Connecting with customers through quality data: the Vacasa experience

Jim Young on July 13th 2021

As life slowly returns to normal, some ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are here to stay. Namely, the rapid flight to digital last year caused an explosion of data from consumers using more channels to interact with businesses online than ever before. 

Overnight, consumers expected brands to remember who they were, where they came from, and what they liked, regardless of what channel they came from.

With this explosion of first-party data, and rising expectations for personalized digital experiences, how can companies better equip themselves to deliver? 

To address this question, we recently hosted a webinar with Caleb Donegan, VP of Digital at Vacasa, and Glenn Weinstein, Chief Customer Officer at Twilio. 

Through the lens of key findings from Twilio's State of Customer Engagement Report, and Segment’s State of Personalization report, they discussed how increasing digital touchpoints are giving organizations better insight into their customers and leading to personalization for consumers at-scale. 

Below are some of the highlights from their discussion, as well as five takeaways for businesses on how to think about personalization and customer engagement in 2021. 

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Takeaway 1: Personalization is within reach 

90% of the 2,500 global enterprise decision-makers interviewed by Twilio reported that customer insights increased as a result of greater digital engagement during the pandemic. 

The resulting challenge — and opportunity — is that more interactions across more channels than ever created an eruption of customer data that organizations struggled to manage. 

Why is this the case? 

In short, managing vast quantities of complex data is difficult. The process of collecting and making sense of multiple digital touchpoints has traditionally required specialized machine learning and engineering resources.

However, with the right technology in place, better customer data offers businesses a unique opportunity to better engage their customers with high-quality personalized experiences. 

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Source: State of Customer Engagement Report

Takeaway 2: Consumer expectations are on the rise 

Offering personalized digital experiences used to be a luxury for best-of-breed companies like Netflix and Amazon. Now, it’s essential for companies of all sizes. 

Both businesses and consumers agree: 75% of businesses believe personalization is table stakes, while over half of consumers surveyed say it improves their experience.  

Yet, despite higher expectations for personal and consistent customer experience across multiple different channels, few businesses are following through. According to the State of Personalization report, only 60% of consumers say they are receiving personalized experiences from businesses.

With this gap between consumer expectations and experiences in mind, how can businesses ensure they are hitting the mark when it comes to personalization? 

Takeaway 3: First-party data is key to personalization 

First-party customer data has become the foundation for personalization. This is data collected about customers' own interactions with your brand - not purchased data, or scraped from other websites. 

As Glenn explains, this is not unique to digital but central to analog customer experiences as well. Just as a shop owner would remember the needs and preferences of in-store customers, businesses online should take the same approach. 

Customers want personalized experiences and are more willing to share their data in exchange, so long as it’s information they’ve shared with a business directly. As Glenn Weinstein explains:

It’s almost a courtesy to take into account what customers are telling you, remembering that, and providing them a wonderful customer service experience the next time through

Takeaway 4: The Vacasa experience 

Vacasa is an international property management company hosting over two million guests per year and caring for more than 30,000 vacation homes. Their forward-thinking approach enables them to reach their customers - both guests and homeowners - with highly personalized communication, on their preferred channels.  

To help bring its customers’ dream vacations into reality, Vacasa needs to understand what its customers are searching for and how to best reach them with the right message, at the right time.

The results are hundreds of thousands of 5 star reviews and personalized, vacation experiences without friction. So what’s the key to their success? 

It starts with the right technology 

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Takeaway 5: The right technology  

Access to trusted, actionable customer data through Segment, allows Vacasa to collect website user behavior and reservation data, create audience segmentation, and deliver highly personalized campaigns that cater to users’ interests.

For instance, if someone browses Vacasa.com and views a unit page but does not make it to checkout,  they can use this first-party data to make personalized recommendations to their customers, through email, SMS, or push notifications. 

With Segment and Twilio, their team can view the entire customer journey from welcome text messages, to email opens and site reservations—all in one place. This full picture helps the Vacasa team build deeper customers relationships, keep homeowners educated, and help bring its guests one step closer to the ultimate vacation experience. 

Looking towards the future for Vacasa, Caleb described how:

This personalization piece of [our business] is only going to get stronger and accelerate, and expectations for personalization continue to rise
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After unprecedented adoption of digital channels, companies are now required to act on their data intelligently to meet rising expectations for personalized digital experiences. 

To power these experiences, businesses need to invest in technology with a holistic view of all their different digital touchpoints, and use high-quality data to proactively communicate across the entire customer journey.

As we learned from Glenn and Caleb’s discussion, Twilio and Segment enable Vacasa to visualize the entire customer journey and more effectively deliver personalized messages to their customers - guests and homeowners alike. 

The State of Personalization 2021

Personalized, 1-to-1 marketing is table stakes for today's digital-first businesses. But as consumers' expectations rise, are they equipped to deliver these experiences?

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