InterContinental Hotels Group's Kevin Hickey on Targeting E-mails While Incorporating Social Sharing Capabilities
"Boy, that trip to Aruba sure was great, wasn't it?" That's what a visitor to the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort might easily say to herself after returning from the beach resort and casino. And those who run the hotel, United Kingdom-based InterContinental Hotels Group, would sure like it if she passed those thoughts along.
That's partly why, in November 2009, IHG started working with Redwood City, Calif.-based StrongMail Systems, a provider of online marketing solutions for e-mail and social media. In addition to being able to integrate data for a single view of the customer that allows the hotel group to personalize communications, IHG wanted its single e-mail service provider to enable sharing.
So in December 2009, IHG put its transactional e-mails on the new platform and by March 2010, the hotel group had a single ESP. That means IHG is ahead of many of its competitors, according to the report "Connected Marketing for Travel Providers" that Relevancy Group CEO David Daniels authored and StrongMail released on May 6. "Only 30 percent of travel e-mail marketers are using subscriber preferences or behaviors to target offers in pre- and post-stay e-mails," according to the announcement. Also, 42 percent of travel marketers plan to integrate social media into their e-mail platforms this year.
Integrating e-mail—especially with social media, given the viral nature of the content—is the hot new thing in travel marketing, says Kara Trivunovic, StrongMail's senior director of strategic services. "Just from a trend standpoint, we're seeing a lot of that. And it's the culmination of a lot of work, typically over the course of many years."
"Yes," exhales Kevin Hickey, IHG's global manager of lifecycle and e-mail marketing. "It is not a quick process."
Target Marketing: What direct marketing challenges did IHG encounter during e-mail integration?
Kevin Hickey: Honestly, there were a number. Primarily, we were looking to consolidate our e-mail messaging that was split up among two different e-mail platforms onto one. There were a lot of quick wins that we knew we'd get right off the bat. Between the data elements, we had a much tighter integration with our marketing efforts. We were on a CPM cost structure, so there were cost-saving components, as well. Speed and efficiency of the platform helped us out with speed to market.