When we think of Digital Transformation Pioneers, we usually think of software companies and other “digital” businesses.
We don’t usually include Hotels in that category.
Behind the lovely experiences we get at the best hotels, there are mounds and mounds of data from thousands and thousands of transactions. This amount of data means that not even hotels can ignore the importance of digital transformation.
We recently interviewed Lyn MacDonald, Group Marketing Director at MacDonald Hotels & Resorts. Lyn shared how she worked with MacDonald’s IT team to get their data up to GDPR standards in a surprisingly short amount of time. She also talked about how data has enhanced the customer experience at the company’s 40 or so hotels.
Here are some highlights from the interview.
The Data Behind the Wonderful Hotels We See
“It’s all about using the data to make sure we’re telling the customers the right message at the right time.”
– Lyn MacDonald
“Who’s sleeping in our bed?”
It’s the first question Lyn and her colleagues ask themselves as marketers. They have data from thousands of transactions a day, and they’re using that data to come up with a single customer view.
Why is the Customer Here? Business? Leisure?
Understanding the data isn’t about bombarding customers with a massive number of emails. Spam would be counterproductive to MacDonald Hotels, which is mostly a “leisure” brand.
Instead, it’s about using the data to benefit their customers. There’s a big difference between someone who must visit a hotel for a conference and someone who chooses to visit with family or for a spa weekend.
It’s all about using the data to make sure you’re telling the customers the right message at the right time.
Why Lyn Loves GDPR
Surprisingly, Lyn is a massive fan of the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR).
Most people hate it, but she thinks it’s been a good thing for marketers.
“[GDPR] has stopped us being lazy as marketers,” she said. “It makes us talk to the customers about the right things at the right time.”
MacDonald Hotels now has eight data sources that seamlessly feed into their CRM system. Besides being more cost-effective for the business, GDPR was one of the driving forces behind that data-consolidation project when she went to present it to the board.
We all know that GDPR is supposed to be a good thing. Who doesn’t want less spam?
If you treat it the way it’s intended, GDPR can make you get back to the data, honor compliance, and give customers more than they expect from you. Sometimes, you’ll even see an increase in business because people coming to your site are interested in staying. In more ways than one, it can work in your favor.
“[GDPR] has stopped us being lazy as marketers.”
– Lyn MacDonald
Meeting the Impossible Deadline
The IT team was more important for Lyn than ever during the data project.
Like all marketing teams, Lyn wanted the project done now. IT teams, in general, are regimented, structured, and patient. The IT director and Lyn had quite a few chuckles about that.
However, something was working in Marketing’s favor in this case: GDPR.
There was a degree of urgency since GDPR acted as a forcing function for the project. As you can imagine, the IT team still has a business to run. Somehow, they managed to complete the data project in a surprisingly short amount of time, even while keeping the lights on.
How did they do it? Communication was essential—as was a healthy dose of reality for the marketing team. Initially, the team expected a three-month turnaround, which perhaps was crazy and naive. IT didn’t hit that goal, but the project was still completed in just seven months.
To transition from an existing system of seven years to a new one in seven months is a remarkable achievement. All that data, all those baked in processes were against them, but despite the odds they did it.
From the drawing board to production in seven months—in large part because of GDPR requirements.
To recap, here are our three main takeaways from Lyn’s interview:
- The hotel industry runs on data, and the systems that contain it need to be connected. However, systems can be connected while the business continues to operate.
- GDPR is a friend of marketers. Moreover, there’s life after GDPR—in fact, a better life!
- The IT team can remain your allies, even when you tell them they have to build completely new systems in seven months.
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