Georgia Aquarium Catches a 32% Revenue Increase with Targeted Emails

Automated email campaigns using personas help Georgia Aquarium deliver more relevant content.

Every year, visitors are drawn to the colorful fish, playful penguins, and other aquatic animals that live in aquariums. Georgia Aquarium is no exception. Since opening in 2005, it has welcomed more than 18 million guests to visit its more than 200 different species of residents. But even a popular venue like Georgia Aquarium needs to think strategically about its customer experience.

"We know there's a lot of competition for people's attention and our challenge was figuring out what were the best touch points for engaging customers," says Rosie Judd, director of digital media for the Georgia Aquarium. "We needed to be able to speak to them in a more relevant and detailed way."

Georgia Aquarium had been a Silverpop client for several years and turned to the digital marketing provider (which is now part of IBM Commerce) for help creating a more personalized visitor experience. Using IBM Silverpop Engage, Georgia Aquarium's marketing team created and managed targeted campaigns that were tailored to a visitor's particular interests.

The marketing team's first step was to create customer personas. The team developed persona groups such as ticket purchasers and event attendees, members/pass holders, and donors. Next, Georgia Aquarium aligned its campaigns with a persona and goal to create a key for the customer journey map.

Once the team established the personas and map, it then focused on implementing targeted, individualized campaigns. Georgia Aquarium launched its initial pilot campaign in 2013, which was aimed at the pre-visit experience when people clicked on its website. The Georgia Aquarium's previous welcome message was a generic email thanking customers for purchasing a ticket or subscribing to its newsletter.

Georgia Aquarium changed its welcome message into personalized emails that took into account areas of the site that people visited. "This allowed us to isolate the content people were interested in even before they visited the aquarium, based on what they're clicking on," Judd says. The marketing team also overhauled its pre- and post- visit email campaigns, creating personalized, automated programs that are based on each visitor's perceived interests.

Visitors who purchased a ticket online receive a triggered email before their visit highlighting events at the aquarium and other details. After their visit, guests also receive an email that asks for their feedback about the experience, giving the marketing team the insight it needs, while also engaging with each visitor at a personal level.

Within the first year of implementing the redesigned email campaigns in 2013, Georgia Aquarium saw a 30 percent lift in open rates. In 2014 the organization saw a 60 percent open rate increase, and is on track to report similar results in 2015. And to date, Georgia Aquarium has increased revenue from its email marketing campaigns by 32 percent.

Georgia Aquarium's marketing team continues to work on providing guests with personalized experiences. The next step, according to Judd, is to add more customer behaviors into its segmented groups, and potentially use location data from iBeacons to deliver dynamic content based on the exhibits where people spend the most time. "We want to give people the full experience of what makes Georgia Aquarium unique from a digital to physical sense," Judd says.