Digital Abraham Alapatt
Abraham Alapatt
Head – Marketing, Thomas Cook
02 Aug 2013
It’s a fierce market with cutthroat competition. A powerful competitor can drive up Costs Per Click on Google and make the model unsustainable to others. There are hundreds of such tactics being employed by digital marketers to increase their mind and wallet share and one has to be on the ball and quick/ready to adapt. But that’s also where a solid brand name and the quality of your product and servicing come to play.
Abraham Alapatt, Head - Marketing, Thomas Cook looks after the brand building efforts among other duties. Prior to Thomas Cook, Alapatt was part of Future Generali India. He commenced his career with Goldwire Communications and later moved on to Ogilvy & Mather, where he looked after clients such as Hutch, Sify, ITC and Nippo Bateries.

In conversation, with exchange4media’s Saloni Surti, Alapatt chats about the importance of digital to marketers, Thomas Cook’s digital strategy and more...

Q. As a marketer, what is your digital objective?
Based on our research and some Google reports, we know that approximately 60 per cent of our potential customers do their primary research online before they buy – either online or offline.

As digital marketers, our objective is to reach out to communicate and engage customers with our product offerings/ brand to ensure we are in the consideration set and give us a “better than average” chance of conversion.

Q. Please share your digital mix.
On the product front, we offer:
Holidays
Forex & Prepaid Cards
Flights & Hotels
Travel Insurance

On the price front, our strategy is:
Holidays & Forex: Use our competitive edge over OTAs in terms of range, services and price advantage
Flights & Hotels: As these are “entry” services, we charge no convenience fees for transactions on our portal thomascook.in and also offer discount coupons etc., to make our offerings more attractive and increase market share

From a promotion standpoint:
Since we are a 182-year old, reputed and trusted brand, we focus more on functional, business-led marketing rather than pure play brand-promotional marketing.

Our objectives are aimed at generating leads and driving relevant traffic to our portal for fulfillment, rather than merely advertising for visibility and hoping business follows.

Place:
Fulfillment happens via our toll free 1800 Call Centre or B2C portal thomascook.in. On request, we also refer customers to our brick and mortar set-up
We also use channel intermediaries by forming alliances with banks, non-competing e-retailers and coupon-based websites, to generate leads/ drive traffic
Our social media presence of more than 3.3 lakh followers engages with the customers as well as takes care of grievances and query management

Q. What is the one thing that you have learned from digital as a marketer?
It’s a fierce market with cutthroat competition. A powerful competitor can drive up Costs Per Click on Google and make the model unsustainable to others. There are hundreds of such tactics being employed by digital marketers to increase their mind and wallet share and one has to be on the ball and quick/ready to adapt. But that’s also where a solid brand name and the quality of your product and servicing come to play.

Q. What, according to you, is the one thing that marketers should keep in mind while investing in digital?
Cost per click/ lead should be optimided, based on the lead to conversion ratio and margins of the business.

Target, Target, Target: The great thing about digital is that it allows for far greater degree of focused targeting and transparent measurement. Marketers should, therefore, sharp focus their target customer with as many filters as possible to ensure there is little or no wastage.

Ensure end to end tracking to build enough customer profile-data to enable effective cross sell and up sell throughout the customer’s life cycle.

Selling to an existing customer is far cheaper than the acquisition cost of a new customer – so quality of service and addressing customer issues/ complaints fast and effectively is key to ensuring customers keep coming back.

Q. How does extending a terrestrial campaign on digital help the brand?
Given the number of people who increasingly go online to research/ shortlist/ confirm/ decide before they reach out to the marketer for fulfillment, this is already a necessity, not a luxury.

Marketers need to move from a “let’s also do some digital” approach to a “how are we leveraging this campaign through digital” approach and always build a synergy between offline and online campaigns to ensure marketing ROI.

Q. Which has been your most successful campaign across digital?
Our package to promote the Malaysia Grand Prix 2012 campaign generated 800+ queries at a very low CPL. It was a very competitively priced FIT package with GP tickets, promoted on Google Search and GDN.

Q. Are there only digital campaigns by Thomas Cook?
Digital today forms about one-fifth of our overall media spends, which will only increase in proportion rapidly to cater to a rapidly swelling young urban demography, who are more comfortable online and use the internet far more than their parents did/ do.

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