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Developing A Single Customer View At Scale: Heathrow Airport Case Example

  • Jed Mole

    Jed Mole

Created at May 4th, 2017

Developing A Single Customer View At Scale: Heathrow Airport Case Example

Of course, all retailers want to deliver a great experience for their customers at every touchpoint. However, achieving a seamless customer experience at scale – such as in an airport environment – is a substantial challenge, both strategically and technically.

Heathrow Airport: A SCV Case Example

For Heathrow airport, their challenge is to deliver people-based marketing to millions of passengers (who may each choose from over 100 businesses) across four different terminals. To do this, Heathrow must be able to knit together data from 23 disparate data sources (and counting) and over 200 touchpoints.

When first developing their customer experience strategy, Heathrow had a relatively simple CRM program that sent monthly email newsletters to Heathrow Rewards members about new routes, shops and other announcements. However, since names and email addresses were the only data points available, personalisation opportunities were limited. More importantly, these data points were also tied to one system (their email service provider).

 Heathrow knew it needed a technology overhaul. But one thing was top of the agenda: addressing the fact that different parts of Heathrow had different views of the same customers.

Creating Heathrow’s first Single Customer View

To develop a true single customer view, key customer data assets from different business units—Express, Rewards, Parking and Retail—were pooled to form a foundational data layer. This personally identifiable information (PII) is sourced primarily from pre-booked events: everything from train tickets and personal shopping right through to foreign exchange transactions and meal requests.

  • Building this foundation meant that for the first time, the team at Heathrow could see how passengers were interacting with the brand right across the business.
  • It also meant they could create better reports for sales and management. Most importantly, it meant customers who pre-booked events were greeted as expected guests.

Three years later, Heathrow extended their technology stack by integrating this single customer view with Adobe’s Marketing Cloud software—a stack that’s now home to the rules on how to sense and react to customer behaviour.

With a clear link between the single customer view and real-world events, the team at Heathrow had set themselves up to respond all passengers in near-real time. As a result, Heathrow went from sending one monthly newsletter, to automatically triggering over 70 personalised campaigns every month.

Today, Heathrow has connected enough information and insight into their customers’ behaviour to personalise experiences to a meaningful extent, from the highest value Rewards members right through to non-members who just want a sandwich and a coffee. Today, it’s even possible to change the content of a communication, depending on when it’s read. After all, you don’t want to send someone a great in-terminal offer if they left three hours earlier.

Joining the dots with data insight

One of the greatest advantages of this data and technology is that it’s now possible to highlight details that previously would have been missed. For instance:

  • A frequent traveller who’s signed up to the Rewards scheme might travel to the airport six times a year on the Heathrow Express, and occasionally treat themselves to a luxury item.
  • On the face of it, this is a very different customer from the one who visits every fifteen months, books into a long-stay car park and spends much less.

What the airport couldn’t see before however, was that they’re the same person.

In the first case, we’re seeing the passenger’s activity when they’re travelling alone for work. In the second, we’re seeing their activity when travelling with family.

With a unified dataset and aligned process, Heathrow can see valuable insights like these, and deliver different messages and offers dependent on the customer’s context: delivering an effective SCV at scale.

Data-driven culture change

Fusing data and technology in this way also had another effect; on the internal workings of the business itself.

Before the start of this programme and like any large public sector organisation, Heathrow encountered siloes and lacked cross-functional communication. But with the creation of a centralised database, suddenly, everyone was looking at the same thing – those customers were real people with preferences and plans. Cross-functional communication went from being a chore, to being strategically essential.

As a result, the marketing and brand teams now had access to the single customer view and its segments, making clear the value of delivering tailored brand messages to a pre-defined audience. Even Heathrow’s agencies and publishers now connect to this customer data. Overnight, they could see who their best segments were and how best to target them, all because they could link offline first party data to the display advertising network.

As a result, the single customer view ensured customers got one, connected customer experience from what seemed like one, connected brand.