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Marathon, not Sprint: How lastminute.com Wins with Long-Term Traveler Engagement

lastminute.com’s CMO shares his company’s long-term marketing approach, focusing on nurturing and engaging travelers across multiple channels.

Video Transcript

Thank you very much. Fantastic to be here in Tel Aviv. I came for the first time, I think two years ago also to the Optimove summit, and I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a fantastic city. Fantastic weather. Really motivational people.

So, I’m very glad to Optimove for having me again. I will talk to you about marathon, not sprint. I think as Paul said before in travel, our product is very transactional. So, you have many sites you can go to, and usually, our relationships are one time relationships.

This is what we see with data. Therefore, really building a long-term relationship with the customer is for us a marathon rather than a sprint, so building this based on data. I will show you a bit about lastminute.com is about then what we think about brand marketing, and how we do brand marketing, something I’m tremendously proud of.

It might also sound a bit different from what the other players in the space are doing, but I think it’s essentially where we need to go. And then last point will be about the technology, and how we are working with Optimove to set up all of this with our customers. So, therefore, put yourself a bit into flight mode, and enjoy the show because I think what I will present to you is really key for us, and I think you can also take something away from it.

So, coming to lastminute.com, what you see here is essentially our mission to be the most relevant and inspiring company committed to enriching life of our travelers. And there are two keywords, relevant and inspiring. So, being relevant throughout our marketing campaigns, throughout product, and through all the touchpoints we have with our customers and, obviously, inspiring our customers with our message to ultimately enrich their lives.

So, this is really deep to the heart of our company, and deep to everything we do through all our different departments. So, this is lastminute.com at a glance. We are available in 40 countries, growing, 17 languages. We have 23,000 passengers per day.

That is 36 Airbus A380 every day, every single day. We have 1,200 people working out of 12 countries of which we have 300 to 400 developers depending on how you count. Our GTV, so this is gross travel value, is €2.4 billion.

We have 60 million unique visitors, so unique sessions, Google Analytic’s definition, per month, and 38% of our bookings are happening on the mobile phone. This number could actually be bigger, but again, there are certain challenges, obviously, with setting up our product right.

So, this is our geographical reach. You’ll see that we are central to five European countries, which is the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. But then we are expanding, especially towards Scandinavia, Eastern Europe. We are also in the U.S.

We have a brand there which is called Jetcost, but, obviously, much smaller and now we are expanding to India, Asia. So, India is a big focus for us as well, where we did recently a couple of acquisitions. And what you’ll ultimately see is that since 2014 up until 2018, we expanded our scope tremendously.

If we are talking about our brands, you see, obviously, lastminute.com, which is our central brand in our core markets, and which is also the brand we are using to expand internationally. Then we have Volagratis, which is very local to Italy, very strong in Italy. We have Rumbo in Spain, and we acquired about one year ago weg.de in Germany.

And I think key for you is also to understand that for each of those brands, we are building a local and unique brand experience adapted to the local consumer and to the local market. What sets us apart from others in our space is our dynamic package, which is very different from the classical tour operator package.

So, you might know if you buy from a tour operator like TUI, you have a certain set of days, you have a predefined location, a predefined hotel, and a certain airline you need to take in order to go to this location with a classical tour operator package. With dynamic package is, obviously, as the name says, a lot more adapted to what is required for today’s traveler in terms of, “I want to be flexible.I want to have flexible experiences.I want to decide myself on the duration of my stay on the airline I take, on the hotel category I take, maybe on this specific hotel, I want to stay in.”

So, this is something which sets us, apart and which is really unique towards lastminute.com and where we see a lot of growth. So, we grew year on year 50%, 60% with our dynamic package product, which is central to lastminute.com. So, taking a step back, this is essentially a slide we are using a lot in brand marketing because it explains the complex world we are living in.

And, obviously, you are all aware, we have a lot of competition. We have booking.com, we have Expedia, which are much bigger than us, and who have various diverse brands in the markets we are operating in. So, we really have a hard headway there. Then obviously our world is becoming ever more complex. We have political uncertainty.

We have environmental disasters. We have a lot of change in terms of our social space on how we are interacting with each other. We are multidevice, multiplatform. So, this is, ultimately, the challenge from a marketing perspective as it is from a product perspective to be there where the user actually is, and to understand what is engaging the user in order to build better relationships with them in this complex world.

So, this is a very interesting data point. I looked at it a lot, and it’s ultimately based on a Google behavioral study done on package to our customers. And Google asked customers, what makes you actually decide for a brand?

And ultimately, I was very surprised because, obviously, talking to a classical brand marketing department, they will tell you, “Yeah, it’s brand building.It’s long term, top of mind with our customers.” But you see here that 77% is not so much about classical brand marketing. But it’s more about power of free, which is commercial message, certain discounts with our product, social norms in terms of engaging with our customers on social platforms, category heuristics which is about product, how easy it is to use a certain product, and how to interact with your product.

And then 10% on brand authority, which I will also talk a bit about. And this is essentially how do you build brand authority? How do you connect with influencers? How do you connect with certain famous sites in order to build the authority of your brand?

So, we took those data points, and essentially we thought, “Okay, what is our brand marketing strategy?” And the strategy, I’m going to explain to you, is essentially focused on this. So, first of all, clearly, you need to do it… This is like the bread and butter. You need to have a well-defined brand marketing strategy. So, for lastminute.com, we came up with “Whatever makes you pink,”which is flamingo attitude in terms of a flamingo eats shrimps and becomes pink because it eats shrimps, and we thought, “Okay, for our travelers it’s essentially the same.”

You know, they go with lastminute.com on a trip in order to have moments they can share with their friends and family. Moments to remember. And we saw it, okay, this fits very well because ultimately we are about the travel experience, and this is what makes users pink, is why we have the slogan, “Whatever makes you pink.”

And then, this brand marketing strategy is not only about setting up a brand marketing strategy. Obviously, we have the flamingo, which is very recognizable, but then at the same time you might see here we have also the flamoji, which is a bit small, but it’s essentially an emoji of a flamingo, which we use on social media and which is fun, and again, resonates very well with our users.

So, this is a brand marketing strategy. Then the next slide I’m going to show you is about us connecting with key influencers in our markets. And again, looking at our competition, this is something usually travel brands don’t do so much because the question always is, how measurable is this? What is really the impact?

But we believe it’s absolutely key. So we connected to J-Ax, and J-Ax is an artist, very, very famous in Italy, and he actually was about to launch the summer hit of this year, and we thought, “Okay, we will sponsor, and we’ll help you position this summer hit.”

Obviously, this was a risk. To what extent will this go viral? But we invested in it, and I think now it’s at 12 million views on YouTube, so it’s very, very famous in Italy and resonated very well with our audiences. And this is obviously just an example for things we are doing in order to connect with influencers.

Then at the same time, it’s not only about macro-influencers, but it’s really connecting to our audiences, to our users, and using them as influencers on social media in order to spread our message. And this is essentially what you see on this slide. So, using all our customers as ultimately micro-influencers but then also working with macro-influencers as J-Ax in order to spread our message.

And this is not always about bringing out a commercial message, but really just about the brand marketing message, which is, obviously, a lot more upper funnel in order to connect with our users. Doing this, obviously, we need to make sure to focus on relevant topics. Here we see three topics we are usually using in order to spread our message.

So, music I already explained to you then, obviously, foods which is, especially to Southern Europeans, absolutely central and which also is a topic which is very social, and then obviously travel. This is absolutely clear. Then personally, I come from performance marketing, programmatic marketing, so I’m always a big fan of programmatic banners, which use data of our users to bring a relevant message.

So, this is something we are very strong at as well, and you should be… This is a lot more lower funnel with the price point on top, which is highly relevant to the user. So coming again back to what I explained to you from the outset, the power of free and the power of a commercial message. And again, you see that we are very much focused on social.

Now, the marketing department of lastminute.com is very much connected to product. I already told you this, but it really goes down to the point that we are sitting with our product managers and are discussing with them the roadmap for next year, discussing with them initiatives in order to better connect to our users.

And this is essentially what my next slide is about where we are working at the moment, for instance, with the product department on an open search where you don’t necessarily need to give anymore a destination where you want to go to, but you will enter beach vacation, and then you get certain suggestions on where to take your next vacation. But then it also, obviously, resonates with specific landing pages for our users in order to deliver the right message which is connected to the right ad.

So, there is a lot of work and a lot of innovation as well happening together between marketing and product. Then the last point on our brand marketing strategy is about brand authority. So, there will be, actually pretty soon, big news in terms of us sponsoring additional events, additional sites.

This is just an example of smaller activation we did last year, where we sponsored London Buses, and I thought it fits very well because, obviously, London Buses is an iconic site in London. And our brand marketing in 2020 will be even stronger about this. So, what can we do in order to sponsor iconic events, iconic stars, iconic sites again in our local communities?

And, by the way, on the bus, you’ll see the flamojis I was talking about before, so the Flamingo heads which I like a lot. Great. So, talking to my boss, he’s always saying, “Well, we are actually not really selling travel.”

Our product is a lot about managing our data. And again, we are, obviously, very grateful for the partnership with Optimove in order to deliver this multidevice, seamless experience I was talking to you before about.

But thinking a bit closer, what does this actually mean, and what do I need to set up as a company and as a marketing department in order to deliver it? So, there are two very simple things. One of them is, obviously, I need to get the targeting right. And I’m talking to a lot of marketing tech companies who always tell me, “Yeah, that is a simple thing, and you connect to us, and then you can make it happen,” but, obviously, the devil lies in the details, so, therefore, we have a huge focus, obviously, from a marketing perspective on this.

And then the second point, and this is what today’s summit is about, is essentially about audience management and deeply understanding the individual user. Then another concept, which is absolutely key to our strategy, is PESO. And PESO is essentially very simple. It’s about paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media, so paid media are the classical social and SEM.

Then earned media, which is probably best described as PR, so as a site, you are winning over with your message. Shared media. Again, the social message and owned media is our own platforms. So, we need to make sure that everything we do is across those platforms and is resonating there where our users are.

Coming back again to the point, how do you set up your company, and how do you set up your marketing department in order to deliver this message? For me, what is absolutely key and what has been key since I joined lastminute.com three and a half years ago was to build an in-house content marketing department which is able to manage user-generated content, able to manage curated content, video content, animated content.

And, obviously, not all in-house, but is also able to manage the external partners who are delivering this for us. And then the other point is again, data and targeting, and coming back to the slide I mentioned earlier. And I put here an engine because for many people in brand marketing, it’s usually a challenge to become technical, and to understand how to really set this up in terms of the tools we need, and in terms of the data infrastructure, we need to have in place.

And then I think the other intrinsic message of this slide is that your programmatic and performance marketing department needs to work very well with the content marketing department, and ultimately have a joint strategy and a joint implementation. Nurturing our audience.

Essentially, here you have the CDP as a fertile ground which Pini talked about earlier this morning, and I think this is something we are working on a lot. How can we deliver a relevant message to the right user at the right moment in time?

And obviously, again, this is not the classical funnel, so I cannot think of a user, “Okay.This user is probably a bit more upper funnel.” Tomorrow he might actually be lower funnel. So, I need to make sure that I’m very adaptive, and that I’m also very flexible with the messages I’m delivering to this user, and, obviously, what Pini was describing this morning in terms of having machine learning in place in order to better understand this and to deliver these messages as they are absolutely key I believe.

So, ultimately coming back to what I presented to you from the outset in terms of having our mission as the most relevant and inspiring travel company committed to enrich the life of our users is central to our marketing strategy and to our product marketing strategy, and ultimately also to our tech strategy.

And with that, I think my message to you is that… Because we are talking a lot about loyalty in travel, and there are a lot of loyalty programs, like booking.com has their Genius program. But, ultimately, I think we strongly believe that we need to deliver an ecosystem out there which makes it fun for users to work with us.

Makes it easy for users to work with us. This starts with the customer department as it is with our websites and connecting and communicating to our users through social media, to give you a couple of examples. But this needs to be a well-aligned engine, and this is, ultimately, what we are trying to set up with the various brands we have in the different markets all around content and data management.

And with that, I leave you with really a programmatic message ultimately, the right beat, the right moment, the right time. So, this is something which you need to set up and where Optimove, obviously, is central for us. So, thank you very much.

This, by the way, is my last slide and is a poster which we had in London subway, and which I liked a lot because it’s very fun and sets the flamingo at the center. So, thank you very much.