Holland America cruise line creates personalized experiences with Adobe Analytics

Learn how Adobe Analytics helped democratize data and optimize Holland America's website.

Technology is changing the cruise industry Technology is making cruising seamless, from the time a person enters a ship until their vacation ends.

With the mission of creating a better online user experience, Holland America cruise line recently adopted the Adobe Analytics platform. The Adobe Analytics package offers a bevy of web analytics tools for businesses, featuring real-time marketing insights and artificial intelligence (AI)-driven predictive analytics. 

The rise of internet of things (IoT) technology and AI has brought an influx of data to organizations, which caused data analytics to follow as a means to interpret this new data. Data is so integral to organizations that more than half (60%) of business decision makers said they would rather lose half of their companies' revenue growth for the next year than lose half of their companies' data, according to Logically's 2019 Small and Midsize Business IT Study

SEE: Data analytics: A guide for business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Data analytics have made a huge splash in the retail industry, helping boost the success of online retailers and saving the lives of brick and mortar stores. Data analytics are pervading other industries, specifically marketing, said Aaron Fossum, director of digital analytics at Holland America Line.

"Analytics has been this thing that's lived in IT and not marketing," Fossum said. "[Before], if you wanted data, you would go talk to a pocket protector guy; they would go and do their magic in their ivory tower, and give you this shiny report."

Digital analytics departments didn't even exist before data analytics became popular, Fossum, said. For Holland America, in particular, "There was a digital analyst who reported to our media team, and that analyst managed a series of contractors." 

However, once organizations began jumping on the analytics train, Holland America realized it was time to join the movement. 

This shift was spearheaded by Holland America's vice president of integrated marketing, Jarvis Powers, according to Fossum. Powers noticed that not only was the travel industry changing, but the way people were shopping for cruises was changing, too. Marketing teams were beginning to leverage data to create a more personalized experience for users, rather than maintaining the traditional, siloed approach to marketing, Fossum added. 

To create this more personalized experience for consumers, the cruise line turned to Adobe Analytics. 

Setting sail with Adobe Analytics

Holland America Line used Adobe Analytics in three key ways: Data democratization, website optimization, and customer personalization. 

1. Data democratization

Adobe Analytics made data more accessible to people, enabling average business users to become analysts themselves, Fossum said. This tool provides insights in a way that is digestible to all members of the organization, which allows more people to contribute to improving operations.

After Adobe Analytics was integrated, the Holland America team started hosting meetings that they called jam sessions. "Once a week, we take two hours, sit in a common area, and let people who have analytics questions that may not be on the projects, bring those questions in an open fashion," Fossum said. 

"Over time, the jam session went from a drop-in support session, where the analytics team is really front and center, to where some regulars, who aren't formally part of the analytics team, start helping out other users," he continued. "You have this multiplying effect as more and more people start to attend the analytics jam session, where more people become experts in it. That's really been a cornerstone of how we're trying to democratize analytics."

2. Optimization

Holland America used analytics to prioritize various experiments and tests they conducted on the site, attempting to find what worked best for their audience. Rather than blindly trying every new idea, the team decided to use the analytics to help with prioritization, Fossum said. 

"We use analytics to create an impact and a calculator," Fossum noted. "We call [it] the PIE model. It's a very common optimization prioritization I use."

By ranking each optimization idea against the PIE model, the team was able to see the ideas most worth trying out, without risk of wasting too much time or resources. "For example, say there are the sections of the website that really have high conversion. If you were to create a 1% improvement on these pages, what would the revenue impact of that 1% improvement be?"

3. Personalization

The youngest portion of Holland America's program, personalization is a major benefit to using data analytics. 

Holland America is experimenting with personalization in a number of ways on their site, according to Fossum. "The first things we looked at were what pages [customers were] looking at on a site," he said. "From there, we can infer whether that user is searching for a cruise, in the process of booking a cruise, or browsing a cruise. And those are actually the three segments that we created: Browse, search, and book."

With those segments in mind, the team began creating analytic segments based on what the user was doing. For example, if someone was starting the booking process for a Caribbean cruise, next time they go to the site, Holland Cruise will make sure a Caribbean creative appears on the homepage, Fossum said. 

"Right now, we're in the midst of starting to design and implement some of those personalizations," he said. "But it really started with understanding what our personalization signals were. We're really still kind of digesting those personalization signals."

The team has seen direct success from an ROI standpoint after implementing Adobe Analytics, Fossum said. While the specific ROI numbers must be kept internal, Fossum said, "The website is having a really good year for driving bookings. We have seen measurable revenue lift from our efforts."

Using insights from Adobe Analytics as to how users are responding to specific changes, the team has been able to democratize, optimize, and personalize their data in effective ways, he added. 

For more, check out Technology is changing the cruise industry on TechRepublic. 

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