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.”
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.”