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Finding Ways to Meet Consumers in Emerging Spaces:
Loyalty-based CRM can’t simply be pushed from a brand;
it has to be pulled through from associates


An Interview with John Gardner, President & CEO, Integrative Logic


By Ritesh Gupta
May 2010
 
Travel businesses continue to gather customer preferences and have been looking to provide improved personalized features.
 
Significantly, there is a continued struggle as consumers have moved away from traditional digital assets and moved to social space.
 
For their part, marketers have become a lot more attuned to using data and presenting personalization and customizations in digital assets, according to John Gardner, President and CEO, Integrative Logic.

Gardner says now the challenge is finding ways to meet consumers in emerging spaces; namely in the realm of social media and mobile channels.

“While these mediums don’t lend themselves as effectively to personalization and customization, the travel businesses that are able to accomplish personalization and customization will have a critical edge over competitors in the travel space,” says Gardner, who is scheduled to speak at the Online Marketing Strategies for Travel USA conference which will take place in Miami (2-3 June).

Gardner spoke to EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta about developing true one-to-one marketing communications, personalization of web and digital experience and much more. Excerpts:
 
How should one go about developing true one-to-one marketing communications and customer experiences across a varied customer base?

John Gardner: The critical step to developing true one-to-one marketing communications is in organizing analyzing and segmenting the database. Many companies make the mistake of rushing through these strategic steps in order to implement the tactical portion of their marketing plan. This is a critical mistake. A one-to one marketing communications plan goes much deeper than finding out what your customers last clicked on and their name. It is a 360-degree examination of the customer: their intent, motivations, demographics and psychographics, geography, media consumption, as well as transactions. The key to one-to one communications is developing true attitudinal segmentation methodology that ties into a segmented channel strategy that allows you to take advantage of ways consumers utilize content and make sure the content they receive is as relevant as possible.
 
Effectively implementing and managing is no mean feat and requires experience. What should one be wary of?

John Gardner: Firstly, one should be wary of the fact that there is no quick fix or shortcut when it comes to cleaning and collating data. You cannot turn this marketing challenge into a technical exercise. Technology is an enabler but it is not the end-all-be all.
Second, one should be wary to make sure to focus on the difference between relevance and trying to create one-to-one marketing for the sake of creating a tactic. Experience has shown that organizations tend to look for a “plug and play” solution that never will adapt to existing business process of data collection or ongoing touch point management. Finally, don’t be so tied to specific channel, part of 1:1 experience is understanding how at different points of a brand relationship, different channels play better role at different times. You must leverage this into your strategies.

It is surely the objective of every company to garner as much information from all consumer touch points, both online and offline. Has it really formed the back bone of customized communications strategy for all brand users?
 

John Gardner: Info gathering is critical; it is the way to create relevance. Collection of information forms the marketing backbone of everything that has to be done for a brand. If you don’t have data you can’t create relevance, if you are not relevant, you don’t stand out in the market against competitors. In the travel space, with every incremental dollar and customer being critical, not having data to create relevance is a deal breaker.

Last year an executive told me: Every page of the website in the future will effectively be individual to the user, a major move towards this, this year will be the release of TLD’s, companies that can afford and know how to effectively utilize this technology will undoubtedly be industry leaders. What do you make of such developments?

John Gardner:
I equate this to personal URL’s (PURL’s). The personalization of web and digital experience is critical because more people are gathering information and engaging with brands online. For example, in the travel space, for every one booking you make, you may have three to six visits to brand assets. The more personalized we are able to make these assets, the more relevant we become and the more quickly we can move people from “look to book.” We are looking into PURL’s for not only what our customers like, but also for the predictive aspect to supply inferred preferences to our customers in order to enhance brand experience.

Behavior analytics help us understand and predict customers’ desires and to more effectively serve relevant content and products in real time, ultimately increasing satisfaction and conversion. How do you assess the adoption of behavior analytics at this stage?

John Gardner: It is critical.

Behavior analytics is the critical heart of database marketing. It goes back to the days when retailers used transactional (RFM) analytics to make sure they took care of their best customers; those who bought more and shopped more departments. Behavior analytics has now expanded to engagement analytics on websites, referrals, and social commentary on a brand. In recent years there has been a movement from behavior being purely financial to analysis of behavior engagement across transactional metrics, responses, engagements, referrals, clicks and in-store purchases. This is the most critical element of brand metrics. It is the one thing marketers can affect in analytics. The rest has to do with understanding who the customer is and their motivation for purchasing, which is difficult to control.

The hotel associates are an integral part of the CRM process and it is important that they understand the complete “engine” in which they are involved from the very beginning, through ongoing training and incentives. Are hotels undermining the potential of this workforce in impacting a customer much more significantly than an email communication? Or should they complement each other?

John Gardner: By nature, CRM is managing customer relationships with a brand from point of introduction to brand advocacy. In the hotel space, a critical touch-point is the associate. They are the face of the brand and first human pull-through of a data marketing initiative. The travel industry can look to the example set by the retail industry where store associates create impact with customers by knowing a customer’s buying habits and how they respond to offers and using this knowledge as a way to stay connected. Loyalty-based CRM can’t simply be pushed from a brand; it has to be pulled through from associates.

EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing Strategies for Travel USA conference will take place in Miami (2-3 June).
For more information, click here or contact:

About EyeforTravel
EyeforTravel is a leading media company specializing in business intelligence for the travel and tourism industry. EyeforTravel provides a series of senior executive travel conference on a diverse range of topics including travel distribution, online marketing, social media, mobile and revenue management.  EyeforTravel also provides some of the most in depth research into global online travel markets and trends. For more information visit www.eyefortravel.com
 
Contact:

Gina Baillie
VP Global Marketing & Events
+44 (0) 207 375 7197 (UK)
gina@eyefortravel.com

 

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