Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows’ marketing team hopes it snows. More snow, more skiers. But it also hopes it can provide a personalized digital experience for customers and prospects.
But before personalization could become a reality, the resort had to merge two websites. Squaw Valley, located in Olympic Valley, Calif., bought fellow ski resort Alpine Meadows (Calif.). In September 2014, the company launched a redesign, with personalization a key objective.
To continue our series on content personalization, we caught up with Jackie Megnin, web and social media manager at Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, a 6,000-acre, 42-lift resort. The team uses Evergage’s Real-Time Personalization platform. Previously, we had a Q&A with Spiceworks.
CMSWire: When did the personalization journey begin for your organization?
Megnin: In the summer of 2014 we determined we were going to do a complete redesign of our website. We were presented with a challenge. In the 2011-2012 winter season we were purchased by a capital partner, and then we purchased an adjacent mountain to Squaw Valley — Alpine Meadows. The challenge was we had two separate websites, and we were one mountain, one resort. Guests had two different websites for conditions reports, photos and all the content they need. But we wanted to streamline that.
So in the summer of 2014 we went through a whole web redesign process. During that time we identified four key personas we wanted to communicate to. That communication was entirely different for each persona. That was the time we realized personalization was going to be really important to our redesign. We launched in September of 2014, so it was pretty quick but that was sort of when we first determined personalization would play a key role.
CMSWire: What are some of the early strategies in personalizing your content?
Megnin: When you get to our homepage you see below what we call our booking widget. We ask what type of visitor you are you right off the bat. We ask users to self identify using four key personas. Once you click through that, then you’re presented with key content that we wanted to get in front of those users to understand why they came to us. It’s very much high level. We want to connect with them before they move off the page and start exploring. Capture emails, and recommend links to that specific user. That’s just one way when we redesigned the site that we really wanted users to self identify.
CMSWire: What did the process of building those personas entail?
Megnin: It was looking at the entire product mix, which is pretty extensive for ski resorts. We have been trying to grow two parts — looking at the product mix that we have and how people are purchasing and using those products. And, it was also about looking at our key initiatives. We knew we wanted to expand into destination marketing, rather than being so regional.
Families are really important to us and also beginner skiers. We know that’s a key part of growing in the sport. We want to get people passionate about skiing and snowboarding. That was another great segue into creating our personas. For families, we’re not going to tell them to purchase a spa package. That’s more for a traveling couple. We want to have communications and content for each persona.
CMSWire: What was the integration process like?
We already had a few segments on our site from our previous experience with another tool. We already got our creative juices flowing with what we wanted to do. It was a two-week onboarding process, which I think is a miracle.
CMSWire: What were the goals of the personalization project and how is that coming along?
Megnin: Our key objectives were launching a site that inspires travelers with big, bold, beautiful imagery and increase conversions. And we always want to improve our content and engagement. We were able to realize a 37.9 percent increase in conversions among the high-value “family” segment of visitors. We also achieved a 40.7 percent lift in revenue per user in the same campaign, same family segment.
This is really about monitoring the entire experience on our site, and that’s where we see those segments grow. One of our big segments is season-pass holders. They buy a pass that gives them access to the mountain all winter long. We send out email communications to them, and we can tag them and actually greet them on the homepage by their first name and highlight their benefits as season-pass holders.
CMSWire: What’s next for your marketing team in terms of personalizing content?
Megnin: One of the few projects we’ve implemented right now but we’d love to grow it is our weather tracker. It’s in beta right now. We’re a ski resort, and we rely heavily on weather, and right now we have a campaign set up on our top-visited page next to our home page. Whenever it’s snowing we turn on a campaign automatically to capture email data to encourage users to sign up for our snow report. And one is also constantly running when it’s not snowing. We’re really excited about that, and we really want to expand upon it.
Secondly we’re moving into our season pass sales window which is spring. We’re trying to capture real customer data beyond their first name. Like maybe a season pass photo or how many days they’ve skied here. How cool would that be to have on our website when they click through?”