Luxury Escapes shares its lessons in digital marketing transformation

Australian online luxury travel retailer talks through the personalisation approach being applied to its email and website engagement

If there’s one lesson Luxury Escape’s chief customer officer, Jason Shugg, has learnt through the process of overhauling marketing, sales and service technology, it’s the importance of communication.

While the online luxury travel retailer is a relatively small operation with 230 people, it was clear communication was going to be vital for cross-functional and executive buy-in for change.

“The thing I’ve tried to lead my team to pivot on is communication,” Shugg told CMO at the recent Dreamforce conference. “With some technology, we’re so focused on delivering the tech and solutions, sometimes we forget about telling the story internally.

“We’ve now set more regular communications not just with executives but the whole company, showcasing what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, and what that will mean. Because unless you tell the story and show it’s amazing, it can be a black box. People don’t often see the benefits of technology because they’re getting a different version. Having better internal communications has helped with buy-in and funding.”

Luxury Escapes, a privately owned, eight-year old Australian company, has spent the last couple of years implementing Salesforce’s Sales, Service and Marketing Cloud platforms. The catalyst was fast growth and a growing international footprint.

“This couple of year project was about looking at how the business got the right technology to perform better today, but also to future-proof the business,” Shugg explained.

While Salesforce Sales Cloud (CRM) and Service Cloud were the first platforms on-boarded, Marketing Cloud, which was rolled out last year, has quickly become the driver in the business, Shugg said, with everything to a degree hanging off the marketing platform.

A key part of Luxury Escapes’ approach was doing all the work internally, a strategic that encouraged ownership, upskilling and rapid deployment. “We are a small team of seven people and brought all our resources internal. Some were brought in, others have come along the journey and learnt the software as we’ve gone. It’s a very entrepreneurial business,” Shugg said.  

Personalisation program

There are two parts to Luxury Escapes’ business. The first is email, and the company is delivering almost 2 million daily emails globally.

“Getting the technology to make that more effective and personalised for the customer was important,” Shugg said. “The other part is the website and making sure the website is functioning and increasingly personalised.

“Personalisation is a great buzzword, but the two words we use more are connecting and relevance. We’re trying to connect with as many people as we can interested in what we do, then try to be as relevant as we can be at the right time. So our website is a key channel – we want someone to come in and once we know them, give them the most relevant experience.”  

To do this, Luxury Escapes is using Salesforce’s Interaction Studio and artificial intelligence (AI) engine, Einstein, both part of Marketing Cloud, to build the website on a customer by customer basis.

“Every day, the website refreshes for you, and as we learn more about your behaviour, we start to surface deals higher up the order, or different sorts of deals,” Shugg explained. “That’s opposed to what we had been doing until very recently, which is giving every person the same order of deals on the website.”

Based on control group testing, personalisation of the website has delivered a significant engagement uplift and 20 per cent increase in revenue. Luxury Escapes is now in the process of scaling out to every user, a job Shugg expected to complete in the next couple of months.

“Whether we see those same results once we have this across whole site we’ll see, but it’s made a material difference,” he said. “We have run it long enough and deeply enough to know there is real upside there.”  

At the same time, Luxury Escapes still ensures its top deal of the day is one everyone sees when they come to the site – a decision reflecting its brand commitment to inspirational travel.

“Most people who book with us didn’t intend to go to that hotel, or that destination. They see a deal, fall in love with it and book it. We don’t want people to lose that dreaming phase of a new deal every day,” Shugg said.

“After that, deals are more aligned to your behaviour. That might be destination or travel types, such as family or couple. The Marketing Cloud helps us understand that dynamically so we can serve deals in a certain way.”  

Alongside the tech, Shugg and his team have worked to improve sophistication around how Luxury Escapes thinks about customers. Segmentation has become more attitudinal based, with the group identifying seven segments. It’s now heavily focused on three.

“We’re mapping those segments back to individual customers, which is a challenge to do, but we’re in the process of working through that,” Shugg said. “That’s the more advanced way to really help grow the business and products. Day-to-day, there are obvious triggers like family, or city getaway, and data configures based on that. We have a scoring system on destination type and budget that helps us make sure we are serving the right content for you.

“The system is smart, but as we do more of this, it gets smarter.”  

Shugg also noted well-defined customer journeys in travel from research to plan, book, travel and return. Journey communications are also mapped to this cycle and content is increasingly being surfaced that reflects both behaviour and bookings. A scaled email approach based on targeted customer behaviour and bookings is being rolled out across all customers from January to March 2020.

“Historically, emails have been the same to every person every day. Even if you just booked a Thailand trip and we know you’re going in three months’ time, we still sent you emails about Bali,” Shugg continued. “We’re making sure now once you’ve booked that Thailand trip, we send content related to that upcoming trip.

“It could be weather and reminders on what to pack, how we’ve got experiences we can provide, or travel insurance. There’s a commercial and customer element through it.”

Related: Why Luxury Escapes sees social media as a sales channel

Helping fulfil this personalisation mission is a recently appointed head of content.

“We’re fusing the pure deals part of the business, which is the hotel or tour packages, with destination content. They’re starting to work together but it’s a 12-18 month journey to get it right,” Shugg said. “Our use cases are some of the bigger destinations like Bali and Thailand, where we have more content. We also already have a TV show, magazine and radio show, so we have enough content we can pull and package; it’s just using tech to help us automatically package that content.”  

Customer sales and service

In addition, Marketing Cloud and the integration with Sales and Service Cloud is improving customer sales and service team engagement for the Melbourne-based, 24/7 team. Surprisingly, Shugg said about 25 per cent of the digital company’s sales are done over the phone.

“What we’ve been able to do with Marketing Cloud is track customer behaviours. So if they’re logged in to their email, which most are, when a customer calls us, the sales or service agents have those details automatically, and can have that relevant conversation. We know what they’ve looked at and what the inquiry is going to be about,” he said.  

“The other use case we worked on, which we didn’t realise would have such a big impact, was with our outbound sales team. When a customer is logged in, looks at a deal but clicks away, we’ll send an email an hour later saying we saw them look at the deal, and asking if they’d like to talk further then engage with us.

“That used to be manual; Marketing Cloud enabled us to automate that.”

Shugg said revenue in that team has gone up by 30 per cent overnight as a direct consequence of that email.

“But it’s also the customer engagement piece that’s important. Customers love it – we are a one-to-one travel agent and that concierge service has been successful,” he said. 

Through all of this, Shugg said the biggest challenge is staying focused on what the team said they’d deliver through technology when there’s so much innovation about.

“We have had times where we’ve looked too far into the future and the next new shiny thing; now we’re trying to focus on delivering what the business plans says we need to do and making sure these things work, and only then bring in elements of the tech stack,” he said. 

Read more about brands and personalisation:



- Nadia Cameron travelled to Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.

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