Ferry marketing changes course

Grandi Navi Veloci uses SAS® Marketing Automation to optimize fleet management and customize offers, increasing profitability and customer satisfaction

After the economic downturn led to fewer passengers, the European ferry market is starting to take off again, supported by lower fuel costs and a weaker euro. In response to these changing conditions, many travel companies have redesigned their fleet deployment models, starting with redefining their internal processes. But for Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV), that wasn’t enough. The company has completed the above and expanded its business to the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

The purchasing behavior of our customers not only drives the offers we can provide them, but it also helps us optimize ship capacity according to both actual demand and seasonal peaks.

Matteo Catani
Sales Director

Customers want freedom of choice and for companies to anticipate their needs. Consequently, it’s essential for GNV to optimize its points of contact, using all channels, both direct (phone, websites, social networks) and indirect (travel agencies). GNV selected SAS Marketing Automation to improve its customer experience and coordination of marketing activities across different channels. The company now uses analytics to segment its customer base, identify KPIs, find areas for process optimization and create automated marketing processes that can generate coupons and targeted campaigns.

Dynamic deployment

With 10 ships and almost 1,200 employees, GNV operates eight crossings among Morocco, Tunisia, Spain and France, and five routes to Sicily and Sardinia. In 2013, it achieved a revenue of 333.8 million euros, with a significant economic impact on all spinoff activities. “Looking at our competition and our fleet capacity, the company has gone from a more stable market to an environment that is more volatile,” says Matteo Catani, Sales Director of Grandi Navi Veloci. “Some of our competitors have not been able to adapt to these market changes, which have lowered ticket prices and put pressure on margins.”

This situation drove GNV to find new ways to deal with change. “We transformed our strategy, shifting the focus from the fleet to the customer by investigating purchasing behaviors. We have moved from a ‘monolithic’ demand-driven model to a more dynamic one,” explains Catani. “This method also includes a more sophisticated and flexible approach to fleet management. The purchasing behavior of our customers not only drives the offers we can provide them, but it also helps us optimize ship capacity according to both actual demand and seasonal peaks.”

Capitalizing on the value of relationships

The GNV database contains data on 2.8 million customers and three years of their history with the company. The customer base is segmented into two macroclusters: repeaters (customers who are already loyal) and on-the-spot purchase customers. The integrated marketing approach to repeat customers allows GNV to position opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling and expand its relationships with them. “The repeaters are clustered on routes to Maghreb [Northwest Africa]. About 22 percent of these customers take routes to Morocco, which generates 50 percent of sales,” highlights Catani.

“Thanks to SAS Marketing Automation, we were able to redefine our communications and customer engagement strategy. We developed new points of contact and offers in local communities, we’re planning campaigns focused on a multichannel approach and – just for repeaters – we’re about to launch a new direct sales channel,” says Catani. “Based on the data analysis, we now know who our customers are and what their buying behavior is. This knowledge has changed our behavior both in communications and sales, inspiring a strong and concrete impact on the definition of our business objectives. Understanding the customer experience at the level of the individual customer allows us to understand the interactions and make the best customized offer.”

From ship capacity management to customer management

For GNV, every move is a response to specific needs expressed by the customer. The revenue-management process that allowed companies to optimize their ship capacities by managing pricing incentives formed the core of the business strategy of the transport sector for a long period of time. Today, this approach has been radically transformed. Data analysis led to a change in the entire corporate structure.

“Analyzing the customer experience led to a transformation of the entire structure,” says Catani. “Today, we’re bringing the entire project to fruition. Within the sales division, we’ve created a unit we call ‘business development’ that has the task of developing individual target customers, especially those who will be the most profitable in the medium and long term.”

The analytical and integrated management of the customer base allows GNV to create complete sales packages and concrete actions attuned to periods of high or low demand and special events such as a significant date or a specific need of the customer, perhaps linked to his or her professional activities or the motivation for travel. Catani concludes, “Compared to the more traditional approach in the transport world that focuses on ship capacity management, GNV has made customer management its focus.”

Grandi Navi Veloci logo


Optimize fleet management, redefine customer relationships and customize offers to increase profitability and customer satisfaction.


SAS® Marketing Automation


Better management of deployment, customer experience and coordination of marketing activities between different channels.

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