5 lessons in personalisation from Marriott Hotels

VP of personalisation for global hotel chain shares five pillars in creating personalised customer experiences

Personalisation has become a catchcry for brands looking to meet modern consumer expectations. The question is: What does it take to deliver tailored experiences successfully and reliably?

During a recent travel session at the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit, Marriott’s VP of personalisation, Devin Sung, shared how the global hotel chain is working meet the experience and engagement expectations of modern travellers.

Here are 5 lessons from his presentation on how to be better oriented around the customer journey:

1. Personalisation is not a new capability, feature or function

“Every industry is changing marketing and selling experiences and those are becoming more personalised. In doing so, we’re setting expectations with consumers on getting personalised experiences,” Sung said.

“As marketers, we are not selling products, we’re actually selling our experiences and we’re trying to make our experiences more personalised.”

Marriott’s response to this is to recentre its approach around the guest, Sung said. “You do get very focused on your products, services, channels and programs, all of which are fairly irrelevant to the guest when they’re get through their experience. Putting them truly at the centre of all initiatives is a feat to make personalisation even a viable option.”

2. It requires identification of the customer

At the heart of Marriott’s framework for building personalised experiences is understanding the customer. This is about trying to ensure this anonymous to known profile generation is a constant throughout all experience, Sung said.

“Before we can personalise, we have to know who you are. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “There are places where we know you better than others. The point is to bring all these together.”

3. You have to understand the end-to-end journey

Sung noted travel can be stressful through all stages of the journey for a customer, often because of the unknowns along the way. What Marriott is trying to do is find ways to personalise those journey touchpoints, specifically by removing these areas of stress.

“What makes a journey less stressful is having predictable data points as a traveller,” he said. “Think about a trip you take on regular basis... you know your way in and out, which property to stay out, flights to take, how to get through terminals quickly, where the coffee shop is – all those points are locked in your head and they instantly minimise stress and improve the chances you’ll get through your trip comfortably.

“Personalisation for Marriott is about collecting these data points and make more unknowns known. We want to know the knowns in a traveller’s head ... if we can get that coffee shop location, or preferred airline, and pre-load those into the system and wrap your experience with those data points, how much easier will that trip be? We will have increased the likelihood you are going to have a great trip.”

4. The key is data capture

Not surprisingly, Marriott needs to capture and collect all contextual data, preferences and predictable data points to inform any interactions with that customer.

“Motion is constant in our industry, and these cause constant interactions with our industry’s touchpoints,” Sung said. “For example, the search and booking process or check in: Each brings with it tonnes of data to come off this guest. It’s on us to collect, harness that and redeploy that insight.”

This ultimate ambition is to create an environment where the business can then make decisions in the customer’s interest, Sung continued. “With all that contextual data, preferences and predictable data points – are we capturing those? Do we have processes in place to mine those? And are we creating an environment where our business leaders and marketers can make decisions?”

Sung also suggested the days of winning competitive advantage by simply collecting contextual data on customers are on their way out.

“At some point, and as we shift towards consumers becoming more comfortable sharing their data, this data aspect may become a commodity,” he claimed. “Where you will really have the differentiator is how each brand mines that data and generates unique insight and tackles those.”

5. You must have continuous conversations

At the heart of personalisation is consistency, Sung continued, and that means having an ongoing dialogue with the customer at every stage of the journey.

“It’s about redeploying that final decision we made on those data points and making sure that is deployed on every touchpoint, now and every one in future that we could leverage,” he said.

Sung noted the marketing rallying cry in Marriott is to move from siloed campaigns to continuous conversations.

“This is moving away from organisation as channels, or a loyalty program versus channel distribution,” he said. “We have a new mission around recentring on the customer, putting them at the centre and making sure we can have that conversation.”

More of our coverage of personalisation in practice:

- Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Digital Marketing Summit as a guest of Adobe.

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