Wyndham Hotels Harnesses New Customer Insights To Weather The Pandemic

The COVID payload devastated any business that involved people being in contact with other people.

So it was not the most fortuitous timing when Wyndham Hotels kicked off a massive customer data platform (CDP) implementation in late February, about two weeks before the pandemic shut down the United States.

Or maybe it was.

One of the first functions Wyndham brought to life when it cranked up its Amperity CDP was the ability to use its insights to tweak its media spend. “Over 90% of our media dollars are being leveraged and deployed against the audience strategy we’re pulling out of Amperity,” said Wyndham EVP and CMO Lisa Checchio.

Wyndham’s portfolio includes, among many others, upscale boutiques like Esplendor, high-end chains like Dolce, midrange hotels Ramada and La Quinta, and motels Super 8 and Days Inn.

And like every other advertiser in America, Wyndham had to rethink how it spent its marketing dollars as America entered a prolonged shutdown. “We had to reduce our spend to flex to the demand that was out there,” Checchio told AdExchanger.

And as demand has started to trickle back, though still nowhere near pre-COVID levels, Wyndham can identify trends and reach out to consumers who are slowly exhibiting more willingness to travel.

“Our ability to anticipate and capture demand as it returns is our competitive advantage,” Checchio said. The ability to trendspot will be critical for Wyndham as the hotel industry edges toward recovery, as the CDP lets Wyndham validate and act on larger industry trends.

For instance, surveys toward the end of summer showed a macro-industry trend where consumers would drive to nearby attractions for leisure travel. Wyndham validated the trend itself and got even more granular, figuring out where guests were located, where they were traveling to, how many miles they traveled – which enabled the chain to speak to them in a more personalized way.

That insight changed the way Wyndham thought about its campaigns. For its Fall campaign, for instance, Wyndham would traditionally purchase inventory at a national or market level. This year, it did so on a customer-lead level, where it messaged and responded to certain audiences like lookalikes or travel intenders.

“It’s the ability to really know when you’re marketing or speaking to a customer, you’re speaking to someone who will take action based on what you’re sending to them,” Checchio said.

That ability to spot and act on trends has been big during the pandemic, said Amperity CEO Kabir Shahani.

“Usage in the software has gone up at least 35% if not more,” he said. “It’s been interesting to see customers use it every day, because they’re trying to find the trends and predict what’s happening.”

Of course, when Wyndham invested in the Amperity CDP, it did not expect to put it through the rigors of marketing in a pandemic.

Wyndham was advantaged because it already had a pretty good grasp of its data, even pre-CDP. It had a large loyalty program with about 85 million customers, and was well-versed in sending personalized messages.

But Wyndham did have gaps in its knowledge. It knew, for instance, that loyalty members wouldn’t always book with their membership number, and of course many customers who weren’t loyalty members would book a stay – and Wyndham needed the intelligence to tie those more anonymous visitors to a golden record.

As Checchio and the rest of Wyndham’s brass saw it, adding these capabilities would be a win for customers, who’d get more personalized service, it’d be a win for Wyndham, and it would also be a win for Wyndham’s franchisees.

After all, Wyndham’s marketing team had a primary goal: deliver as many bookings as possible to its franchisees through direct channels – the most profitable channel.

But because Wyndham already had a lot of customer data, it needed a flexible CDP that could complement its existing marketing tech stack, and one that could ingest large data sets with little investment in tech infrastructure.

It kicked off the project with Amperity in late February at its Parsippany, NJ headquarters. Two weeks later, that office closed – as did many offices in the United States. But four months later, Wyndham had Amperity up and running.

A year or two ago, when the term “CDP” was coming into vogue, prospective clients had this illusion – perhaps pushed by CDP vendors – that the platform would magically sort out their data. That line of thinking led to many failed deployments and today it seems cannier marketers who are satisfied with their technology have a better grasp of their goals.

“Most customers understand the problem they have,” said Amperity’s Shahani. “That’s been the big shift in the CDP market.”