Four ways Vail Resorts creates epic customer experiences
Ski resorts used to just be in the ski business. They were concerned about the slopes and weather conditions, accommodations, ski classes and the like.
Today, ski resorts – along with cruise lines, theme parks, hotels and more – are in the “experience” business. These organizations are out to deepen the entire customer experience by creating a highly personalized, emotional connection. And that requires taking marketing to a whole new realm.
To reach this level of marketing nirvana, Vail Resorts overhauled their entire marketing strategy and refocused their efforts on being wholly customer-centric. Darren Jacoby, Director of Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) at Vail Resorts shares his secrets for customer-centric marketing success:
“Vail Resorts’ mission is creating an experience of a lifetime. And we have an internal mantra underneath that experience of a lifetime of owning it, personalizing it and elevating it. Our front-line associates do that every single day with our guests.”
Director of CRM
- Link customer information.
Vail Resorts once housed all their guests’ information in disparate systems. “We might have known that you stayed in one of our lodging properties, but we might not have known that you had a season pass or that you had taken a ski school lesson, for example. We weren’t connecting the dots on all the customer touch points” Jacoby said. His first step? Building a database that integrated all guest information.
Benefits: Captures the value of all gathered information and allows marketers to create campaigns tailored to customer segments.
- Make emotional connections.
“We start with the guest at the core,” Jacoby said. “We try to understand our guest and what motivates our guest. And then underneath that, we’re doing all of the micro-level segmentation to really understand the nuances and personalized pieces of content that we need to talk to that guest about … Then we’re taking all of that information and automating it through our marketing campaigns. Instead of sending out one email or one direct-mail piece, we’re sending out one piece that has multiple iterations – so different people get different components and pieces of the campaign.”
Benefits: Focuses priorities on long-term growth via customer nurturing; personalized marketing improves the efficacy of campaigns.
- Harness social media.
“Originally,” Jacoby said, “we put RF [radio frequency] technology into our passes so our guests wouldn’t have to fumble around and take off their gloves to show their lift ticket when it was scanned. But then we said, ‘we’ve got all this great infrastructure; let’s create a social game that takes this experience to the next level and ties in what you’re doing on the mountain with a digital experience.’”
This idea led to the creation of EpicMix, an app that allows Vail Resort guests to share their vacation experiences via social media. The response was astounding. Nearly 100,000 guests activated their EpicMix accounts and 45% of them shared their results on Facebook and Twitter. Vail Resorts views the app as a resounding success that creates real value for both their brand and marketing efforts.
Benefits: Fun app and social sharing deepens the experience for existing guests, and increases the reach of marketers to new, prospective customers.
- Turn happy customers into brand ambassadors.
“It’s really been amazing,” Jacoby said. “We had almost 2 million social posts this year, and over half of those included a photo. If you take Facebook’s average of 130 friends in your network, that’s [potentially] 260 million impressions. Those are all people talking about our brand and sharing their experience about that brand with their family and friends.”
Benefits: Strengthens customer loyalty and drives customer demand.