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Ahmed ElemamSenior Digital Marketing and Analytics StrategistWestJet
With the introduction of massive, full-suite cloud solutions from a number of key vendors including Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce.com, a cloud craze has swept across the marketing space over the past two years. The shift to cloud-based solutions is a large part of the digital transformation for businesses across industries, but going digital doesn’t always mean moving all solutions into the cloud. Ahmed Elemam, senior digital marketing and analytics strategist at WestJet, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about why the airline is keeping some technology on premise.
eMarketer: What are some of WestJet’s brand values, and how do you select technology that best aligns with them?
Ahmed Elemam: Our model is similar to that of Southwest Airlines, and it involves taking the guest experience a step further. We’ve maintained that culture for 20 years. Any technology mandate in the company goes through a filter: Is it easy to use, and can it help our guests? Back-end technology can help make the guest experience better—for example, a touchpoint on the web, and that is what we’re focused on the most.
eMarketer: How has WestJet’s perspective on marketing technology evolved over the past few years?
Elemam: When I started at WestJet in January 2014, we used standalone tools and didn’t have a marketing cloud mentality. We aggregated data, but it was siloed. Over the past two and a half years, however, there’s been a focus on integration and making data usable for our employees. When we implemented the Adobe Marketing Cloud in 2015, it provided similar interfaces to teams across departments, which made people less reluctant to learn how the technology works.
eMarketer: Are you still using on-premise point solutions for other things?
Elemam: Yes. There are some solutions that are still in RFP [request for proposal] status. For example, our email solution is still in RFP; we haven’t made up our minds about it. Our business intelligence tool is IBM Cognos and our CRM system will always remain in Siebel. There is too much history in it, so we can’t change it. Not every tool that touches digital is part of the cloud, and not everything in the cloud is suitable for us.
eMarketer: What are some of the biggest integration challenges that WestJet faces?
Elemam: The context of data is completely different depending on the department. For example, the revenue management team, which deals with flight pricing, doesn’t just look at where customer travel starts and ends but rather each travel segment, including connections. The digital team, on the other hand, sees the whole booking as one. Because there are differences, the first thing we have to do before we choose a tool is agree on the context. Then, there’s no need for data integration as long as individual departments have access to the dashboards they need.
eMarketer: How are you tackling the cross-device challenge to ensure consistent brand experiences for customers?
Elemam: It’s easier to deliver consistent experiences to our loyal members than to a random person. We target loyal members through our mobile app. We know if they’ve searched for something or if they’ve clicked on a deal. Anonymous users are difficult, because they could be coming in from a computer at work or a mobile device. Until they log in, there’s no real way to stitch a profile together. [In that regard], there’s still a lot of room to grow.
eMarketer: What’s your next marketing technology priority?
Elemam: Our next priority is to get more sophisticated with our email and notification systems. This is our biggest opportunity ahead. Personalization is also a big topic for us in 2016 and as we look ahead to 2017. We can do a lot of things, including customizing the page consumers land on after they click through an email or customizing the email itself. Through testing and targeting, we can continue to improve customizations.
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