Hill Goodridge Associates grows club membership by 222 percent

Integrating data to enable direct marketing based on deeper insights into customer behaviour

Published on 06-Jun-2013

"When we implemented Cast Iron, the Club of SLH had 70,000 members; today, it has 226,000 – an increase of more than 222 percent. IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Live has played a key role in enabling this growth." - Jack Wheatley, Head of IS Services, Small Luxury Hotels of the World

Customer:
Hill Goodridge Associates

Industry:
Professional Services

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
Business Integration, Cloud Computing, Connectivity and Integration, Enabling Business Flexibility, Transforming Business, Web Services

Overview

Headquartered in London, England, and with operations in New York and Singapore, Hill Goodridge Associates Ltd. provides marketing services for more than 520 independently owned luxury hotels under its “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” (SLH) brand. When customers make a reservation, either through a travel agency or directly via the company’s slh.com website, SLH offers them the opportunity to join “The Club of Small Luxury Hotels of the World”.

Business need:
Hill Goodridge Associates wanted to grow its customer base through this loyalty club – but a lack of insight into customer behaviour and manual management of customer data prevented targeting marketing.

Solution:
The company implemented IBM® WebSphere® Cast Iron® Live to automate the integration of club membership data, reservation data and a direct messaging solution with its Salesforce CRM platform.

Benefits:
Enables targeted marketing based on deep insights into customer behaviour, growing loyalty club membership by 222 percent; automation reduces the need to increase IT headcount; repeatable business logic enables rapid rollout of new campaigns.

Case Study

Headquartered in London, England, and with operations in New York and Singapore, Hill Goodridge Associates Ltd. provides marketing services for more than 520 independently owned luxury hotels under its “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” (SLH) brand. When customers make a reservation, either through a travel agency or directly via the company’s slh.com website, SLH offers them the opportunity to join “The Club of Small Luxury Hotels of the World”.

Increasing loyalty, growing membership
Hill Goodridge Associates wanted to use The Club of SLH to grow its customer base and drive greater customer loyalty. To achieve this, the company needed to gain deeper insights into customer behaviour, and use these insights to develop and deliver compelling promotions to the relevant club members.

As Jack Wheatley, Head of IS Services at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, explains: “In the past, we relied heavily on manual processes to manage more than 70,000 club members, which reduced our ability to understand their individual needs and tailor our marketing campaigns accordingly – especially for direct marketing.

“Previously, it was only practicable to send direct marketing emails to our entire list of club members. Because there was no way to ensure that our emails would be relevant to all customers, it was extremely difficult to develop effective campaigns.”

To provide deeper insights into customer behaviour, Hill Goodridge Associates decided to deploy the cloud-based Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) platform, together with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) customer review solution from Shopzilla and a direct messaging solution from eCircle.

“To enable our marketing department to drive more effective email marketing campaigns for the club, we needed to integrate data from a number of different sources into Salesforce,” says Wheatley. “In addition to the SaaS solutions, we also wanted to integrate our in-house database of SLH club members and our data warehouse for hotel and booking information.”

Need for an integration platform
After reviewing a number of potential cloud integration solutions, Hill Goodridge Associates selected IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Live.

“As a small company with a lean IT team, we were looking for a solution that would enable us to achieve our integration objectives with minimal manual effort – and IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Live delivered,” says Wheatley. “We realised that automation from Cast Iron Live would enable us to manage connections between multiple data sources and our Salesforce CRM solution without the need for any additional personnel.”

Hill Goodridge Associates deployed IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Live, and then configured the solution to connect membership data from its SLH website, reservation data from its data warehouse, and the eCircle direct messaging service with Salesforce – enabling deeper insights into customer behaviour.

Based on this insight, the company created three tiers of loyalty membership – special, loved and honoured – which customers unlock sequentially based on their number of hotel stays. Each level confers additional member benefits, including exclusive rates, late check-outs and free reward nights.

Deeper insights enable effective marketing
“Today, Cast Iron Live automatically integrates member registration data with customer booking histories in Salesforce, which calculates whether a member is eligible for special, loved or honoured benefits,” says Wheatley.

“By combining data on customer membership levels with booking histories in Salesforce, we can create customised, highly relevant marketing campaigns for each customer based on their membership tier – something that was impossible before. After Salesforce generates a list of recipients, Cast Iron Live routes the email addresses and message content to the eCircle direct messaging web service.”

Next, the company used the IBM solution to integrate customer review data from Shopzilla – enabling deeper insights into customer experiences across SLH’s portfolio of independent hotels.

Understanding customer experiences
“Today, our Cast Iron solution supplies Salesforce with information on where each of our customers has stayed, and when,” says Wheatley. “At the end of their stay, Salesforce generates an automatic request to the Shopzilla review system, which emails the customer a short survey. If the customer completes it, Cast Iron parses the resulting XML code, and inputs the review information back into Salesforce automatically.

“If the review is positive, Cast Iron automatically feeds it directly to our website. If a customer’s review highlights an aspect of their stay that fell below the expected standard, Cast Iron flags it with one of our account managers, who can discuss the review with the hotel in question, and allow the hotel to respond before the review is published.”

He continues: “In the future, we plan to mine our customer review data for trends – showing us why some hotels are gaining higher reviews than others, and offering actionable insights to help lower-performing hotels to boost their ratings.”

Because Hill Goodridge Associates’ integration requirements included a mixture of in-house and cloud-based sources, data validation was an important requirement.

“Almost all of our data is asynchronously replicated, which the data validation functionality in Cast Iron handles extremely well,” says Wheatley. “Furthermore, if a system that Cast Iron connects to is unavailable for any reason, the solution gives us detailed information about the issue – for example, whether our Salesforce log-on credentials are incorrect, or a SaaS platform is down for maintenance, or there is an error in the business logic. This makes it very easy to troubleshoot issues, and dramatically reduces the cost and complexity of managing the total solution.”

Increasing club membership by 222 percent
Since implementing its IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Live cloud integration solution, Hill Goodridge Associates has achieved its goal of creating more effective marketing campaigns based on deeper insights into customer behaviour – growing its SLH customer base and increasing loyalty.

“When we implemented Cast Iron, the Club of SLH had 70,000 members; today, it has 226,000 – an increase of more than 222 percent,” says Wheatley. “IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Live has played a key role in enabling this growth.”

Based on the success of the IBM solution, the company is now using Cast Iron Live as its preferred platform to support new business initiatives.

“Currently, we are developing a promotion in partnership with Asia Miles – something that would have been impossible without the automation that Cast Iron offers us,” says Wheatley. “When the project is complete, business logic in Cast Iron will automatically allocate the appropriate amount of Asia Miles to customers who stay at a participating hotel.

“Creating the Asia Miles promotion in Cast Iron means that the business logic is easily extendable and repeatable – making it much easier for us to roll out similar promotions in the future. For a small team supporting a wide-ranging organisation, the IBM solution is invaluable; it enables us to develop sophisticated marketing campaigns that would otherwise be out of reach.”

Wheatley concludes: “We are extremely impressed with the reliability, performance and utility of IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Live. Any integration requirement that we have had, Cast Iron has met.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
WebSphere Cast Iron Live Standard Edition

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013. IBM United Kingdom Limited, PO Box 41, North Harbour, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO6 3AU. Produced in the United Kingdom. May 2013. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Cast Iron and WebSphere are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at: www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. The client is responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations applicable to it. IBM does not provide legal advice or represent or warrant that its services or products will ensure that the client is in compliance with any law or regulation. Statements regarding IBM’s future direction and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice, and represent goals and objectives only.