Data is playing a role in the transformation of most organisations, and internet-based companies are no exception!
We thought that lastminute.com Group, founded by the keynote speaker at the Women in IT Awards 2018 — Martha Lane Fox — and Brent Hoberman, was the perfect case study to show you (the reader) how data and different technology tools can aid organisational transformation.
To help us, Yannic Pluymackers — chief marketing officer — of LM Group, spoke to Information Age about how technology has driven marketing practices and the strategy for LM Group.
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How is lastminute.com using data to offer better experiences for its customers and craft its future strategy?
The majority of companies are talking today about data scientists, AI and machine learning, but there is a huge issue — making sense of the increasing levels we are managing on a daily basis. On top of managing this explosion of data, organisation’s then have to translate and transform it into business value.
The use of data is absolutely key for us and we have two ways of thinking about this. First, is using data to provide scale optimisation and second, is using data to provide one-to-one personalisation to create a better customer experience.
What I mean by scale optimisation, is the ability to have channel-specific optimisation for direct customers, for SEM customers and for CIM customers; the ability to provide them with different experiences in order to increase our repeat rates, increase our conversion rates and so on.
Scale Optimisation: Any optimisation here is about delivering a better efficiency for the channels. Either by making targeting more effective (e.g. with better audience clustering or bidding) or through increasing the ability to personalise the message itself. Message personalisation can for instance be achieved through having specific landing pages for certain kwd clusters (SEM) or by delivering a FB ad specific to the needs or interests of a given audience.
Today, personalisation is one of, if not the most important thing when it comes to customer experience. It’s what the customer expects. We need this personal touch to be in a position to compete. As a result, we personalise what we have on our website and also in our communication across various different channels. It’s not only the website, but also the channels we are communicating through.
Personalisation: Is used to make the customer feel a personal touch throughout the communication channels we have on hand. This is about using data to better understand the needs of the specific client and to tailor any communication accordingly. It is also about enriching the communication, e.g. through tailored and useful upsells.
The data collected and managed is used to better understand the customer, while creating the ability to send the right messages to the individual.
These are the two different elements that we are trying to manage with various solutions and tools. This is a huge project for the company, where essentially our product, data and marketing department is heavily involved, and collaborating to make it happen.
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What is your strategic focus moving forward?
The overarching goal is to reduce complexity on our website, which at times is complex because of the large inventory we have across different products. Traditionally OTAs have focused to enhance their search capabilities and to make is easier (quicker for the user to find their desired service or product. While this is still key, we are working today to personalise this experience with the information we know about the user. Ideally this reduces complexity and makes it easier for the user. For instance if we know the user is a family traveller with a moderate travel budget and a desire to stay directly at the beach, you would only show options tailored to those circumstances.
The automation of such is our focus across channels and platforms.
If you look at the industry, and companies such as Trip Adviser who recently came out with providing more user-generated content, and a better experience to plan, book and manage your travel, we are going in a similar direction.
Traditionally lastminute.com was a brand that provided a one-stop experience on the site — in terms of having hotels, flights, packages, cars, itineraries, up to theatre tickets and spa experiences.
Our main focus, now, is on making this experience even more rounded; making it more simple to combine all of those products on our website. This is where our product department are focused on in a more holistic sense.
The product department and product managers specifically, as we explored in What is digital transformation in business: Everything you need to know, should be the ones leading specific initiatives for different customer problems; effectively, leading organisation digital transformation
In particular, we are seeing huge growth rates with our dynamic package (DP) products, which are providing more flexibility for the user and making it easier, for example, to book destinations.
Dynamic packaging offers users to flexibly combine hotels with flights and ancillaries.
We’re also including more user-generated content on our platforms to make it easier for the user to explore and get inspired on where their next trip should go be.
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How important is social media for lastminute.com’s strategy?
Social media is quite a heavy operation. First of all, we look to target users on Facebook, Instagram, Instagram Stories, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, with the right message. We are working on optimising our targeting and making it more effective [personalised].
We are also very concerned about driving traffic through these channels, which is why attribution reporting is very important for us.
The second thing related to social media is content production. In 2018 we hired a team of producers for video content, for animated content, for picture content, and we are working with several external partners in order to produce dedicated material for our users.
In 2019, we will continue to engage more in user-generated content; this is the next big area of our social strategy, where we are making sure that we are not only getting a lot of dedicated content from our users, but we are also trying to repurpose and restructure this content in order to deliver a truly programmatic message through social channels.
This is not only a marketing operation, but it also involves our data and product departments. This ability to capture users on social media is at the core of our marketing strategy.
How can you master the seamless experience?
We are working at the moment on building a huge product catalogue with updated pricing, for instance, which we can use to help provide a more seamless experience across our own platforms, our shared platforms, social platforms, external properties; all this, in order to send the right message to the right user [basically omni-channel and multi-device].
I don’t think any company has mastered the seamless experience in our space, but we are working on it, because it is essential in increasing our conversion rate and maximising our profits. From this perspective, creating a seamless experience is strictly aligned with our business objectives and we believe it’s the right strategy in this space.
Yannic Pluymackers has a long standing marketing (performance & branding) and online travel industry experience. He started his career at Google, where he was soon managing an online marketing team consulting key clients across the DACH region. This gave him a good data driven and performance oriented understanding for all paid online marketing channels. He then took his knowledge to the next level heading up global digital marketing for KAYAK Group, where he had a lot of success, delivering growth across paid channels and leading towards a successful international expansion (52 countries).
He joined LM group in 2016 as chief marketing officer with the objective to redefine the overall marketing strategy across all the core markets of the group to exploit all possible efficiencies relaunching top-line growth and profitability.