Within twelve months, Travix, the company behind travel websites like CheapTickets.nl, BudgetAir.com and Vayama.com, has cemented a global footprint, winning Star Alliance’s Online Travel Agent (OTA) of the year among a crop of prestigious awards.
But they also join the likes of KLM & Air France in adopting Data Management Platform (DMP) technology, and transitioned in order to place customers at the centre of their business. They’ve seen their conversions double; and that’s just the start.
What can we learn from their approach?
Director of Brand & Customer Value, Marc Vekemans, talks about the data-driven perspectives which shaped the vision, strategy and created an organisation with people at the heart of its product.
In today’s tangle of digital channels, it sometimes helps to put customer experience into perspective’ says Marc.
When you walk into a bar you visit on a weekly basis; would you expect the bartender to ask what you’d like to drink? Or would you prefer them to recognise you, and have the right beverage ready the minute you walk through the door?
The principle of customer experience never changes, and yet marketing is in a constant state of transition. For the past couple of years, marketing has been transitioning from single channel or click-path, to multichannel - to entire customer journey - and businesses know this needs to happen for them. The question is, where are you on this maturity path? In 2016, companies were mainly learning how to become more relevant, and in doing this - found that marketing is no longer a standalone activity but represents your whole business, from IT, to legal, to customer services.
What does that mean for the travel industry? For us, it meant data activation across all customer channels using a DMP; which down the line, would turn Travix customers into Travix brand ambassadors.
First steps and greater plans
To begin with, this meant a shift to our direct channels: email was both a great start for a personalised campaign - to increase relevance; and great for our business, and to eliminate waste. Our first trigger-based email cases tripled our Click to Open rate (CTO) and doubled our conversion rate for our smaller trial segments. And the next step would be to prioritise journeys for the greatest value groups of customers, serving them exactly the content they need at the right moment.
This was also the precise time for us to shift focus to the customer profile: everything a business does in the future will be based on this single, actionable view of the individual. Whether you’re punching for immediate ROI and waste management - or looking to optimise Cost of Acquisition or Customer Experience, you need to act and build now, to add value and differentiate your proposition next year.
Change brings challenge
But we also had to learn to fail fast when it came to data management change and culture. Rather than making this ‘too agile’, and just involving one small team - we made sure our marketing product vision involved the organisation as a whole. After all, delivering on our promise not to spam people required segmented campaigns at different stages of the customer lifecycle, changing the inner workings of how we did marketing, from margin per booking - to margin per customer. This level of complexity requires automation and scalability, not to mention amassing and unifying our fragmented data.
So how would similar businesses get started? Of course buy-in from everyone, from board level to IT, is crucial. To convince them, always play the customer card: at some point along a business’s growth path, the customer will come first - which seems obvious but sometimes moves out of sight. Without customers, you won’t have a business, and to keep customers, sustainably, you need to inspire loyalty through impeccable customer experiences - for each and everyone, on and off-site. It also helps to preach to the partially converted: Travix was already looking at future strategies for improvement - and they all led back to that single customer profile.
What a DMP team could look like
Gathering data from siloed sources, and shifting to a single customer profile also required a shift in departmental structure, and realised our need to move to multi-disciplinary teams. Firstly, we aligned the product teams with the customer journey - one IT team for each step - from marketing automation to customer service. That was an eyeopener. If you can build customer-centricity into your product, shouldn’t customer interaction then follow naturally? Then, we put commercial marketing teams, complete with channel-based specialists, in place with a focus per market. Cross-pollinating expertise across stages will not only grow your team’s horizons and understanding of the journey as a whole, but knowledge will also not get lost when hiring new people - particularly if you put strategy where the execution is. For example, the performance-driven marketers would be backed by strategists and tooling to facilitate efficient multi-channel marketing. These strategic marketers would collaborate with Business Intelligence (BI) and product development teams.
As mentioned at the start of this article, this is just the start. With the commercial team set up, we’re nearly there. But we keep growing, in customers and in global footprint. We will inevitably discover interesting new channels or new insights along the way, and these become not only technical challenges, but require an openness to new directions and a readiness to re-evaluate the data. Really, it’s not about new customers, countries or channels: if you organise well, even the existing data will deliver you new insights: think about the ability to shift channels and messages, depending on your customer. Think about machine learning, and the opportunities this offers to build on what you have; and your business already has a lot to grab with all hands.
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