Executive Q&A: The Palms Bets on the Omnichannel Customer Journey

Erin Levzow, executive director of hotel marketing and e-commerce at the Palms Casino Resort, discusses responsive Web design, evolving the resort's digital offerings, and the importance of fixing issues in real time that arise via social media.

In an omnichannel experience, there are several touchpoints-both physical and digital-throughout a customer's journey with a brand that are critical in delivering an optimum experience. How well a company interacts with customers at each touchpoint is often the key to whether they remain loyal to the brand.

The Palms Casino Resort, which recently underwent a $50 million property renovation, decided that a critical component of its reinvention effort to help deliver an optimal multichannel strategy involved a refresh of its existing digital experience including its website-www.palms.com. As a primary channel driving Palms Casino Resort promotions, consumer awareness, and bookings, the website needed to be available across all types of customers' mobile devices to cater to how they interact with the resort.

Omnichannel strategy cannot just simply be the inclusion of digital tools in different channels. Without a proper design strategy, it would be easy to misalign the needs and context of the customers. With the help of SapientNitro and Adobe Experience Manager, the resort re-launched the site with the look and feel of the casino. SapientNitro integrated brand communications, digital engagement, and omnichannel commerce functionality; and Adobe Experience Manager provided the capabilities that allow the Palms to send personalized and targeted promotions, as well as customized messaging to customers aimed at different parts of their journeys and markets.

Here, Erin Levzow, executive director of hotel marketing and e-commerce at the Palms Casino Resort, spoke with Mila D'Antonio, editor-in-chief of 1to1 Media, about the challenges around engaging the omnichannel customer, innovations in the resort's digital transformation, and enabling the customer journey.

Erica LevzowYou recently redesigned The Palm's website. How did you do it with the customer in mind?

Previously, there was no mobile site and no tablet experience. It's not where we wanted to be. Now we have the only responsive website in Las Vegas. We all drink the digital Kool-Aid. However, marketing in general was still an afterthought. We built it and thought, "Why aren't people here?" That happens in all industries. Marketers think they have this great product and that people will automatically buy it. When you build it, you have to tell them about it. Vegas presents an amazing marketing opportunity, as well as challenges, because you have to appeal to both the vacationer and the business traveler.

We did a $50 million renovation of the property, including the rooms, casino floor, and we opened new restaurants. Aside from the d?r, we also needed to renovate the website experience. Our brand is sophisticated, fun, and elegant. We felt that the website should reflect that.

How are you engaging the omnichannel consumer?

My least favorite thing is when you go to a website and it offers the user to enter the full site. That means that not everything is included on the mobile site. Our site is responsive. It's not shrunken down; it's repurposed. If you shrink it that means it's adaptive where the system takes the components and moves them around. It's more of an immersive experience.

For us, there are three types of people who come to the site. People who know they want to book, people who need a nudge, and finally the people who don't know about Vegas and want to be sold. Our goal was to speak to all three of those customers. So the booking field in the top corner never moves. That's their call to action. We have an event calendar that's immersive. Typically on websites, when you see an event you go to a landing page. On our site it pops open on top of an event picture and you can see the details.

What challenges have you encountered along this journey?

There's an investment involved. We've taken the mobile site experience and want to make one strong experience. What's so amazing about the platform that we use is that if you make a change it goes live on all devices. It doesn't limit you, but it makes it easy. It's very quick to say anyone who lives in Vegas will see this message. Anyone outside of Vegas gets another message because they're going to come to us for a different reason.

How to do continue to cultivate that journey?

It's a living and breathing organism. You have to keep growing and changing and interacting. A lot of that is a part of digital marketing. After we redesigned the rooms, the guests didn't just show up without marketing. After we built the website, they didn't just show up there either without marketing. It's a journey. While the customer has a journey and they choose what they want to do, it's helpful to persuade that journey, too. One little thing can break the journey. Our customers can go anywhere, so it's important for us to have a strong experience. It's extremely important that we also cultivate them throughout that journey. That extends to social media. If someone writes on social media, "I hate the Palms," our customers do the work for us.

Are your social media efforts integrated with service?

We are tightly integrated with guest relations. We try to fix the customer experiences. If they're on our property and we see a tweet, for example, that there's a 20 minute wait at the bar, we call the manager and tell him to get over to the bar now. Social has made it good and bad for companies, but you have to be in real time.

That's a unique approach for marketing to be so involved in monitoring social to deal with customer issues.

It's important to fix any issues. It's really one-to-one marketing. If someone tells us they're having an anniversary or birthday we want to make it as special as we can. You chose to come to us so we want to make sure we present a great experience.

Do you work with your counterparts when you see negative reviews?

I talk to the spa manager, securityno matter what the issue is we work to resolve it with the specific department. We escalate it. It's important to send out the positive feedback too. I recognize employees when I see positive reviews. I'll send a note to the spa manager and let him know that a customer called out Christine at the front desk on Twitter or in a review. If my guests reach out and recognize someone who gave great service, that person deserves to be recognized internally, too.

How are you incorporating email into this omnichannel mix?

We build our emails responsively as well. If you have a responsive email you have a greater chance of people clicking through.

Responsive email design is still a rarity in most companies.

I don't think a lot of people are embracing it yet. In a lot of areas, it's still siloed. Why would we have a responsive email if we don't have a responsive site? We are streamlined. We have nightlife, the hotel, and dining so there's a lot of email that we send. If they haven't opened it, we're aggressive. We're really looking at those numbers and asking what they're telling us.

What are some common mistakes that marketers make with their email marketing campaigns?

Not drilling down into the analytics and looking at the revenue. You can't just care about one thing; you need to look at a lot of different things: How many people opened it? Are you using a heat map? What's the seasonality? Did we test with two different images? In general, marketers across the board should always test. Let's always try it. I tell my team, "You don't have to trust me that it's a stupid idea. The analytics after we send it will show it."

People ask how I talk to senior management about projects. I say test it. I'm very passionate about digital and all the things that go into the customer journey. That's what I'm betting on. It's very Vegas of me. I have a good handle of what the customer wants and I'm going to fight for the customers. I'm a customer advocate.

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