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How unifying customer profiles is paying off for this iconic travel brand

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How unifying customer profiles is paying off for this iconic travel brand

Swiftcurrent Lake in the Many Glacier region at Glacier National Park. Image provided by Xanterra.

Xanterra Travel Company owns an extremely unique and diverse collection of travel and hospitality brands that all share a common mission — to provide travelers with unforgettable experiences. 

Xanterra manages concessions at many well-known national parks and destinations including Glacier National Park, The Grand Canyon, and Mount Rushmore. Their properties cover a combined eight million acres of land. They also own or manage over 30 hotels adjacent to these iconic locations and, as if that weren’t enough, they own six luxury yachts, seven golf courses, and 89 food and beverage outlets.

“We’re a company that that grows organically through acquisition,” explained Andrew Heltzel, Xanterra’s corporate director of marketing, CRM and analytics. Heltzel has been with the company for 11 years. 

Five years ago he found himself faced with the task of unifying customer identities across multiple brands and experiences. Xanterra needed to combine their customer data and profiles into one single identity to better personalize marketing messaging and identify opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling to their vast customer base (Xanterra’s 8000 staff members service over 20 million guests each year.)

To achieve this monumental task, Xanterra partnered with Redpoint Global, a customer experience platform that specializes in creating a “Golden Record” for each customer by combining and resolving multiple profiles into a single identity, enabling much more targeted and relevant personalization.

“We help brands create a golden record of their consumer by resolving all identities that the consumer might use,” said John Nash, Redpoint Global’s chief marketing and strategy officer. “Brands can integrate all attributes into a single customer view and append third party data to it. We update that with identity resolution in real time.”

Onboarding the right technology 

Because of Xanterra’s growth model, they didn’t have the luxury of standardizing the systems they use throughout the organization to facilitate guest bookings and operations the way a company like Marriott would. When searching for a technology that could achieve an advanced level of customer identity resolution, Heltzel’s team cast a broad net. 

“We just sort of get what we get,” said Heltzel. “Redpoint allowed us to leave our existing infrastructure in place. We brought in over 100 different sources of data and established a Golden Record across the different interfaces and source systems.”

Heltzel notes that when scoping out vendors — a process that begin in 2017 — Redpoint stood out during the RFP process. They understood Xanterra’s data complexities and brought the best and fastest solution compared with the competition. “They gave us the most confidence that they would deliver on their promises — which they have,” he said.

To kick off the vendor selection and onboarding process, Xanterra established a core team of about 15 individuals made up of leaders from every brand in their portfolio. “This was probably one of the first enterprise-wide projects that impacted all the companies within the organization,” explained Heltzel. “It was new territory for us.”

Finding the golden ticket — er, record

The  onboarding process with Redpoint took about six months. “It was surprisingly fast in my view,” said Heltzel. “We could have gone even faster, but we decided to go through the implementation process brand by brand.”

Xanterra worked with Redpoint to establish a Golden Record of guests across their different brands. This enabled them to see which customers were traveling with brands throughout their portfolio, a huge breakthrough according to Heltzel. 

Redpoint was instrumental in training Heltzel’s team. They worked with Xanterra to take a “crawl, walk, run “approach within the platform. 

“They restrained our marketers from getting out too far over their skis too quickly,” said Heltzel. “Redpoint had a really great team of trainers and support that we could access 24/7 as our brands started to really engage with implementing the platform.”

Once all the data was combined and customer identities unified, Xanterra began creating audience segments with personalized messaging.

A leap forward in personalization and ROI

The impacts of their new unified marketing approach were felt almost immediately. For the first time, Xanterra was able to segment their audiences in a way that allowed them to deliver offers to specific groups of customers (e.g., a family group, a group of golfers, retirees, etc.) Some brands saw increases in their email ROI north of 400% within the first year.

“It was absolutely stunning,” said Heltzel. “We were coming from basically nothing — just a batch and blast type of email tool that didn’t even allow us to manage customer preferences. Unsubscribes were a little sketchy at best. We’ve really made a massive leap forward with our partnership with Redpoint.”

Heltzel credits a major reason for their success to Redpoint’s dedicated support throughout the entire process of onboarding, implementation and usage. 

“Dale Renner, one of Redpoint’s founders, came out to visit us here in Denver when we were at the most critical part of the project—the implementation and adoption phase,” said Heltzel. “He assured us that he would be there to support us to whatever extent necessary to ensure we were successful and he stood behind that.”

Read next: How a smart email strategy helped Apple Rose Beauty thrive during the pandemic

A digital transformation initiative of the size and complexity of Xanterra’s requires committed vendor support — a true partnership. “We see Redpoint as strategic business partner — not a software vendor, not a data vendor, but a true strategic business partner of ours,” said Heltzel.

Technology as a means of future proofing

Travel businesses were hard hit by COVID, and Xanterra was no exception, but having Redpoint in place helped them prepare for — and address — changing consumer behaviors, demands, and expectations caused by the pandemic.

Said Heltzel, “Overnight, we pivoted our messaging from marketing-focused to more operations focused. So, how to prepare for your upcoming travel, what to expect when you arrive, etc.”

Heltzel notes that today’s travel environment remains fluid. For example, they recently had a COVID outbreak among a large contingent of food and beverage staff at Yellowstone. This forced Xanterra to pivot from dining table service to grab-and-go food and beverage options.

“From an operations perspective, we were able to use Redpoint and our dataset to impact the customer experience and help set expectations up front so that no one was taken by surprise when they arrived.”

For companies looking to undertake this advanced level of digital transformation, Heltzel’s main piece of advice is to do your homework up front. 


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Said Heltzel, “A lot of our success with Redpoint is largely attributable to how deep we go into our brands, and how Redpoint could support them, not only 10 years ago, but looking into the future. We took our time doing our due diligence around the type of customer experience we wanted to achieve,  which was delivering real-time personalized experiences across every channel. Hands down, all of our marketing leadership said yes, that’s the future. That’s where we need to be. We were able to lean into the Redpoint solution to take advantage of that capability over time.”


About The Author

Jacqueline Dooley is a freelance B2B content writer and journalist covering martech industry news and trends. Since 2018, she’s worked with B2B-focused agencies, publications, and direct clients to create articles, blog posts, whitepapers, and eBooks. Prior to that, Dooley founded Twelve Thousand, LLC where she worked with clients to create, manage, and optimize paid search and social campaigns.

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SEO Recap: ChatGPT – Moz

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SEO Recap: ChatGPT - Moz

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

We’re back with another SEO recap with Tom Capper! As you’ve probably noticed, ChatGPT has taken the search world by storm. But does GPT-3 mean the end of SEO as we know it, or are there ways to incorporate the AI model into our daily work?

Tom tries to tackle this question by demonstrating how he plans to use ChatGPT, along with other natural language processing systems, in his own work.

Be sure to check out the commentary on ChatGPT from our other Moz subject matter experts, Dr. Pete Meyers and Miriam Ellis:

Video Transcription

Hello, I’m Tom Capper from Moz, and today I want to talk about how I’m going to use ChatGPT and NLP, natural language processing apps in general in my day-to-day SEO tasks. This has been a big topic recently. I’ve seen a lot of people tweeting about this. Some people saying SEO is dead. This is the beginning of the end. As always, I think that’s maybe a bit too dramatic, but there are some big ways that this can be useful and that this will affect SEOs in their industry I think.

The first question I want to ask is, “Can we use this instead of Google? Are people going to start using NLP-powered assistants instead of search engines in a big way?”

So just being meta here, I asked ChatGPT to write a song about Google’s search results being ruined by an influx of AI content. This is obviously something that Google themselves is really concerned about, right? They talked about it with the helpful content update. Now I think the fact that we can be concerned about AI content ruining search results suggests there might be some problem with an AI-powered search engine, right?

No, AI powered is maybe the wrong term because, obviously, Google themselves are at some degree AI powered, but I mean pure, AI-written results. So for example, I stole this from a tweet and I’ve credited the account below, but if you ask it, “What is the fastest marine mammal,” the fastest marine mammal is the peregrine falcon. That is not a mammal.

Then it mentions the sailfish, which is not a mammal, and marlin, which is not a mammal. This is a particularly bad result. Whereas if I google this, great, that is an example of a fast mammal. We’re at least on the right track. Similarly, if I’m looking for a specific article on a specific web page, I’ve searched Atlantic article about the declining quality of search results, and even though clearly, if you look at the other information that it surfaces, clearly this has consumed some kind of selection of web pages, it’s refusing to acknowledge that here.

Whereas obviously, if I google that, very easy. I can find what I’m looking for straightaway. So yeah, maybe I’m not going to just replace Google with ChatGPT just yet. What about writing copy though? What about I’m fed up of having to manually write blog posts about content that I want to rank for or that I think my audience want to hear about?

So I’m just going to outsource it to a robot. Well, here’s an example. “Write a blog post about the future of NLP in SEO.” Now, at first glance, this looks okay. But actually, when you look a little bit closer, it’s a bluff. It’s vapid. It doesn’t really use any concrete examples.

It doesn’t really read the room. It doesn’t talk about sort of how our industry might be affected more broadly. It just uses some quick tactical examples. It’s not the worst article you could find. I’m sure if you pulled a teenager off the street who knew nothing about this and asked them to write about it, they would probably produce something worse than this.

But on the other hand, if you saw an article on the Moz blog or on another industry credible source, you’d expect something better than this. So yeah, I don’t think that we’re going to be using ChatGPT as our copywriter right away, but there may be some nuance, which I’ll get to in just a bit. What about writing descriptions though?

I thought this was pretty good. “Write a meta description for my Moz blog post about SEO predictions in 2023.” Now I could do a lot better with the query here. I could tell it what my post is going to be about for starters so that it could write a more specific description. But this is already quite good. It’s the right length for a meta description. It covers the bases.

It’s inviting people to click. It makes it sound exciting. This is pretty good. Now you’d obviously want a human to review these for the factual issues we talked about before. But I think a human plus the AI is going to be more effective here than just the human or at least more time efficient. So that’s a potential use case.

What about ideating copy? So I said that the pure ChatGPT written blog post wasn’t great. But one thing I could do is get it to give me a list of subtopics or subheadings that I might want to include in my own post. So here, although it is not the best blog post in the world, it has covered some topics that I might not have thought about.

So I might want to include those in my own post. So instead of asking it “write a blog post about the future of NLP in SEO,” I could say, “Write a bullet point list of ways NLP might affect SEO.” Then I could steal some of those, if I hadn’t thought of them myself, as potential topics that my own ideation had missed. Similarly you could use that as a copywriter’s brief or something like that, again in addition to human participation.

My favorite use case so far though is coding. So personally, I’m not a developer by trade, but often, like many SEOs, I have to interact with SQL, with JavaScript, with Excel, and these kinds of things. That often results in a lot of googling from first principles for someone less experienced in those areas.

Even experienced coders often find themselves falling back to Stack Overflow and this kind of thing. So here’s an example. “Write an SQL query that extracts all the rows from table2 where column A also exists as a row in table1.” So that’s quite complex. I’ve not really made an effort to make that query very easy to understand, but the result is actually pretty good.

It’s a working piece of SQL with an explanation below. This is much quicker than me figuring this out from first principles, and I can take that myself and work it into something good. So again, this is AI plus human rather than just AI or just human being the most effective. I could get a lot of value out of this, and I definitely will. I think in the future, rather than starting by going to Stack Overflow or googling something where I hope to see a Stack Overflow result, I think I would start just by asking here and then work from there.

That’s all. So that’s how I think I’m going to be using ChatGPT in my day-to-day SEO tasks. I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned. Let me know. Thanks.

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What Is a White Paper? [FAQs]

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What Is a White Paper? [FAQs]

The definition of a whitepaper varies heavily from industry to industry, which can be a little confusing for marketers looking to create one for their business.

The old-school definition comes from politics, where it means a legislative document explaining and supporting a particular political solution.

(more…)

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HubSpot to cut around 7% of workforce by end of Q1

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HubSpot to cut around 7% of workforce by end of Q1

This afternoon, HubSpot announced it would be making cuts in its workforce during Q1 2023. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing it put the scale of the cuts at 7%. This would mean losing around 500 employees from its workforce of over 7,000.

The reasons cited were a downward trend in business and a “faster deceleration” than expected following positive growth during the pandemic.

Layoffs follow swift growth. Indeed, the layoffs need to be seen against the background of very rapid growth at the company. The size of the workforce at HubSpot grew over 40% between the end of 2020 and today.

In 2022 it announced a major expansion of its international presence with new operations in Spain and the Netherlands and a plan to expand its Canadian presence in 2023.

Why we care. The current cool down in the martech space, and in tech generally, does need to be seen in the context of startling leaps forward made under pandemic conditions. As the importance of digital marketing and the digital environment in general grew at an unprecedented rate, vendors saw opportunities for growth.

The world is re-adjusting. We may not be seeing a bubble burst, but we are seeing a bubble undergoing some slight but predictable deflation.


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About the author

Kim Davis

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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