Hitmetrix - User behavior analytics & recording

A View to a Thrill

Imagine building a unified view of more than 100 data sources. Such a feat can seem insurmountable. Xanterra Parks and Resorts traversed risky terrain to reach this marketing pinnacle and capitalize on formerly unseen opportunities.

Xanterra is a diverse hospitality brand, with properties and presence ranging from hotels and cruise ships to campgrounds and horse stables. With hundreds of unique operations across so many categories—and more than 20 million annual visitors across the entire portfolio of properties—Xanterra’s marketing leaders recognized that storing customer data in more than 100 different systems, each with its own level of detail and complexity, was hurting visibility and causing the company to overlook countless opportunities.

“Our systems didn’t talk to each other. Even for someone who stayed at Yellowstone and then had dinner at the Old Faithful Inn, we never consolidated those two details into the same customer profile,” says Andrew Heltzel, director of marketing and CRM at Xanterra.

Xanterra engaged RedPoint Global to provide a unified interface for cross-channel campaigns across heterogeneous data sources. With a wealth of new information from various Xanterra properties, as well as third-party data integration, Xanterra gained insight into as many as 300 new characteristics and attributes for each customer. 

Who are you, really?

An expansive data set is nothing without context and perspective, so Xanterra’s next priority was to develop customer personas. This bucketed customers in seven main categories, ranging from the retired, semi-active Nature Experts to the youthful, affluent Laid-Back Luxury segment. These personas not only help Xanterra develop targeted messaging that brings each communication closer to a one-to-one ideal, but also helps the company identify cross-marketing opportunities between brands.

Xanterra takes a flexible approach to persona assignment, filtering customers into multiple categories and tweaking the underlying persona characteristics over time. In analyzing its data to find better ways to address customers who do not readily fit an established persona, Xanterra’s marketers discovered a small but important segment of “Country Walkers,” a group of solo travelers with strong potential for repeat and cross-sell business. The company has expanded messaging to include supplementary material for singles and solo travelers to appeal to this new category. “It’s another way we can use data to do more than just spray-and-pray,” Heltzel says.

Extensive persona analysis also revealed that Xanterra’s upscale, near-retirement “Luxe Lovers” are ideal crossover candidates between Windstar Cruises and Vermont Bike Tours (VBT), and that among the active senior “Sensible Explorer” category, women are far bigger fans of the VBT experience. These insights led to a new pilot campaign designed to combine vacations across both brands.

In support of this pilot, Xanterra began an open exploration of its database for trends and affinities. This process revealed customers with European itineraries that allowed for back-to-back vacation experiences. Xanterra now searches the database for customers with profiles that indicate the means and free time to start with a bike tour and end with a week-long cruise, and early results are promising. Future pilots will work with the company’s extensive database of national parks visitors, offering outdoor adventure vacations in other destinations around the world.

Pulling the trigger

One of the centerpieces of Xanterra’s direct marketing transformation is the upscale Kingsmill Resort in Virginia. The resort has introduced a multi-stage trigger campaign that begins with soft welcome messages eight weeks before arrival. Six triggered steps throughout the two-month span can present offers for activities such as spa and golf bookings, restaurant visits, and room upgrades when available.

The first email includes click-to-play video and seasonally appropriate images, along with invitations to share details of the upcoming trip on social media. The next email, five weeks from arrival, offers a room upgrade if available and invites customers to extend their stay by a single night, if the reservation ends early in the week. If no upgrade is available or the stay ends on a peak night, a more generic email is sent instead. This stage, and later messages that include activity-planning guides and additional upgrade offers when available, includes remailing after six days when a customer has not responded. The campaign logic stops upgrade messages if one has been purchased, and suppresses some later emails if customers have already committed to a second, later reservation, to cut down on overlapping email.

Xanterra is also uncovering new ways to use data more effectively within the confines of a single brand. Kingsmill Resort includes a marina, so some customers arrive by boat. Tracking that information and then acknowledging avid boaters in email and offering more marine activities has produced positive results. “It’s about using those additional attributes as a way to create more personal, relevant, and timely messages,” he says. “And we’re seeing across the board that using those insights leads to higher conversion.”

Mounting the summit

With one year in the books since the RedPoint integration began, Xanterra is seeing significant returns. Using targeted messages to selected personas, Xanterra has increased revenue per email by over 800% at one resort. Each message contained images and narrative uniquely appealing to the top three personas that visit with the resort.

One segment, the active, tech-shy, lower-income senior group Xanterra calls “Sensible Explorers,” showed a nearly tenfold improvement in revenue per email, despite being less active online than other segments. In another case, intelligent remarketing to established customers with a modest discount on a weeknight stay boosted revenue per email over 1,400% at a state park lodge. “Our lead generation is definitely improving, because we can do things with digital marketing to drive more leads to our properties than ever before,” Heltzel says. “And we’re seeing higher conversion rates on leads we share across brands.”

Although trigger campaigns such as the Kingsmill Resort example now generate more touches than in years past, Xanterra’s overhaul actually includes a deliberate push for quality over quantity. “For those folks who are not engaged with our brands, we’re trying to figure out ways to reactivate them, or permanently remove them from our list,” Heltzel says. “Sending the same messages to people who are not opening our email for six to 18 months can negatively impact our reputation.”

Next steps include more sophisticated data integration with Xanterra’s CRM platforms. One goal is to give Windstar Cruises deeper insights into the wide range of travel activities and inclinations that intersect with Xanterra’s other diverse brands. It will also make it easier for Xanterra to develop a more granular picture of the channels that contribute to conversion. “Right now, when we ask the consumer, they generally attribute the sale to the touchpoint they saw last,” Heltzel says. “We want to develop more insights into the channels that led them to start interacting with the brand in the first place.”

Also in the cards is expanding outreach from email to social media, and applying the same techniques to Xanterra’s B2B relationships. “We’ve proven to the marketing leaders across our properties that when we do smart profiling and segmentation, and put relevant, timely offers in front of folks, it works,” Heltzel says. “Now that we can deliver a one-to-one experience in email, we’re looking at how to communicate that way across all our customer touchpoints.”

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