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Building Human Relationships at Scale with Skyscanner CRM & Lifecycle Marketing Manager, Elyssa Verhoogen


Elyssa Verhoogen | CX Spotlight

Elyssa — a self-confessed “super email geek” — began her marketing career while working for Uber Eats in Brussels. It was here that she learned the ropes of email marketing: putting these skills to good use when she moved on to travel publication The Stray Shot and finally merging her passion for emails and travel at Skyscanner, working as one of their Global Lifecycle Marketing Manager, CRM.

Many companies neglect to use email marketing to its fullest extent; they’re often too turgid, too salesy, and, well, too unwelcome. However, for Elyssa, emails spell opportunity; she’s never happier than working out how to turn emails into beautiful, much-sought-after sources of information and entertainment.

Her one rule? Always provide value — that’s essential.

What is Skyscanner?

Skyscanner is a multinational travel company: acting as a one-stop-shop for people to compare flight prices across airlines, book tickets, check out hotels, car rental options, and more. It has a presence in no fewer than 20 countries and welcomes a whopping 100+ million site visitors per month.

Their email newsletter alone is sent to over 10+ million people — meaning Elyssa truly has her work cut out. Fortunately for her, it’s what she loves. 

How do you manage the complexity of your user journeys at this scale? 

Today, our team has a diverse array of competencies: some are great at user research, some are strong on CRM, others are data-orientated, there are creatives, and we are also supported by engineers on the front and back end. It’s amazing to be surrounded by people who come at this challenge from a completely different angle, as it allows our team to build the most valuable 360-degree outcomes for our users. 

We have broken down our team and user journeys in 5 focus areas that match the key moments in our user lifecycle: 1) Dream and Discover, 2) Plan and Compare 3) Book 4) Travel 5) Remember and Share.

This helps us focus on keeping our users engaged throughout each stage of this journey and retain as many customers as possible. 

Why are newsletter important to Skyscanner (and their users)?

Well, I think there’s a huge amount of opportunity. We see tons of people playing around on Skyscanner Search trying to work out where their next holiday destination will be. They are using Skyscanner as a platform for inspiration! 

We will go further than just email opens and clicks, we will build an ongoing relationship with our consumers if we can provide people with a weekly newsletter that inspires them and points them towards their next holiday destination.

Have you ever had an email newsletter that you just love reading? I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m a bit of an email geek, but there are some that I think are so cool… For instance, there’s an eco toilet paper brand called Bippy — I love its jokey and personable tone of voice. It’s nice to have certain brands whose emails you simply love to read, so I think that’s the ultimate driving force for our team. 

How will you bring your newsletters to the next level? 

When I first joined, each team in each country sent out their own individual newsletters. Needless to say, the quality varied greatly across the board — there was no unity of design or purpose. Some countries had these awesome newsletters but not all of them.

We re-organised the team, and are now looking at emails centrally. We’re building banks of content for different markets, and are looking to serve them through Braze Connected Content in emails that are assembled according to user interest and user behaviour. We’re trying to make these emails as valuable and as welcome as possible. 

We have created our own user data store that captures all the users’ information points — everything passes through here, and this then allows us to personalise our emails. For instance, we might send deals that specifically apply to your home airport (we infer this using your previous search history and any other intelligence/data that users give us permission to gather).

We use custom attributes and deliver everything through Braze. We selected Braze because it was crucial that we had cross-channel capability — not everyone wants to be contacted through the same channels and because we’re global, email doesn’t necessarily work in all regions for all people.  

Mobile is also very important to the company — we have an awesome app that our users absolutely love. From a lifecycle perspective, we’re working more and more on integrated canvases: workflows that are a mix of emails and push messages. The key is working out how we can transform this into an integrated experience and making sure that we always grab our users’ attention. 

Simply put, we want to send people the right message at the right time on the right channel.

How do you build human experiences at scale? 

According to research conducted by Forrester and Braze in the Brand Humanity Survey, “human communication is defined as occurring when a brand communicates in a way that comes across as natural, or in a way that a real person would talk.”

The are 3 key areas to look at when starting to deliver human experiences.

Data & Insights You need to collect, clean up, aggregate, and distribute your data in real time across all your digital touchpoints. You need to understand your customer journeys, digital behaviours, and preferences. 

Build Experiences You need to build personalised experiences that align with your customers’ digital behaviours and interests. 

Effective Communication You need communicate with them in a helpful, authentic manner on whatever channels they’re using.

That being said, this last point — effective communication — is often easier said than done… Your ultimate goal should be to communicate with customers in a natural way, making them interested to hear what you have to say. Get it wrong, and your brand will come off as disingenuous, tone-deaf, or — even worse — annoying. 

However, get it right, and the payoffs are large. A customer who has a “human communication experience” is significantly more likely to love that brand, make a purchase, and feel more satisfied. 

How Human Are Your Experiences? Get in Touch

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