For marketers who have moved away from a reliance on broadcast media – and towards digital-by-default marketing strategies – data-driven marketing is the new norm.

But more data doesn’t always mean better customer experiences


Beyond vanity metrics

At Salesforce, we work with brands big and small to help them take advantage of their customer data. One of the most common up front challenges is to look past the allure of click rates and likes, and to ask: Why are we measuring this? What are we trying to achieve? And how can the data – and our KPIs – help us get there? 

The answers we like to hear all revolve around the customer and the creation of seamless customer experiences that keep them happy and engaged. 


Beyond marketing

The tricky thing for marketers is that this means looking beyond marketing. Customers expect an experience that moves seamlessly across all their touch points with a brand. If marketing (or sales, or service, or any customer-facing discipline) gets too fixated on a brand-out approach (as opposed to a customer-in one), there’s a high risk of experience fragmentation.

A common example of this, and an important one to get right, is achieved by sharing intelligence between marketing and service. If an unhappy customer is going through a complaints process, the last thing they want to see is an advert from the brand popping up in their social media feed – it could majorly backfire, turning an advocacy opportunity into, well, the opposite. 

By working from a central platform, marketing knows that the customer has an open service case, and all social advertising can be halted automatically for that person, until the issue is resolved.


1:1 customer journeys

The industry trend to move from broadcast to digital, only served to accelerate marketing’s evolution, and the next stage in that progression was the creation of 1:1 customer journeys

To get there, brands have turned to ongoing, cross-channel engagement – not just thinking about email click rates, but looking at the post-purchase cycle. And that doesn’t end at the point of purchase; it continues through sales and onboarding, and on to customer service interactions. 

The destination: People-based marketing

By asking what happens next in each journey, brands can create the kind of consistent, joined-up experiences that reassure customers they’re recognised as an individual, not just a series of ticket numbers. The alternative isn’t worth risking: 66% of consumers are extremely likely to switch brands if treated like a number, not an individual. 


To move forward, go back to basics

Advanced experience-building needs solid foundations. For digital marketers, those foundations are mobile, social and, of course, email – 49% of marketers say email directly links to company revenue

For many marketers, email remains the cornerstone of digital marketing, with the email address as the key to connecting digital channels. And today, email goes hand-in-hand with mobile – 72% of emails are opened on mobile devices.

But it’s noisier than ever before.

Data gathered from Salesforce Marketing Cloud users shows a 39% year-on-year increase in transactional email volume, and an 18% jump in promotional emails. 

Which proves what all marketers know: that it’s noisier than ever out there, so it’s also harder than ever to make sure your messages are heard. Only those messages with the highest relevancy will get results.

All this means that it’s back to basics – but with one big caveat: you need to really nail the basics. One company for which email is hugely important is Secret Escapes, a UK-based exclusive members-only travel club offering discounted rates on luxury handpicked hotels and holidays.


Exclusive experiences delivered by Secret Escapes 

Cian Weeresinghe, CMO of Secret Escapes, joined us recently to discuss how the exclusive members-only travel club engages its customers with targeted journeys at scale. 

“When I joined Secret Escapes, we were in four markets with a one billion email run rate. Now we’re in 21 markets, and we sent 4.8 billion emails last year. But our strategy isn’t brute force – it’s about using CRM as a personalised decision engine, not just an email pusher.”

Harnessing behavioural data

Secret Escapes analyses customer data it has acquired from campaigns, as well as on-site behavioural data, and combines that in Salesforce – adding 25 million rows of it every day.

That behavioural data might include searches, email opens, deals the customer has clicked on (and, importantly, those they haven’t clicked on), and offers they’ve placed on their wish lists. Using Journey Builder, Secret Escapes can then use this data, analysed against price point, location, type of holiday and date of travel, to personalise future recommendations to the individual’s preferences.

And because Secret Escapes has full customer login data (it’s essentially a members only gated website, so there are no anonymous browsers), the team can trigger search abandonment or basket abandonment emails automatically. 

This traceability enables Secret Escapes to build rich profiles of customer preferences. Which in turn enables them to make smart recommendations that keep shoppers happy, and turns loyal customer into advocates. 

Defining a journey

In another back-to-basics move, Secret Escapes looked closely at how it actually defines a customer journey – which is more complicated than it might sound. 

This goes further than making sure the team can seamlessly stitch together journeys across sales, marketing and service. As Cian explains, “Occasionally we have customers planning longer tours but purchasing different legs of the trip individually. So what appear to be separate customer journeys are actually individual stages of a larger, single customer journey.”

There’s no one-size-fits all model

Another core principle of Cian’s is that brands should really examine the economics of their marketing model. He urges them to ask: “Does it make sense to pay for clicks, or to direct your budget elsewhere? For Secret Escapes, the economics of lead acquisition is critical and finely engineered. For email, on the other hand, which is a relatively cheap and high-impact channel, there’s more room to play with.” In cases like these, email can almost be considered a sales cost, rather than a marketing investment.  

“The same thing goes for building your team,” Cian says. “You probably don’t need to hire a bunch of PhDs – we didn’t. Some people build their own systems in-house and glue them together, but ask yourself if you really want to be that kind of business.” 

The road to £1 billion turnover

“The big plan for Secret Escapes is to be the world’s biggest and best source of great value travel inspiration and to build towards that £1 billion turnover figure by the close of the decade” says Cian. “We’re looking forward to testing Journey Builder further, across search and social advertising, and building on our solid email foundation to maintain the highest levels of personalisation as we keep scaling our customer base globally.”


The State of Marketing

Learn how customer experience is reshaping marketers’ mindsets in our latest survey of 3,500 marketing leaders worldwide. Our new Salesforce Research study explores shifting priorities that are sparking organisational change, marketing technology that’s making waves across the broader business and how artificial intelligence is raising the bar for personalisation and efficiency. 

Find out what is top-of-mind for 3,500 marketing leaders around the globe, in our fourth annual State of Marketing Report