Why split-funnel attribution is changing Royal Caribbean's customer approach

Cruise liner's digital marketing manager talks through the adoption of new split-funnel attribution tools and new metrics to gauge its digital marketing and how it's opening up new customer insights

Understanding and optimising campaigns and content to suit each step in the customer conversion journey is becoming a reality for Royal Caribbean, after the cruise liner embraced split-funnel attribution technology and measurement.

Royal Caribbean’s digital marketing manager, Andy Weddell-Hall, told CMO one of the problems the group faced was gauging the true impact marketing and partner activity was having on consumers at the prospect stage.

Royal Caribbean has been in Australia for eight years and maintains three cruise ships. The group will expand its fleet to five ships in the next year.

On average, consumers making a decision about a cruising holiday will visit 27 different websites for comparison and review before booking a trip, taking about 30 days to arrive at a decision. For Royal Caribbean, it was important to account for the impact of campaigns and partner activities from the outset in order to optimise and adjust communications to customers accordingly.

The group splits activity into brand awareness, prospect and retargeting.

“It’s about understanding what is that prospecting [activity] is doing, as part of the funnel, and how can we use that down the purchase decision process for retargeting,” Weddell-Hall said. “Instead of our prospect campaigns with partners being geared and optimised towards step six in a booking, we wanted to gear these activities towards what they’re meant to be doing, which is driving engagement.”

The problem was getting a fair metric that illustrated the success of those early-stage campaigns.

“With prospecting, we’ve always measured against CPA [cost per acquisition], but that’s not a fair metric; it’s not really what it’s there to drive,” Weddell-Hall explained. “It was about looking for a metric that worked and how we passed that down the funnel, as it really is that first touch.”

Royal Caribbean turned to its digital agency, iProspect, to find a solution. The agency, in turn, brought Quantcast and its split-funnel attribution tool online in mid-2015. To date, the new attribution approach has been adopted across the Royal Caribbean brand, but thanks to its success, there are plans to extend this to the group’s two other brands in 2016.

As well as allowing Royal Caribbean to better judge how partners influence step one of the engagement process, Weddell-Hall said the work has completely changed Royal Caribbean’s approach to customer funnel management.

“Working with iProspect, we can better understand our customers,” he said. “Without this technology, we wouldn’t have had this information that we now optimise all our activities towards.

“It is enabling us to judge customers on their behaviour rather than our pre-defined beliefs.”

Weddell-Hall noted 70 per cent of consumers make repeat visits to the website or channels before converting.

“Retargeting was taking all the credit for our activity before as that’s what drives the final conversion,” he continued. “Instead, we are now driving qualified traffic.

“We can now judge campaigns against their intended purpose, and with Quantcast we can look at engagement.”

To date, Quantcast has delivered 20 per cent more leads than any of Royal Caribbean’s other 4-5 partners for at least 50 per cent less cost.

Moving forward, Weddell-Hall said the focus is on using these customer insights more effectively and efficiently to dynamically serve digital content based on behaviour. As a group, Royal Caribbean positions itself as the world’s most innovative cruise line, so its digital approach needs to match that, he said.

And with a host of on-ship innovations, including on-board skydiving, a bionic bar and a new Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, all coming online by the end of 2016, it’s a good time to kickstart these new marketing efforts.

Weddell-Hall pointed to significant process changes as a result of the new attribution modelling approach and insights derived.

“We’re a lot more data-focused and making data-driven decisions to guide our theories,” he said.

He also hinted at new partners coming on-board to help the group further utilise data and drive dynamic content online. At present, brands under the Royal Caribbean umbrella can serve different digital content based on some customer behaviours, but extending these efforts is a big priority in the new year and Quantcast’s split-funnel attribution will aid in that, Weddell-Hall said.

There’s also the need to better use data insights across the wider business, he said.

“Online data is increasingly used through the websites, but it’s also core data for the business and will guide activities across the business,” Weddell-Hall said. “Sharing data is a massive part of the strategy for 2016.

“The core is always the customer, and we want to touch on every part of the customer lifecycle and improve every point we can.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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