Skift Take

Whether behavioral, transactional, demographic, or otherwise, data has become the cornerstone of modern marketing strategy. While travel brands are in an advantageous position to acquire data on their customers, figuring out how to act upon that information is a critical hurdle.

This post comes from Epsilon’s Jennifer Bedford. Earlier this year, Epsilon and Adobe partnered with Skift to create the 2017 Digital Transformation Report. Download the full report for free here.

I don’t know about you, but the constant barrage of stimulus from today’s always-on world makes it very difficult to get my attention.  My attention span is so fractionalized that it’s really easy to pass over messages unless they grab me right away. Everything is so digital these days, from social media, to text messages, to emails, that grabbing me isn’t easy as all the stimulus competes for my attention. What generally captures my consideration are the messages that speak to me personally or have extremely relevant content that engage my interest.  If my time is going to be spent with a brand, then the communication needs to be personalized to me.

According to an Oct 2016 Accenture newsroom survey, 56% of consumers are more likely to engage with brands that recognize them, 58% more likely to make a purchase when relevant recommendations and offers are presented, and 65% more likely to continue engaging with a brand that remembers them and can refer back to their purchase history.

The trick is: how do these communications know what to say to me or how I will react? How does a digital communication have information about me in order to say something meaningful and personal? Having the right data and the right tools to deliver a seamless experience are the keys.

Data Is Often Undervalued or Misunderstood

Whether behavioral, transactional, demographic, propensities, or otherwise, the data about customers ignites the personalized conversation. Having a wealth of data to act upon enables a multitude of options that wouldn’t exist without it.  

For starters, having customers’ transactional and behavioral data enables you to look at their patterns and glean insights such as: knowing what places they have traveled to, what level of service they are accustomed to, what price ranges they are willing to pay, frequency, and so forth. If you couple this type of data with other profile information such as customer affiliations, online behaviors, demographics, and modeled scoring, it creates a level of personalization that can really grab your customer’s attention.

An example of this is Kimpton’s promotional emails. They take into consideration where you have traveled and the types of interests you have. Behind the scenes, they are tracking hundreds of behaviors and points of data that enables Kimpton to engage its customers with personalized amenities and surprise benefits.

How do you take your data to the next level for personalization?  

You create an analytic approach that evaluates the explicit and implicit behaviors and compiled data about your customers. Understanding which aspects of your digital experience are most relevant and compelling to your customers, and how to act upon that information, is critical to evolving the dialog and creating a better experience.Start by collecting behaviors and actions across channels, then add traditional web metrics such as page views, device usage, clicks, etc., then append variables that have been derived from modeling techniques and 2nd and 3rd party data. Once you have these types of variables, they can drive dynamic personalization.

Let’s assume you have the data figured out; you have a plentitude of data to pull from, you have unparalleled analytics, modeling techniques, and engagement algorithms that tell you when and what to say to your customers… but how do you deliver these messages and dynamically change the content to best suit the channel or circumstance for the customer?  What does this proverbial toolbox look like?

The best tools are the ones that are designed to work together and complement each other.  

The “toolbox” keeps everything together and functions seamlessly so that the content, delivery, analytics, and data harmoniously create the experience for your customer.

Let’s start with experience management.  In an Economist Intelligence Unit poll, 63% of customers felt “numb” by the personalized experience.  How do we comprehensively manage our customers’ experiences? What enables the governance and business management of content across our website, mobile apps, emails, and social platforms? Further, how do we ensure the content and messaging across all channels is consistent and optimized?

There are tools for this! The tool should create digital interfaces for your brand and have the capability to dynamically change content so your customer receives the most engaging and relevant experience. Further, this tool should have the ability to put marketers in the driver’s seat to customize landing and web pages, create emails and mobile messages, add rules to govern what is seen, load new images, change content, and so forth. Having a single tool that manages all aspects of the customer experience is a solid business management practice, and it ultimately benefits the customer by making the offers and content across channels consistent.

If your marketing team is spending time in different systems attempting to align various channel messages and recreating the content for each channel, that is time that could be spent envisioning new offers, creating new types of content, and adding optimization approaches that generate value.

How does this work in practice?  

Let’s say you want to launch a new campaign that promotes various hotel properties across three core regions: Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America. Some of these properties are beachfront getaways, others are focused on entertainment and tourism, while others are high-profile conference properties with heavy business travel. Based on data, business rules, and analytic algorithms, the tools would determine where the customer is most likely to travel, what types of interests the customer has, and predict which set of hotels would be most compelling to the customer. Once these attributes are established, the content would automatically change because it is driven from those attributes. For example, an image of a beach in Europe may display for the customer that travels to London once a month and has shown a propensity to stay at beachfront properties during leisure travel. Another set of content may show a large Los Angeles conference hotel for a business road warrior that travels 50 weeks out of the year. The possibilities are endless, and by capitalizing on tools that dynamically change the content based on rules and algorithms, customers can receive 1:1 personalized content that is truly customized.  

One of my favorite cases is the interception of beacon data. This modern channel provides a world of possibilities for travel. Many travel and hospitality providers are installing beacons in order to enable interactive experiences with customers. By intercepting the data from the beacons and identifying customers through mobile apps, the customer can receive offers and messages relevant to their location.  If a spa, restaurant, or similar service is nearby, a message can be triggered to the customer’s mobile app that engages the customer and prompts immediate, real-time action. Whether in hotels, on cruise ships, or in an airport lounge waiting on a flight, mobile devices provide a portal to a new dimension of opportunity in talking with customers.  

So, what’s in your toolbox?  The next generation of personalization is here.  Let’s start getting personal!       

This post comes from Epsilon’s Jennifer Bedford. Earlier this year, Epsilon and Adobe partnered with Skift to create the 2017 Digital Transformation Report. Download the full report for free here.

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Tags: adobe, Epsilon, personalization, The Digital Transformation Brief

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