Shopping for martech can be complicated. But like any item on your to-do list, it’s easier to stay focused if you talk to someone on the other side of the challenge you’re facing.
Nick Charrow, senior digital marketing manager at Princess Cruises, shares how investing in a data management platform (DMP) and other martech changed team dynamics, opened up a new universe of people-based marketing and measurement use cases, and most importantly, shaped better customer experiences.
RampUp: Can you tell us what you do at Princess Cruises?
Nick: Sure. I’m the senior manager of digital marketing at Princess Cruises. I oversee everything from display, whether it’s programmatic or direct; search, including paid and organic; and affiliate marketing. I’m also in charge of paid social and email strategy. We’re working with our agencies and other partners to activate across all those channels.
At the center of it, we’re using data to make marketing decisions. We’re knee-deep in Adobe Audience Manager, which is our data management platform (DMP), and are starting to leverage LiveRamp and other data tools to make better marketing decisions. That’s what’s exciting about where we’re headed.
RampUp: How long have you been with Princess Cruises?
Nick: I’ve been part of Princess for about three years now. I love that every day, I get to go to work and have a role in people’s vacations. I don’t think people take enough vacations, so I don’t feel too bad about being creative about how I get people to go from on-the-fence about taking a vacation or cruise to booking. People need to have more fun and collect memories, not things.
RampUp: Right. It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot of personalization and finding the right data to tell someone, it looks like you’re interested in Cancun, or it looks like you’re interested in Italy. How do you arrive at the point of knowing that this person is teetering on the edge of that fence and is ready to book?
Nick: We start with personalization. Obviously, personalization is something that many brands are trying to wrap their heads around, and we’re there, too. We’re trying to identify all those signals across many different channels. We mostly use our DMP to bring those together.
We can identify users who have raised their hand for a brochure and also visited or frequented search results pages on our website. They also might be coming from our endemic partners, like Cruise Critic. And we wrap those together and go after those cruise seeker audiences versus somebody who’s a little more upper funnel in that vacation seeker mode. For them, we’re looking at a different set of signals or traits.
Maybe this audience isn’t really engaging with our website and getting into our itinerary pages, but maybe they’re hitting our home page and learning about the top ten facts you need to know before going on a cruise. We can pair that with some of our native advertising, for example. These are some of our upper-funnel cues that go into building a segment that we may use to target audiences in the digital world.
RampUp: It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot of data and making that data available through your DMP across the different marketing teams that you mentioned earlier. When you first came to Princess, what did you think of the data that Princess had available?
Nick: One of the cool things about coming on three years ago is we really didn’t have a DMP. We weren’t using LiveRamp. All of our channels were in silos. We had an agency that focused on search and another agency that focused on display. Things were being double counted.
Our DMP sits at the center of our business and allowed us to break down the silos. Our CRM, web, email, and media leads all come together on a somewhat regular basis to talk about how data in our DMP works together.
What’s interesting is who owns the DMP at different organizations dictates how that data is being used. When I came on, there wasn’t anything set up. Three years later, we’ve done a lot of work to bring these disparate media sources together to start to personalize, reach audiences we didn’t know existed, use partners like LiveRamp, and scale. I think the problem with some of these very advanced targeted segments is that scale becomes a problem.
In order to really make the most of it, you need to increase that scale, and I think that’s where I’m hoping our partners can take us.
RampUp: You’re at a different stage now, martech-stack-wise, than you were three years ago.
Nick: Yes, there wasn’t really a stack, now, there is. We’ve bought into many different Adobe products to really help with that.
RampUp: Can you share some of the challenges in creating that stack and the stakeholders you need to corral?
Nick: Yes—find the right people at the organization and get them included in the conversation. A lot of these people don’t necessarily have an understanding of data and how to activate certain audiences. They know CRM, and it helps them with direct mail or email. The web team sees their data and uses it for site optimization, but they don’t see how everything is connected.
In creating our martech stack, we first had to find the right key stakeholders and then educate them on how all this data can work together. Now, some of our people who weren’t as knowledgeable about these solutions before are really excited about working together and finding a mutual benefit from this data. That’s where we’re at right now.
RampUp: That’s great. This initial project of bringing people together to understand the many uses of data and how it can affect the teams has actually helped you work internally at Princess in a more holistic manner.
Nick: Yes, I think the conversations that I have now between all these different people are really great and speak to our culture. It’s changing a bit of the dynamic culture at Princess to be more open and willing to think outside of your standard workflow.
RampUp: Do you think getting people to think differently about the way they use data and share with other teams was a challenge?
Nick: Yes, people definitely weren’t really necessarily thinking about this, and now, it’s part of their regular conversations. The simple answer is yes.
RampUp: You have a powerful DMP and put together this beautiful martech stack that does a lot of great things across your marketing organization. What are some of the use cases that you’re able to bring about as a result of just knowing a little bit more about who your consumers and prospects are and where they might want to go?
Nick: One of the things that kept popping up today were use cases around what customers actually want and don’t want. And so, the biggest win [for us] is one of the easiest use cases—suppressing people from ads when they don’t want them, like people who are currently booked for a cruise or loyal guests who don’t really need another touch point.
The first thing this did was stop wasting our media dollars. I think in turn, ad suppression affects the consumer in a positive way, because they are also not being bombarded with those messages. So achieving cost savings, media savings, and customer satisfaction was our big first win with better media suppression.
The next thing we did was look at touch points from multiple channels. Previously, we would look at these channels separately. We’d see somebody who requested a brochure for Alaska, signed up for special offers, and identified Alaska as a place of interest on one channel and would consider that a set of traits. But now, we’re able to bring their web and media behavior together to build out a more robust picture of that user so that when we send them emails or activate media like display campaigns, we have a better sense of what messages we should target those users with.
We’re hoping that bringing together this data and trying to speak to customers’ interest yields better experiences. Soon, we hope to use that behavior to personalize on-site experiences as well. I think that will lead to higher customer satisfaction and pre-booking will come to fruition across all those different marketing channels.
RampUp: What you said just now reminded me about what one of our speakers, Jeremy Levine from Live Nation, said about the experience being so much more than going on a cruise or to a concert. It’s really what people do six months before, or three months before, and even the aftermath. How do you view the customer experience you just discussed and its contribution to increasing customer lifetime value?
Nick: I think we’re always thinking about that journey from the dream phase, to the research phase, to booking. We think about the conversations and sharing that happens between the touches we see. Thinking about that full journey is what we’re really trying to hone in on.
We’re still not perfect. We send guests too many marketing materials throughout the course of their journey from dream to post-booking. We’re really trying to fine tune that so we’re only hitting guests with the right messages at the right time. This is something we’re working toward but we still haven’t cracked the nut on it. I think there is a lot of opportunity there.
RampUp: Thank you so much, Nick, for being with us. Last question: you’ve been at Princess for three years, and you’ve gotten a lot done in terms of breaking down the silos, audience segmentation, personalization, and more. What’s on the docket now, other than what you just mentioned?
Nick: I think one thing that we’re really trying to figure out is going from online to offline. I asked a question to one of the guys over at Gap today about understanding how online media exposure or any exposure translates to offline bookings.
The cruise industry is traditionally a very offline-heavy world. Many bookings happen through travel agents. They happen through a call center. People want to call in and talk to somebody about their $5,000 cruise. So how many of the emails, banner ads, and search ads that we try to get in front of them actually affect that offline purchase?
LiveRamp is helping us get there with being able to identify at the person level all those different touch points, so that we can have a better, more holistic view of our consumer and put together a better consumer journey. So getting that online to offline piece is on my roadmap this year.
RampUp: Great, well maybe next year we’ll chat again, and we’ll see how you’re doing on your people-based measurement journey. Nick, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
Nick: Awesome. If there is anyone out there in the digital universe that hasn’t been on a cruise, go online and check it out. I think people have a lot of preconceived notions about cruising, but it’s honestly one of the best vacations you can have. I just want to put it out there as a pure Princess cruiser!