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Marriott's Take on Digital Marketing: Always Look Ahead

May 10, 2017 | Marketing

Stephanie Linnartz
Global Chief Commercial Officer
Marriott International

Digital innovations from competitors keep marketers on their toes, but when it comes to transforming a business, sometimes it’s not enough to just keep up with the competition. Stephanie Linnartz, global chief commercial officer at Marriott International, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about how the organization keeps marketing moving forward.

eMarketer: What does the phrase “digital transformation” mean for your brand?

Stephanie Linnartz: Digital technology is transforming how guests interact with us—not only when they’re at our hotels but also as they’re exploring, planning and dreaming. We’re seeing significant increases in customers searching, shopping and booking through mobile devices, so making sure that we have a beautiful, intuitive and easy-to-use app is critically important. The digital transformation also extends to the on-property experiences. For example, we offer mobile check-in and checkout, keyless entry and other services through the mobile app.

eMarketer: Who oversees Marriott’s strategy for dealing with the digital transformation?

Linnartz: It cuts across various disciplines. I have a new position on my team called the chief customer experience officer [or CXO], and this role helps thread digital throughout the marketing, IT, brand and sales teams. Digital is ubiquitous, so it touches all those people, as well as the teams that are running our app, our website and our call centers. We’re all thinking about how we recognize the customer holistically, but the CXO helps carry that torch—it’s the quarterback position.

“We’re all thinking about how we recognize the customer holistically, but the [chief customer experience officer] CXO helps carry that torch—it’s the quarterback position.”

eMarketer: Sales, marketing and IT teams are notoriously siloed. How do you keep them aligned?

Linnartz: Over the past few years, we’ve put them all under one leader, which happens to be me. The way we’ve organized creates an effective structure for thinking about strategy holistically, across disciplines and across channels. Being part of one team makes a big difference.

We focus on getting to know each other as human beings—understanding each other’s strengths, weaknesses and passions, and building a collaborative, open culture. It’s important that teams are willing to have the hard conversations—if we don’t agree with a colleague, we say it.

eMarketer: To what extent has your business transformed to embrace digital?

Linnartz: We’re knee-deep into it in some areas and we’re just beginning in others, because every day feels like a new opportunity to explore something in the digital space. Mobile check-in and checkout will be standard at some point. Everybody will have them, just like everybody has key cards today.

The goal is to stay ahead of the competition and come up with something new. For example, we’re looking at beacon technology right now so that we can engage in real-time marketing when consumers are in our properties.

“Mobile check-in and checkout will be standard at some point. Everybody will have them, just like everybody has key cards today.”

eMarketer: Do you increasingly have to compete with brands in other industries too?

Linnartz: Absolutely. We’re always looking at the outside environment, because consumers expect certain experiences that they’ve gotten somewhere else.

Amazon is so highly personalized—they use big data and predictive analytics to create a really great experience, and consumers expect the same thing on our website. We’re not necessarily competing with them because we’re in a different space, but they do drive expectations.

eMarketer: What are some of the challenges you’re dealing with when it comes to handling the digital transformation internally?

Linnartz: One challenge is always having enough money and resources to invest. On the technology front, marketing is an ever-changing space and keeping up with it—while prioritizing precious dollars—is always a challenge.

Meanwhile, on the organizational side, we’re always trying to look for the best talent, and the challenge is making sure that we have the right mix of people who understand both the hotel industry and consumer experience more broadly.

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