MarTech360 Interview With Jeff Zotara, Chief Marketing Officer,

Hi, Jeff, can you walk us through your professional journey in Marketing so far?

I arrived at arrivia with a two-decade track record as a strategic and operational marketing leader for B2B and B2C facing brands. With extensive experience in e-commerce, pricing, product marketing, building strategic partner relationships, and more, I am focused on driving growth and marketing technology across all our arrivia brands while providing the best member experience at the intersection of travel and tech.

Prior to joining arrivia, I served as Chief Marketing Officer for SOR Technology, where I led the digital transformation and marketing expansion of its private-label technology software platforms. I also served as SVP, Marketing for Snaptracs, an IoT technology company, previously a subsidiary of Qualcomm.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic brought the travel industry to a standstill, what challenges did it pose for you and your team at arrivia?

Other companies operating in the travel industry reacted to the uncertainty and demand vacuum created by the pandemic by retrenching and hunkering down. At arrivia, we used the pandemic as an opportunity to connect more closely with clients to understand their needs and pain points and made investments to serve their customers’ needs better.

We launched an aggressive plan to drive long-term growth, including investments in technology, marketing, and personnel. But the core of our approach has been demonstrating to future team members that arrivia has made – and continues to make – investments to achieve our mission of becoming the world’s premier travel loyalty provider. We staffed up to provide these services to our clients, even as our company dealt with more common pandemic-related challenges.

What makes arrivia the best travel privileges platform?

Our ability to leverage an organization’s closed user group to deliver value to members through discounted travel products. We’ve also cultivated deep relationships with a variety of travel suppliers, in particular the major cruise lines — something unique to arrivia. We offer 30,000 cruise itineraries across all categories, have partnered with 700 global airlines, and our portfolio includes more than 1 million hotels and vacation homes. This means that customers needn’t have any connection to travel to launch their own travel booking platform, nor do they need individual agreements with travel providers.

Arrivia’s platform is also very flexible. Our loyalty currency can work as a standalone rewards currency or can be integrated with an organization’s existing one, which allows our customers to leverage the power of rewards-based loyalty truly.

Lastly, we can customize offers to each member’s individual wants, needs and lifestyles. This applies to both our marketing communications and our booking interface. In turn, this helps increase conversions.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview With Steven Gerber, President & Chief Operating Officer, Zeta Global

How has Technology in the Travel and Tourism industry helped speed up operations and the whole traveling process?

Travel technology has brought the consumer much closer to the travel booking and planning process. Thanks to online travel agencies and mobile connectivity, consumers are more in charge of their travel planning than ever before. They can explore almost limitless options to get exactly what they want from their trip. They are also more discerning regarding price and are acutely aware of value.

On the supplier side, automation has streamlined the booking process making it easier for suppliers to provide customized trips to customers. Lastly, personalization has helped increase conversions because we can tailor offers to the individuals versus sending them irrelevant blanket deals. I would say this is one of arrivia’s core strengths.

How do you see influencer marketing impacting customer acquisition and retention in the travel industry?

According to a recent arrivia survey on the intersection of travel and loyalty, social media is the top source of travel planning for Millennials and Gen-Z. So obviously, influencer marketing does play a large role. However, according to our findings, value is the most important driver of loyalty in travel. Programs that consistently deliver value across all touchpoints, from the travel options offered to the booking and customer services experience, will be more effective at acquiring new customers and engaging existing ones.

What is the role of mobile technology in helping the travel industry to grow?

By 2024, nearly half the globe will leverage their smartphone as a mobile wallet and being at the forefront of this mobile-first generation is key for organizations like arrivia. That includes understanding technological advancements, how consumers connect with brands on devices, and discovering new tools to deliver targeted and relevant mobile messages…more sophisticated marketing personalization.

For example, arrivia partnered with one of their prominent resort partners in Mexico to leverage the power of mobile wallets to solve a critical business problem: mitigating no-shows. Amid a post-pandemic demand environment, new travel rules, and evolving CDC requirements, no-shows rose at resort properties through 2021. To mitigate no-shows, arrivia adopted mobile wallet technology and built a customized ‘Resort Pass’.

Whenever a consumer booked a reservation to any one of their resorts, they would receive an email with their personalized ‘Resort Pass’ along with downloadable instructions. The Pass would include personal information about the upcoming reservation, including destination, resort name, arrival date, and QR code for a check-in bonus. Once downloaded, the Pass would automatically be added to their smartphone’s digital wallet, and arrivia would gain permission to send personalized push notifications to that device.

Since implementing mobile wallet technology for this resort partner, arrivia has reduced no-shows by 3% and deployed 2,241 Resort Pass emails. Of those emails, 1,646 have been opened – a whopping 73.4% open rate and strong indication of the right email, at the right time, reaching the right consumer. Of those opened, 1,260 clicked to start their download and 748 successfully downloaded and added the Pass to their mobile wallet, a 59.3% adoption rate.

As consumers continue to adopt mobile wallets on smart devices, arrivia remains at the forefront, delivering the best customer experience, and helping partners solve complex business problems through the power of technology.

According to you, is Loyalty Marketing impactful in growing and retaining existing customers?

Absolutely. Loyalty marketing allows businesses to incentivize their customer base and create an emotional connection with them. However, for loyalty marketing to be successful, customers need to derive value from it. For instance, we know that many people love to travel but can’t always afford it or can’t always afford to travel in the way they’d like to. By offering travel rewards and discounts in exchange for a customer’s loyalty, a business provides them with something they truly desire that has tangible and recognizable value.

“Loyalty marketing allows businesses to incentivize their customer base and create an emotional connection with them. However, for loyalty marketing to be successful, customers need to derive value from it.”

Our research, however, suggests that many loyalty programs fail to deliver on that front. In our survey on the intersection of travel and loyalty, 24% of respondents said they were frustrated by the fact that their rewards don’t seem valuable enough; 32% were bothered by the lack of redemption options, and 29% said it’s difficult or complex to earn and redeem points. Let’s say you are a loyalty program member with travel benefits and want to book a hotel stay or a cruise using your points.

If you’re faced with a bevy of restrictions like blackout dates, or the itinerary you want isn’t available. Then you’re unlikely to derive a lot of value from your program. Or, if your program promises good deals but is the same as what the member can find on a public website, the incentive to engage with your program is minimal. You can become your customers’ preferred booking platform by offering exclusive rewards and benefits, which means more opportunities to engage with them.

Do you think Personalization marketing, especially for the travel industry, is beneficial in delivering more relevant promotional content and improving customer experience?

Yes. We are bombarded with advertising and marketing messages at almost every digital interaction, so for a message to resonate in this day and age, it needs to be relevant to who you are and what you’re looking for. This is true across all industries, travel included. The best customer experiences are when you are made to feel like an individual and not just another number. Personalized marketing helps to inspire that feeling — and we rely on a lot of inspiration in travel marketing to accomplish our goals.

How exactly do arrivia’s travel solutions help a business grow?

Arrivia’s travel solutions help companies create valuable incentives through travel rewards and discounts that aid customer acquisition and retention. They also enable businesses to earn ancillary revenue on the sale of travel through their travel rewards booking platform while upping the earning potential of a business’s core product.

For instance, a financial institution can offer a travel loyalty program that in and of itself is a revenue driver and at the same time award loyalty travel points that reward behavior like when a customer spends a certain amount or opens a checking account. Our personalized marketing tools allow us to create relevant offers that increase conversions.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to those who wish to enter the MarTech world?

My one piece of advice is to jump out of the plane with your parachute on and choose your landing spot from the world of opportunities that exist in today’s MarTech world. The diversity of options for left and right-brain marketers has grown exponentially. Technology’s influence on marketing during the last 15 years is one of the most dramatic and historical shifts in marketing.

The primary reason for this shift is the power of personalization that can now be harvested and delivered. Not only can we communicate unique messaging, but we can also communicate within the consumer’s channel of choice and their typical day-to-day activities. The vastness of channels and the depth of data allow marketers to find their niche and be fulfilled.

Thanks, Jeff!

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