This article is part of our August series on travel and hospitality. Click here for more.
DER Touristik is the third-largest travel and tourism company in Europe, operating in Germany and Austria with brands such as ITS, Jahn Reisen, Travelix, Dertour, Meiers Weltreisen, and ADAC Reisen. Outside Germany, it also owns tour operators including Kuoni, Helvetic Tours, Apollo, and Exim Tours.
Alexander Gaertner is head of digital analytics at DER Touristik Online, the online arm of DER Touristik. CMO.com caught up with him at Adobe Summit EMEA 2017, and the first thing I asked him was to explain the role of analytics. (Adobe is CMO.com’s parent company)
Gaertner: It has changed a lot. Ten years ago, if you talked to people doing analytics, they would pretty much have focused on reporting and collecting data. Now it’s very different. Now we are business drivers, so we do still report, we collect data, but we also do a lot of data activation.
We send data to different optimisation technologies, we create segments, and we use that data to optimise user experience, personalise it, and make it a more compelling experience for our customers.
CMO.com: So you serve both the business and the customer experience?
Gaertner: We look at the data from an affinity standpoint, trying to have data not only tied to a certain domain, but looking at affinities across domains, and then using those affinities to monetise our audiences.
CMO.com: And how are your customers changing?
Gaertner: That’s a tricky question because we’re pretty much a traditional company, 100 years old this year, and we rely on offline business dramatically—which is a good thing—but we have to change towards online, so it’s about omnichannel.
If you look at online, maybe someone comes through a display ad campaign and visits our websites, and then maybe they come back a day later, and maybe then they decide not to purchase or book using our website but, instead, visit a local store. We have a number of stores—about 2,100 in Germany alone—and it’s hard to predict user behaviour, so we need data, we need algorithms, we need to have a smarter approach to tackle that challenge.
CMO.com: Why is it important to reach your customers where and when they want to be reached?
Gaertner: It’s more the customer who’s actually deciding with whom they want to interact and when, so it’s something we have to consider. It’s no longer one way. It’s about listening and finding the right message at the right time, and again looking at complex customer journeys with a mix of touch points, offline, on-site. Off-site—that’s a real challenge.
CMO.com: You’re also responsible for helping people within DER Touristik to use the technology.
Gaertner: It’s an enablement issue, so you have to start teaching. We set up an enablement session, and it was an obligation. People had to come, they had to sit in the classroom, they had to listen. Now our team is not only running reports and reporting to all the business owners or to upper management. Part of our daily business is teaching people about marketing technology. That has changed a lot in the organisation because people weren’t aware of all the stuff that is in analytics.
If you are responsible for a certain destination as product owner, for example, you should look into analytics every morning. Have a coffee, try to figure out how I am doing with my specific destination. People don’t do this because they don’t know how, they don’t know where to start, so you have to give them some guidance.
We make sure people are enabled so they feel confident logging into the analytics technology every morning—even if it’s just for five to 10 minutes—and trying to figure out how they were doing yesterday compared to last week, all those kinds of things.
CMO.com: You’ve been with the company for a year, and you’ve seen a lot of change, but what’s in the future?
Gaertner: The next step is really following through on the omnichannel strategy, including off-site data onboarding, using the data to optimise the user experience when the hit comes in, right away, on the first visit, for example, and then extending that and using that data to feed into a DMP as an example so that we can do lookalike modelling, expand our reach, and have a more targeted approach to buyer audiences. That’s pretty much what we want to accomplish within the next six to 12 months. Then, more and more CRM data integrations and getting a more holistic view on the customer, those kinds of things.
CMO.com: Do you have any advice for organisations that are looking to do a digital transformation?
Gaertner: Yes, no hesitation. Start doing it. Use the technologies you have to a very good extent. Start small and simple, don’t overcomplicate. Talk about the results because if you start from zero, you will have results, you have something to tell, and you can only win.
Let me give you one example. You could start with an A/B test on a home page, and you just maybe take sub-items, like teasers, maybe residing in the middle or even in the footer, and you can just say, “Hey, why don’t we change that teaser?”
So we do a big teaser and a small teaser, just easy things, just so that people see it works—we actually did this. We started doing that kind of simple testing, just looking at the big teaser approach, generic content, and then having another variation, just showing smaller teasers. Maybe they’re better for the tablets or mobile devices, right?
For the smaller teasers, we’ve seen a 20% higher stickiness, and that wasn’t a complex test scenario, that was easy. So just a simple A/B test makes people aware of what is possible and gives them a flavour, and then they will get thirsty, they will want to do more, and you will see a change in your organisations towards utilising the technologies and towards data-driven marketing as well.