Today I attended the latest Digital Conference run by Digital DNA. Joined by an audience of local hoteliers, attraction managers, travel, tourism and hospitality marketers in the beautiful Titanic Belfast, Digital DNA Tourism was designed to inspire the embracing of digital technologies in order to grow and develop.

A wealth of quality Keynote Speakers including main sponsor Tourism NI, who’s CEO John McGrillen introduced the event combined with content, workshops and the slick set-up of this year’s offering assured me this was a day not to be missed!

Digital DNA

So what did we learn? Lots.

John McGrillen began the day by giving us a taste of what was to come. He spoke about how technology has dramatically altered the tourism industry not just in Northern Ireland but in the UK and indeed further afield. He highlighted the disruption element of digital within the tourism industry and stated that we must be, “On top of our game to stay in the game.” Something I took great value from in such a fast paced landscape, faced with the reality of being left behind if you’re not up to date with digital.

Stephen Murphy, Agency Leader at Google

Moments that Matter

Stephen spoke to us about capturing the consumer “in the moment.” More people are tuning in online now more than ever before and this should aid our communications as they drive their own engagement he explained. Stephen continued by informing us that the consumer drives the way in which they consume media; mobile.

His point was clear, be useful to the consumer in the moments that matter to them;

  • Be there
  • Be useful
  • Be quick
  • Connect the dots

These moments that Stephen spoke of could be anything from a user checking the time on route to a meeting, logging into Facebook whilst standing in the que for a coffee or uploading photographs from the weekend during lunch. These moments must be influenced by immediacy, intent and context.

In such a fast paced digital world, one thing that is for sure is the choice out there for a consumer. If your site takes too long to load or you become an interruption, with one swipe of a screen that user will bounce off your page and shop or buy elsewhere. That's the reality and that’s the importance of not just being there but being useful and knowing what your consumer wants even before they do.

One point that Stephen made that stood out for me was his observation of on and offline marketing teams and how these are often bench marked against each other’s ROI. In today’s market place, there is no such thing. It has to be holistic and it has to involve everyone. Digital Marketing is not the job of one person but one clog in the wheel, part of a much larger internal organism.

Sean Collins, Head of CRM Operations at

Remarketing to the Unknown User

Sean took to the floor next and guided us through lastminute.coms journey to improving its own online offering. He focussed on how they overcame the difficulties of data-mining and following customer journeys as a third-party retailer selling a multitude of different products to various audience segments while the customer still expects a one to one experience.

His presentation included the expertise of SaleCycle’s Enterprise Sales Manager Pete Marshall who explained his part in aiding’s remarketing strategy by encrypting customer reference numbers to gather marketing intelligence and anticipate consumer demands to ultimately increase conversions.

Kathryn Pyper, Head of Digital Success at Engage

Enriching the Travel Experience on your Website.

After lunch, Kathryn, a self-confessed data junkie, spoke passionately about the importance of data driven design in ensuring conversions – the blood line of your business. She explained that every user is different and will navigate in different ways; the lazy user “googlefied.” This is where Google Analytics is so vital to a business. Kathryn explained the importance of analysing website activity to identify pain points; pages with high exit rates and bounce rates so that the problem can be identified and the website changed to help the user along the funnel, making their experience easier and faster.

Kahryn Pyper Head of Digital Success at Engage

Data, Data, Data, Test, Test, Test!

Kathryn spoke about the importance of tried and tested. She explained the importance of feedback, positive or negative to enable a business to take the necessary action to take strategic decisions. She used the example of the Travel Department client and how Engage used customer feedback to create a user friendly website that met customer demands e.g. detailed itinerary information and added extras info before checkout.

Michelle Lee, Director of Marketing at Aer Lingus

Leading on nicely from Kathryn’s speech, next it was Michelle, who began to explain to us the importance of customer data within Aer Lingus particularly with regards taking business decisions.

The Voice of the Guest

“For the first time in the history of Aer Lingus we have our fingers on the pulse of the guest experience across all touch-points.” Michelle explained that today, Aer Lingus are able to get 13,000 people to respond to an online survey that is sent out 2 days after they travel. From this survey, customers are able to note positive and negative aspects of their travel experience and Aer Lingus can then prioritise changes to make within the organisation e.g. Inflight Entertainment.

2 Years of Booking Data

Michelle spoke about a massive project Aer Lingus recently undertook which involved two phases of intense data analysis. Two years of booking data were collated and analysed to identify specific target markets for the airline according to things like reasons for travel.

 Through breaking down the data Aer Lingus were able to identify four key customer segments:

  • 1. Short break optimisation
  • 2. Personal discovery
  • 3. Family harmony
  • 4. Business trip

From this data, Aer Lingus have been able to personalise and customise their email marketing to each segment. However, the same person booking a business trip may also want to travel for family harmony as well, Aer Lingus noticed this and took the decision to overlay segment communications to the same person. These segments have also helped set revenue and engagement targets.

Samir Bhana, UK and Ireland Sales Manager at Twitter

Finally, it was Samir who closed the conference with a telling speech around the power of now, which ran parallel to that of Stephen Murphy's; Moments that Matter.

The Power of Now

Samir delved into why Twitter is so relevant today, using the statistic that we has users and potential consumers unlick our smart phones 150 times each day. Supporting his claim that mobile dominates our lives and therefore poses the challenge for brands to stay relevant. 

He continued with stating that every single tweet posted out on Twitter is a signal, it indicates and interest and some sort of intent. So powerful is this mechanism at every stage through the travel journey as a user can tweet to express delight or frustration depending on the travel experience they are having at that moment. 

An interesting yet simplitsic example that Samir presented to us was that of a Twitter converstation that the Hilton Hotel became involved in. A user tweeted looking somewhere to stay as the Mariott, where she had intended to stay was fully booked. The Hilton, obviosuly listening to the social conversation saw an opportunity. They simply replied to this tweet with a link to their booking page and offered coffee to the user, clearly travelling early in the morning. Easy right?

This fantastic connection that the Hilton made could potentially have earned them a customer for life by simply listening out for what the user needed in that moment. 

Samir concluded the day by stressing the power of rich, engaging formats and especially video. Its immersive and engaging and often speaks louder than words, “Video matters. 90% of Twitter video views are on mobile!”

He left us with travel is a commodity and Twitter simply connects brands and consumers in real time; in the moment. 

What a day! Thanks to Digital DNA and all the team, we can't wait for 2016! 

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