For Amadeus, a leading technology provider for the travel industry, this means more than simply investing in new technologies that get customers excited. It means building the foundation of its business to thrive in a digital environment.
Among other things, the company is currently experimenting with an augmented reality prototype that allows users to virtually walk through an aircraft to see the differences among economy, business, and first-class seats before booking a flight. But for Pablo Jacobo Ruiz, head of digital marketing at Amadeus, the most important piece is the data behind the experience.
“The AR tech is very cool, but what’s cooler is that we can leverage passenger data to make the experience more personalised and seamless,” he said. “For instance, if we know someone prefers aisle seats near the front of the plane, we can tailor suggestions to suit that.”
In 2018 alone, Amadeus processed more than 643 million bookings and helped to board more than 1.8 billion travellers. Personalising experiences on this scale is difficult, at best, especially with a fragmented approach to different media channels. This is why the company moved to a single unified platform that supports seamless experiences across every customer touch point.
Think Big By Going Small
It is also particularly important as Amadeus adopts an account-based marketing (ABM) approach to reach small and midsize businesses. “We know the Expedias of the world,” Ruiz said, “but there are many midmarket players that present exciting opportunities for us. The ability to target these customers in an automated way allows us to engage them and move leads down the funnel more easily.”
While ABM promises a more effective and cost-efficient approach to personalisation, Amadeus recognised that it had neither the technology infrastructure nor the processes in place to make the transition. “You need the muscle in your organisation to move leads through the funnel,” Ruiz added. “That’s the part we’re working on.”
Recent years have also seen a convergence between B2C and B2B experiences, with business customers comparing every service to those they use as consumers, such as Netflix and Spotify. ABM provides a welcome means for B2B brands to meet this expectation by allowing for a more valuable content exchange with customers that builds long-term relationships.
The Power Of One
For B2B brands, a website must be more than the face of the company. It needs to serve as an informative, intuitive lead-generation channel, as well as a key element of a brand’s customer experience management (CXM) strategy.
Amadeus initially had 82 different websites and roughly 700 microsites in 17 different languages, which made the need for change critical. “It was a nightmare to manage,” Ruiz admitted. “Our platform was so fragmented that we couldn’t support any integrated marketing, much less manage customer data effectively or deliver personalised experiences in a scalable way.”
Amadeus set out to become more agile, customer-centric, insights-driven, and to convert its website into a lead-nurturing machine. The first step was to consolidate everything onto one responsive website, capable of personalising the customer experience by market and industry. This simple change has quickly paid dividends in terms of personalisation and nurturing leads.
“Before this consolidation, our customers struggled to understand how we worked internally or what the many pieces of our organisation could offer them. Today, we can do with one website what we could never achieve with many,” Ruiz said.
Strip Down The Process
As it often happens with well-established companies, Amadeus was being slowed down by long-winded processes that took up too much of its employees’ time, making it difficult to keep up with customer expectations.
For instance, Amadeus previously managed 40 different templates within its content management system (CMS). From an operational perspective, simple changes would create a complex chain of delays, which, in turn, led to higher costs. “We couldn’t continue spending all that time managing processes,” Ruiz said. “It’s not productive, it’s expensive, and it doesn’t drive growth.”
Amadeus has radically changed its approach. It now uses only a few templates and a limited number of components to serve all its content needs. This modular approach allows marketers to personalise customer experiences more quickly and in a more simple way, in addition to running more efficient A/B tests. “This personalised approach to content has already contributed to a 400% jump in lead generation,” Ruiz says.
The company also has seen a five-fold improvement in download conversion rates since beginning to proactively target customers with content based on their previous activity. According to Ruiz, a deeper understanding of each user allows Amadeus’ marketing to better tailor its approach to nurturing leads and passing them on to sales.
Cut Costs, Not Corners
Transformation is as much about cost-cutting as it is about innovation, but this is also where many projects meet resistance. For Amadeus, the challenge was to convince IT and operations teams that moving to cloud services was the best way to streamline and work more efficiently, “especially when we didn’t have the numbers up front to help them appreciate why this change was critical,” Ruiz said. “But we got there in the end.”
The company owns one of the biggest data centres in the world, but while it ticked all the right boxes from a service perspective, it couldn’t support an agile approach to digital marketing. Queries from the marketing team would often get stuck in queues, while bugs and bottlenecks only slowed things down further.
“Since moving over to cloud-based services, we’ve reduced IT management costs by 80% and cut the frequency of IT downtime by 95%,” Ruiz said. “More importantly, IT teams can address customer calls and tickets 60% faster, and Amadeus has seen more relevant marketing-qualified leads passed on to sales as a result.”
Never Lose Sight Of Your Vision
When introducing new forms of marketing automation, employees will rightfully wonder how their jobs will be affected. Even if they buy into the vision, they also need assurance they will be supported throughout the change.
For Ruiz, it was crucial that his team work with senior management to show employees they had the organisation behind them. From updated processes and upskilling to new ways of working, Amadeus’ efforts were designed to help teams make the most of the company’s technology investment, rather than feel threatened by it. “This piece is crucial,” he argued. “Otherwise you just end up with expensive technologies nobody can use.”
With buy-in from leadership, Ruiz’s team then set up a digital centre of excellence (COE) to integrate Amadeus’ marketing efforts. Individual teams can now focus on marketing strategies that are specifically tailored to their vertical focus, demonstrate how they will add value, and then pass them on to the COE to be put into action.
Looking back at Amadeus’ digital transformation to date, Ruiz attributes its success to one factor: an uncompromising commitment to change. “The key thing is to have a clear vision, make that your North Star, and surround yourself with smart people who can help you move the business in the right direction,” he said.
The results have also elevated the profile of digital transformation within Amadeus. “We have data that proves the value of our efforts, and people have noticed,” Ruiz said. “We’re also getting invited to discussions in the boardroom that we were never a part of before because the business understands this is only the beginning and there’s more to come.”