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How to use first-party data: Italo case study

Mauro Arte

Author: Mauro Arte, Co-Founder & Chief Operations Officer at Datrix group (including 3rdPlace)

The Company

Italo – Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori is a company active since 2012. It operates in the field of high-speed rail transport, with nearly 20 million passengers per year.

Nowadays, the company offers its services to more than 40 Italian cities (including train lines and Italo Bus), with around 2000 employees and more than 400 million in turnover.

The Need

Even though two thirds of company sales come from digital channels, the company has been adopting a traditional approach for a long time. This approach has limited the possibility of exploiting proprietary customer data (first-party data), both in terms of performing personalized marketing actions and in terms of advertising investments on online channels.

During the last years, the company began to understand the importance of introducing a data-driven approach and managing in a more efficient and effective way both customer data and advertising investments. Therefore, there was an increasing need of renewing technologies and methodology.

Briefly, the main objectives of this project were: to acquire new customers and to activate them, to retain existing ones and to optimize marketing investments.

The strategic guidelines were the following:

  • Speed: the sponsor of the project wanted to see results immediately.
  • Saving: costs and human resources were numerically contained.

On the other side, there were two technological guidelines:

  • Flexibility: the project was the first step of a continuous improvement, consequently all the technologies should have been extreme flexible, in order to be able to adapt to new need.
  • Openness to the outside, e.g. simplified interfacing with emailing and advertising platforms.

First of all, the company began integrating website navigation data, CRM data, e-mail marketing data and all data extracted from online advertising platforms into a single data lake. The second step was applying marketing automation solutions.

The implemented solution

The project started in May 2019 and in three months it began to give tangible results.

Italo benefited from the method and rhythm of 3rdPlace, a tech company that rapidly develops data-driven customer intelligence solutions. Google Analytics 360 has been identified as the main platform, enabling both data integration part and marketing actions. Through the use of this platform, it was possible to export all the actions the user performs on the Italo website directly to Google BigQuery, an analytical data warehouse.

Moreover, thanks to the Italo Più loyalty code, it was possible to integrate this data with email marketing data and offline data, collected in e-ticket offices and travel agencies.

Italo Customer Data Infrastructure

The implemented solution made three actions immediately available:

  1. Import of CRM segmentation on the advertising platforms: the company can easily replicate the segmentation of the customers, identifying the prospects in similar user segments, look-a-like, on which to perform targeted actions.
  2. Identification of customers with higher probability of repurchase: the predictive algorithm of DataLysm (proprietary solution developed by 3rdPlace) has been applied. DataLysm uses approximately 2000 user behavioral variables collected from the website (e.g. which pages they visited , for how long, from which source of traffic they landed on the site, on which banners they clicked, etc…) to associate a probability of repurchase to each user. Using this method, the company can identify the target on which to direct both e-mail marketing activities and advertising investments (e.g. remarketing), in a more effective way.
  3. Sending personalized e-mails, following the abandonment of a travel shopping cart: thanks to the high frequency of data updating, the company is now able to send a personalized e-mail to a customer who has not completed the purchase of an online ticket after 30 minutes.

From an organizational point of view, the project was sponsored by the Digital & Loyalty function. At the beginning of the project, the working team was made up of two figures, in addition to the function manager, one more dedicated to CRM and one more dedicated to advertising.

The following is an important point to be emphasized: these new technologies and the change in marketing processes have been positively welcomed by the figures involved, who immediately understood the opportunities in terms of transformation and improvement of the working routine.

The more traditional CRM activities, i.e. manual customer identification operations, continue to exist, coexisting with new automated activities.

Objectives achieved

In August 2019, after just three months from the project kickoff, the company reaped the first benefits.
Some examples are:

  • +20% conversion rate from remarketing activities, reducing investment by 15%.
  • -40% time spent by Italo Treno team to generate reports
  • Marketing Automation integrated with 360° user view
  • Full control of conversion path on all devices
  • Implementation of the new Facebook Ads and Google Ads measurement infrastructure

And it was just the beginning. Since DataLysm uses machine learning algorithms, the results are destined to improve further, as learning time increases and new actions are put in place.