• Victoria Searl

Why track & trace is key to recovery

As hospitality businesses across the UK edge closer to reopening, the details surrounding the mandatory participation in the government’s track & trace initiative remain somewhat vague. 

At a time when businesses are fighting to get open as quickly and safely as they can, the added pressure and uncertainty of track & trace must sometimes feel like a stress many could do without. 

As we come to terms with reduced capacity, reduced confidence and a market already starting to feel battered by redundancies, cutting costs will become a defining factor of many hospitality survival stories. 


But what has this got to do with track & trace? Well according to Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, inventors of the NPS system, retention is anywhere between 5-25 times cheaper than acquiring new customers. I know where I’d be placing my marketing bets right now. 


So how do we know which of our customers are most valuable to us? And we really do have to think like that at the moment, because with some businesses running at a fraction of their usual capacity, we want to make sure we’ve got our most valuable customers taking up chair space, even if it’s just to buy us the freedom to support those without the spending power we’d like. And i’ve seen some truly beautiful examples of this in brands opening plans.


While we have a continued responsibility to protect our customers and teams - something that comes naturally to an industry as heavily regulated and passionate as hospitality - there is a once in a lifetime opportunity hiding in plain sight.  


Collecting data from as many people as possible, makes the track & trace system as robust and effective as possible, reducing the chance of a second wave - which would surely be fatal for many of our businesses. 


And there’s an additional silver lining. Most businesses are capturing only a fraction of their footfall data, and few are using the insight that data can provide to drive strategy or action. By being proactive about track & trace, EVERY customer could in theory leave a digital footprint, offering businesses a truly unprecedented level of insight (and growth opportunity when used in the right way).​​​​​​​


While the details are yet to be finalised, track & trace providers are typically leaning towards collecting names, email addresses, phone numbers and visit times & durations; enabling you to identify (and if the user already appears in your data somewhere - profile) your most valuable customers - defined by their frequency, recency & loyalty to your brand.


A percentage of those new users being tracked through your chosen channel will also decide to opt-in to marketing communications, giving you a golden opportunity to enhance your understanding of the behaviours, preferences and motivations of these customers first to come out and enjoy everything hospitality has to offer. Remember it’s this first wave of visitors who will lead and convince the rest to follow them.


It’s absolutely vital we protect our customers’ trust in us and the systems surrounding data protection, as well as their health, and you must decide for yourselves the most appropriate balance between proactivity, legal requirement and customer comfort. Speaking to the ICO (Information Commissioners Office), they confirmed that by anonymising (i.e. removing any information by which an individual can be identified), the data remains completely compliant.


And in some cases, data must be disposed of within the given 21 day timeframe, meaning we have a narrow window through which to grab this opportunity. This means that we can’t just gather it and sit on it until data becomes a hot topic in the boardroom. We must, and should, use it now. 


Hospitality is a unique business, built and run on passion and gut instinct more than any other sector. According to McKinsey, "We have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks”. In order to survive what will be one of the most fundamental shifts in society since the dawn of the digital age, we must continue to drive this pace and equip our brands with the clarity, certainty and direction only data can provide. 


So, don’t just fling open the doors on July 4th and beyond and accept whatever comes your way. Think carefully about the data you likely already have sitting within your business, whether from WIFI, CRM, payment, social media; and the data you have the opportunity to gather now. This is not about coercing people into giving you their precious data under the guise of caring for their wellbeing, but it is about grabbing it when it’s offered. 


And use the insight that lies within, to plot your strongest possible recovery. 


Please do get in touch if you’d like some help with this. I wish you all a very strong, and speedy recovery.




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