Carnival Australia CEO: How we are leading with customer data

CEO of the cruise company talks about the role data is now playing in customer engagement and what she expects of her CMO

Ann Sherry, Carnival Australia
Ann Sherry, Carnival Australia

Carnival Australia is increasingly looking to digital channels and data as ways of improving customer engagement, says its CEO, Ann Sherry. She chats with CMO about how the cruise company is meeting modern consumer demands.

As a CEO, my view of marketing compared to a few years ago… has changed significantly. Digital channels have transformed the way marketing works and how to reach customers.

The skills and attributes I expect my marketing and customer chief to have… are an understanding of the customer, an ability to be flexible, and a strong connection to the market. I also want the CMO to be innovative, digital savvy and a great communicator.

Our plans for investing marketing dollars in the next 12 months… will include a significant increase in digital spend. Although we find traditional media like TV and press still offers great returns, we’re including more investment in social media and non-traditional mediums to engage with guests and potential guests.

Digital channels are facilitating the way our company communicates and positions products and services… but they’re not just marketing channels. Facebook is now one of our major customer service channels, not just for marketing. Booked guests are encouraged to join a virtual ‘roll call’ for their cruise in order to meet other guests on the same cruise, and we have a dedicated team in the call centre to service all pre-cruise requests via social media. Our pre-cruise email program also provides booked guests with relevant information related to their cruise at the right time, such as what to pack and a reminder to check-in and book their on-the-shore tours.

We’re harnessing customer data… in several ways. The customer demographic for every cruise departure now is analysed to understand the type of guests on-board. The programming of on-board activity schedules are then aligned to suit the guest demographic for that cruise, ensuring a great customer experience.

Looking at customer segmentation data differently has also enabled us to identify new groups of customers in order to drive growth in new segments of the market. For example, we identified a segment of our guests who preferred shorter duration cruises as well as cruising with a group and that insight drove the creation of our Seabreak and Main Event itineraries.

We are developing a business culture that is focused on customer centricity… by regularly inviting customers to internal forums to share ideas and feedback, including at our annual conference. We have personified our target customer and everyone knows her profile, and we all use her to validate our work. We also have a ‘voice of the customer report’ that is reviewed by everyone in the business.

The best piece of leadership advice I’ve been given… is don’t be afraid to try and fail, but learn from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them. If I could only hire one brand new employee tomorrow… I would look for a revenue scientist. I’d want someone who is a master of data analytics and knows how to reach customers.

About the company:

Carnival Australia is part of the Carnival Corporation and was established more than 80 years ago. The company’s cruise liner brands include Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard, P&O and Princess Cruises, which represent more than 80 per cent of the A/NZ cruise market. The company is hoping to hit its target of 1 million cruise passengers a year in 2015 and generated total revenues of more than $15.8 billion in the 2014 financial year, including $2.097bn in Australia and Asia.

This article originally appeared in CMO magazine, Issue 2, 2015. To sign up for a complimentary subscription to our print title or digital edition, please visit:

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