Hans Smellinckx is Direct & Digital Marketing Manager at Thomas Cook Belgium. He is responsible both for CRM and digital marketing activities. The company includes several travel industry brands such as Neckermann, Pegase, Thomas Cook, Travelbox and Thomas Cook Airlines.
Each year, over 1.8 million Belgians take a trip with Thomas Cook. "Vacations and travel are important episodes in consumers' lives. They are personal, emotion-filled events that demand a personalized marketing approach," says Smellinckx. "So consumers deserve our full attention and expect us to look after them. Today's consumers also use different channels, and email is part of their 'journey', which - literally - takes them to the booking of their vacation destination." That is one of the reasons why Thomas Cook Belgium decided to set sail with Selligent Interactive Marketing."
Optimize conversion through a data-driven personal approach
In opting for Selligent Interactive Marketing, Thomas Cook Belgium's aim was to develop more personal interactions with the consumer and optimize the customer experience through a variety of contact moments, with the additional goal of improving efficiency and conversion.
To do this, the company took a step-wise approach. The initial changes concerned the layout and structure of the emails of the different brands, with separate versions for each brand and each segment. But that was just a first step. Subsequently, the integration of Selligent Interactive Marketing and the CRM platform enabled Thomas Cook to push personalization even further. And in a next step, the e-commerce platform data was brought in to enrich the system.
As a result, the company knows exactly what interests the online consumer, which links he or she clicks on, what destinations awake their curiosity, etc. It even records the average time an Internet surfer spends on the site before actually booking the trip. Thanks to this understanding of online behavior, Thomas Cook Belgium can operate in a highly targeted fashion.
Thomas Cook Belgium tracks very closely all the interactions that take place through its communications channels, including email, the integrated e-commerce platform and the website.
Retargeting and cross-channel marketing to enhance optimization
"But while it is important to know what is happening, it is just as crucial to know what didn't happen," Smellinckx points out. "When Internet users go through a booking process without completing it (the transaction), you need to know and react. We have integrated campaigns into our processes to recover some of these aborted transactions." That is what is called retargeting after an abandoned booking process.
Email is not the only channel used by Thomas Cook Belgium, as Smellinckx confirms: "Everyone has a cell phone! In Belgium, its penetration is already above 100%. Therefore, we also take cell phones into account in our marketing mix. This way we can integrate everything that happens on the website, emails and mobile communications. And then link all this to the social media we plan to use to communicate with the consumer in an even more personalized way."
Create more appropriate contact moments
Thomas Cook Belgium has a database of over one million contacts. According to Smellinckx, the company communicates very intensively with these consumers. "We send over 30 personalized campaigns a week. In addition, people actively look for their next vacation destination on the websites. That offers us an enormous number of contact moments. Furthermore, we know that around half of our customers choose the same destination as the last time. Thanks to this huge mass of data from all possible channels, we can make the information we provide as relevant and as personalized as possible. This substantially increases our revenue."
A clear revenue increase with Selligent Interactive Marketing
When this interview was carried out, it has been only a few months since Thomas Cook Belgium had migrated from its previous communications platform to Selligent Interactive Marketing. Yet Smellinckx was already in a position to show positive results.
"The first impact was at operational level. Before, we could execute four mail shots a week, at best. After two months with Selligent Interactive Marketing, we were already at 16. And today, two months further along the road, we are close to 40 mail shots a week - with exactly the same number of people and resources as before. Clearly this increases our profit margin, especially if intensifying the contact moments and optimizing the personalization enables us to sell even more. And that is, in fact, the case. After implementing Selligent Interactive Marketing, we have recorded a substantial increase in sales compared to the previous year with emails alone, and we have still only touched the tip of the iceberg of all the possibilities available to us."
"With even more advanced personalization and further integration of interaction channels, the future looks bright," he adds with satisfaction.