inventory management and pricing
information, media buyers made decisions based on broad-brush and out-of-date information and the historical performance of keywords.
Inevitably, this led to some campaigns promoting locations with low
or no inventory. This inflicted a triple blow on the company:
- Marketing would receive a poor return on some of its advertising spend.
- Customers who clicked the ads could be disappointed.
- Revenue was negatively impacted.
The Complexity of Putting the Data Together
Bringing marketing statistics, fleet inventory information and dynamic pricing intelligence together wouldn’t be easy. It was going to require a data-driven solution that had never been attempted before. The new analytics platform would have to manage a staggering amount of highly dynamic detail. With a list of millions of keywords, a fleet of 600,000 vehicles and an ecosystem of 11,000 locations worldwide, the job of integrating different databases with unique information architectures was extremely daunting.
“We needed an environment that allowed us to take all these disparate sources, different data structures and rhythms and ingest them into one new platform,” said Morgan. “It was big, dynamic and highly granular. We needed an environment that could handle it in a very flexible way.”
Morgan and the Avis Budget Group leadership knew it would take a partner with deep skills who could closely integrate with its marketing data science team and provide highly agile and virtual team support. They decided to work with WebbMason Analytics because the company had already demonstrated its leading-edge approach during previous projects.
“On this project, we’ve been doing highly creative work together. The WebbMason Analytics guys are really smart,” said Morgan. “They’re real problem solvers who fearlessly seek out solutions using emerging techniques. It is really collaborative and very transparent.”
Building a Data-Intensive Solution on AWS
Everything, from the quantity of data to the need for high-speed computing power to the scalability of the project, was taken into consideration by the combined Avis Budget Group and WebbMason Analytics team. While several options were considered, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provided the most flexible and robust technology platform.
“The analytics platform brings everything seamlessly together,” said Mike Lang, a Partner at WebbMason Analytics. “It allows the marketing team to make informed choices on where their advertising budget will have the greatest impact.”
The new analytics platform can ingest data from various internal databases and external sources, such as Google and Adobe, into Amazon S3 through SFTP and Amazon Lambda. Data cleaning and processing are achieved via Amazon EMR cluster with auto-scaling.
Internal advance Artificial Intelligence (AI) models generate fleet-availability scores for each rental location and pickup date. The scores are loaded automatically into a digital advertising platform designed to optimize spend across all locations and pick-up dates.
Business stakeholders can interact with the data and results through self-service data visualization dashboards, as well as through Amazon Athena.
Generating Far-Reaching Business Benefits
The new analytics platform has not only solved a pressing business problem, but it has had many far-reaching benefits across the organization.
The company has seen an increase in revenue. Ads, pricing and inventory availability are not just in alignment — they can be predicted. Ad buys are optimized to generate the best results and customer experience.
The technology has been instrumental in bringing people together too. Instead of each department working in isolation, the analytics platform has stimulated a cultural change that facilitates deeper internal collaboration.
In addition, the insights generated by the platform have helped to identify other areas for operational improvement. For example, the team is working on data visualizations to illuminate customer behavior and increase quote conversion rates.
“All the data we can bring into the AWS environment means we can start to build further automation across our marketing channels, as well as create new dashboards for insights we haven’t been able to visualize until now,” said Morgan. “I can just keep adding information and new use cases to the platform.”
About the Client
Avis Budget Group is a leading global provider of mobility solutions. It operates three of the most recognized brands in the industry — Avis, Budget and Zipcar, the world’s leading car-sharing network. The company’s ecosystem comprises 600,000 vehicles across 11,000 rental locations and it operates in 180 countries. Avis Budget Group is committed to industry innovation and leadership.