A first stab at using personalisation to drive customer intent was so successful it inundated boutique online hotel retailer Mr & Mrs Smith with inquiries.
Tamara Heber-Percy, co-founder and chief technology officer, told this week’s Abta Travel Convention in Ljubljana, Slovenia, that she has battled with the concept of allowing an mathematical algorithm to determine marketing strategy.
But she said taking a personalised approach through using data insight was the future, although firms had to be prepared to get it wrong and understand that results won’t come over night.
“Personalisation I do believe is the future but there’s still a long way to go,” she said
“This is the start of a journey for us. It’s definitely a two-way conversation and learning to listen to your customers is really important because not all of them want a two-way conversation they just want to come on your site and book.”
Having significantly increased its tagging for hotels, destinations and experiences, from a maximum of 10 to over 100 for each individual product, Mr & Mrs Smith ran its first personalised email campaign in February.
This was an attempt to use personalisation at the start of the sales process rather than just to capture the booking at the bottom end of the sales funnel.
Heber-Percy said she was particularly interested on driving intent, and the company started to engage with food lovers on Facebook and Twitter ahead of February’s campaign.
This was based on tags it knew were highly profitable and the results saw the firm flooded with 600 inquiries for type of trips it had targeted.
Heber-Percy said: “We were actually so inundated we actually let some customers down because our teams couldn’t get back to them in time. Since then we learned to stagger it and throttle it.
“Google was in the picture but actually it was something we were able to get ahead of the game on and create that circle where we were in conversation with customers right from the beginning.”
Assessing the general concept of personalisation, Heber-Parcy added: “You will get it wrong. The first two personalised emails we sent out didn’t work, I could see no difference between that and the test.
“We have learned how to tweak that and we have seen engagement levels go up. It does work. Our business is growing 50% year on year this year.
“I can’t attribute that all to personalisation but I do know when customers see personalised emails, personalised results they do engage. This is why everyone is talking about it because the technology is there to enable it. It can improve customer experience. It can create customer delight and increase conversion and therefore profitability.”
Mr & Mrs Smith now creates a detailed personalised digital IDs for all visitors based on all communications with the company allowing it to adapt to people’s changing demands.
“I consume in difference guises around different interests and activities,” said Heber-Percy. “One size doesn’t fit all. People can change their lifestyle within an instant.
“We are consuming more stuff than ever before we can change our lifestyle and we can binge and purge on a whim.
“So you have a customer that wants to be challenged, wants to do different things and is not comfortable just being marketed to in the same way over and over again.”