Australian Pacific Touring

Our future is looking bright as the world opens up again and we can’t wait to see where our partnership with Salesforce takes us next.”

Vanesa Russack | General Manager Marketing and Digital, APT Travel Group

How APT is transforming digitally to delight travellers at every touch point

Australian Pacific Touring (APT) is Australia’s leading luxury tour and cruise operator, taking guests on incredible journeys to dream destinations on every continent across the world. With 95 years’ experience operating in the travel and cruise industry, APT has built an impressive portfolio, ranging from its wilderness lodges in the Kimberley to luxury river cruise ships throughout Europe and Asia.

APT’s vision is to emerge and thrive as a sustainable business to be passed down through generations. It also wants to be a market leader globally, known for delighting the customer with every experience. The company is transforming digitally to deliver on its vision and provide customers with more meaningful and personalised omni-channel experiences.

“As new digital trends emerge, customers’ needs and wants start to change and businesses have to adapt,” said Vanesa Russack, General Manager Marketing and Digital at APT Travel Group. “Our journey at APT has involved seeking to understand the moments that matter for customers and delivering more one-to-one experiences.”

Salesforce is a key partner in APT's digital transformation and has helped the travel operator navigate through the pandemic while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.

Designing a new digital future

To achieve its vision, APT has prioritised the evolution of its marketing capabilities so that it can better engage with customers and provide inspiration for future trips. The company has a very loyal customer base, with 35% booking more than one trip and a sizable percentage booking an average of seven. APT wanted to nurture these and other customers with more relevant messaging and offers.

“The challenge we had is that our previous email platform made it difficult and time-consuming to personalise communication, so we broadcast above the line offers to everyone and did very limited targeting,” said Russack. “The business really wanted to evolve and ultimately be able to send the right message to the right customer at the right time.”

APT first had to replace its email platform and decided to switch to Marketing Cloud. The company was already using Sales Cloud and Service Cloud and saw great opportunity to further leverage the partnership to expand on these solutions and bring marketing onto the same platform. More importantly, it saw the potential of Marketing Cloud to power more sophisticated, data-driven campaigns that could be personalised and triggered based on customer behaviour.

Bower House Digital was engaged to support the adoption of Marketing Cloud and continues to help APT optimise the platform’s capabilities. Russack shared that Salesforce has also been hands-on in supporting APT’s success—acting not only as a technology vendor, but a strategic partner.

Personalisation optimises online engagement

APT rolled out Marketing Cloud in late 2018 and began to successfully improve customer engagement. Then, when COVID-19 hit, the business shifted its thinking and realised the need to reimagine the customer experience. It saw Marketing Cloud as a way to best engage with customers and provide valuable and timely information. In the early days of the pandemic, APT used Marketing Cloud to keep customers and retail travel agents informed of changing restrictions and the suspension of tours. Then, it became all about nurturing customers and continuing to inspire their love of travel.

“We had to very quickly adjust our thinking and our marketing approach. In the early days of the crisis, it became less about selling and more about inspiring customers to start dreaming again,” said Russack. “Once we saw sentiment starting to recover, we were able to shift our focus back to providing realistic travel opportunities for our valued guests.”

Like many businesses during the pandemic, APT also had to reduce its marketing spend and that meant relying less on paid media and more on its owned channels. With Marketing Cloud, APT was able to be much more targeted in its approach to email and optimise engagement. For example, the marketing team carried out propensity modelling and then used Marketing Cloud to promote local destinations to those most likely to travel domestically

The team also built out customer lifetime value segments for APT’s brands and used these to send more personalised campaigns and journeys. As a result, email open rates increased to 40%, double the previous benchmark of 20%. Click-through rates (CTRs) also doubled, and the company increased the percentage of traffic flowing from email to its website.

And while APT is continuing to optimise engagement on its owned channels, it is using Advertising Studio to maximise return on paid media. For example, APT has been able to focus its spend on customer acqusition by suppressing existing customers from Google paid search and discovery ad campaigns. In other instances, APT has opted to include existing customers in campaigns for key search terms to demonstrate brand authority.

APT has also leveraged Salesforce advertising audiences through Facebook, both to exclude existing customers from certain campaigns and to attract new customers by targeting lookalike audiences.

The combination of these activities has resulted in a remarkable 196% uplift in CTR. APT has also experienced a 66% reduction in cost-per-acqusition (CPA) from paid Facebook activity.

These results have contributed to a 25% year-on-year (YoY) increase in website visits across all APT’s brands and a 37% increase in website visits to the APT site specifically. Visitors were also more engaged with the sites, with APT showing a 52% increase in total page views and all brands combined showing a 39% increase in total page views.

APT has been thinking outside the box and innovating in other areas to bridge the gap between the online and offline customer experience. For example, it has refreshed its brochures to include fewer print pages along with QR codes with links to further information. The brochures are not only more environmentally friendly and less expensive to produce, but have been successful in driving more traffic to the website and generating more leads.

Streamlined service helps APT maintain 98 NPS

At the beginning of the pandemic, APT was fielding many calls from travellers and retail travel agents. Some travellers needed assistance in returning home, while others had queries regarding their future bookings. The company understood the importance and value in responding to everyone in what it felt was an acceptable time frame.

“Our frontline employees are so committed to our customers and were doing everything to help, but we realised that even if we threw every resource we had at the issue, it wouldn’t be enough,” said Russack.

As the company formulated a strategy to communicate faster, it reached out to Salesforce for support and advice. One of the recommendations was to switch on case management in Service Cloud, replacing some of the disparate tools and manual processes APT used to manage support. The automation offered by Salesforce allowed the customer service team to contact guests in a far more efficient and rapid way, making it crucial for getting through to the high volume of impacted travellers in the initial stages of COVID-19 disruption.

Since then, Service Cloud has been used to contact in excess of 40,000 travellers impacted by the pandemic and has delivered average time savings equating to 380 hours per week.

“Streamlining and centralising case management with Salesforce gave our customer service team the efficiencies and visibility needed to prioritise and manage the magnitude of work,” said Russack. “We were also able to maintain our 98 NPS which was a phenomenal result.”

The rollout of Social Studio at this time similarly helped APT respond to customers more quickly on social media and keep its finger on the pulse of what was happening with customers and competitors. Another key benefit was the efficiency of managing social media for all brands on the one platform. For example, with all incoming queries and mobile app notifications funneled through one dashboard, APT has been able to handle a 50% increase in volume and respond to posts 30% faster. It’s also now able to escalate and address all community management concerns in less than four hours.

The reporting functionality has also saved a considerable amount of time and enabled APT to spend less time gathering raw data and more time analysing the content of reports.

Getting set for take off

With travel restrictions starting to loosen, APT is using Salesforce to support its return to growth and to build better relationships with its customers, including retail travel agents.

Understanding that many of these travel agents will have had to reduce their marketing spend, APT is using its partner community on Experience Cloud to share assets they can use to keep their own customers engaged. The community, ATG Connect, also provides agents with easy access to APT’s reservation system.

APT will soon release a customer community to its Club Members globally on Experience Cloud. The portal will initially allow customers to access exclusive offers and competitions, view bookings, and access their member benefits. The portal will also be updated with new features over time.

“What’s exciting about the community is that it will open up a lot of opportunities for one-on-one personalisation and help us build better relationships with our most loyal customer base,” said Russack. “We’re also excited about the next phase of our journey. As international departures start to take off, our strategy will include using Salesforce to make sure we’re in touch with market trends and able to make really informed decisions.”

As part of its strategy, APT is considering the use of a single dashboard to understand and optimise engagement across its owned and paid channels. It also plans to create a single source of truth for all customer data, including bookings. APT plans to work closely with Salesforce on this project which will yield new insights into customers which APT can then use to create more personalised and differentiated experiences.

“Our future is looking bright as the world opens up again and we can’t wait to see where our partnership with Salesforce takes us next,” said Russack.


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