Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Marriotts' VP of Consumer Insights on The Challenges and Wins of Personalization


"The next time you are at a restaurant, at a ballgame or even on vacation, your social media posts may be being watched by a number of Fortune 500 companies." Jessica Golden, CNBC

"The once-ubiquitous social media 'war rooms' that sprung up around big events like the Super Bowl are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, brands are now battling to make sense of real-time data on a daily basis — not just the big occasions." Grace Caffyn, Digiday 

"If it's not on social media, it didn't happen." Vanessa Saw, Digital Executive Marriott's Creative and Content Marketing department. Hotelexecutive.com.



Simon Hudson, in Marriott Takes Social Media Listening to a New Level tells us that "50 to 60% of customers look(ing) to social media recommendations for products like travel." So it makes sense that companies like Marriott International are watching our posts and setting up "war rooms". The Research Insighter spoke to Cathy Hartman, the Vice President of Consumer Insights and Advisory Services at Marriott International to ask what sort of insights Marriott is acquiring, and how they're putting them to use for their customers.

The Research Insighter: 
"Personalization is the new 'normal' imperative in marketing these days and is something that everyone seems to be struggling with. This notion about being able to leverage data for personalization at every touchpoint is something that you certainly have been pursuing. How are you going about this? What is most important to you?"



Cathy Hartman, Vice President of Consumer Insights, Marriott International:
"Our guiding framework is to identify the right person with the right message at the right time. Much easier said than done.

The first step is identifying that right person. We’ve learned to use our data to identify travelers with the greatest potential value to our portfolio. Now, Marriott values every guest that comes to our site or enters our properties, but from a marketing perspective we need to be really smart to be efficient with our marketing efforts. So, we’ve developed ways to actively identify these individuals who are high-potential value, seek them out and engage them given their potential profitability to our portfolio. A behavioral segmentation initiative enabled us to accomplish that first step and it also helped us to begin to tackle that second objective, as well...that 'serving up the right message'. Using our data smartly, we can learn so much about our customers and what is relevant to them, not just what we want to say to them.

So, from travel purpose to brand propensities we can learn so much from just taking a look at the data that we have or can acquire through third parties. That ends up really being a win for the customers, as well as us. Our customers are receiving increasingly relevant, meaningful offers and we, then, earn a higher return on investment.

We have also been tackling that third piece – that right time – by studying the customer journey. So, how the customers engage with us or our competitors at every step of the travel journey, what behaviors are important for us to shift at each stage in this journey and how can we leverage data to help drive those shifts. The answers to those questions have helped us to weave it altogether to really deliver that right message to the right person and at the right time."

The Research Insighter:
"What is innovative that is interesting to you? Is there anything shiny and new out there that has your interest or attention?"

Cathy Hartman, Vice President of Consumer Insights, Marriott International:
"There are some things that are shiny and new. A couple come to mind that we have been increasingly leveraging. First is just new ways to be listening to the consumer in real-time. Marriott has recently launched multiple war rooms, if you will, for social listening. Our studios are called: “M Live” and we are able to – in real-time and in the presence of not just our insight representatives, but also marketing strategists and agency partners – monitor conversations that are happening in real-time that we can then leverage for real-time marketing activations. It has turned into a really powerful technique that we are able to utilize to just be in the center of conversations."

The Research Insighter:
"You mentioned real-time activation. How new is that? What does that entail?"

Cathy Hartman, Vice President of Consumer Insights, Marriott International:
"The power of M Live, we’ve found, is to be able to really engage in the real-time dialogue with what people are saying. So, instead of forcing a conversation, instead of just deciding: 'We want to say this message to people at this time', we listen to what is going on with consumers and what they are talking about and then we can infuse ourselves into that conversation. Again, this makes what we’re saying more relevant and it enables us to get that permission to talk with them in a way that they might not otherwise be receptive to.

For example, when Pokémon Go recently came out and took the world literally by storm, we looked for ways to get engaged in this conversation, as well. Once we identified this quickly rising trend, the team developed in activation and once we identified this trend, we identified ways that we could become part of that conversation.

Specifically, the gentleman who was the first to find all of the Pokémons within North America, we identified a way to send him to remaining continents in order to find the missing Pokémon and round out his set. It’s a fun example, but it’s an example of becoming part of the conversation where we don’t even need to put money behind these messages because people then pick up the story and do the sharing for us. It’s a fun and interesting way to become a part of these real-time conversations."

The Research Insighter:
"What are some of the key challenges you’ve run into specifically around personalization? How are you using research to address them?"

Cathy Hartman, Vice President of Consumer Insights, Marriott International:
"That’s a great question. As strange as this may sound, a key challenge is actually having too much data. It’s almost overwhelming. Where do you start? The deeper you go into data-driven personalization, the more changes an organization needs to make to its marketing strategy. 

So, if you personalized a segment or a person within that segment or to a specific touchpoint that the person within that segment is interacting with, each of these levels requires personalized content to make it real. That’s literally a tsunami of strategic content and needs. All of this needs to be planned and produced by someone.

What we’ve learned to do is use research to identify our North Star or those metrics our marketing efforts need to move in order to claim success. That is what is going to help us ensure we stay focused and on track with all of our efforts."


Don't miss The Market Research Event this October 17-20 where Cathy Hartman and many more of the most influential market researchers in the world will share their insights on everything from apps to big data as they apply to market research.

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