Silverpop, an IBM Company, helped Georgia Aquarium evolve their email marketing communications to build loyalty and drive revenue
The world’s largest aquarium makes a big splash with patrons by delivering more relevant, personalised emails throughout the customer lifecycle
Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, contains more than 10 million gallons of water and has the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programmes of the highest standards, and offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.
The ever-evolving journey
The digital marketing team at Georgia Aquarium are no strangers to testing the email waters. Their journey began a few years back when they were tasked with strengthening their relationship with visitors, sponsors and donors via the email channel. With the help of Silverpop, the aquarium began communicating to its audience in the form of monthly newsletters, event updates and special offers. This brought success such as a fivefold increase in open rates and a sevenfold increase in click-through rates, on top of creating a more loyal customer base.
Fast forward a year, and the aquarium was ready to get to know its customers better in order to retain loyal fans, provide consistent value and drive more revenue. But how? Not only were there gaps in communication and data stuck in silos, but the team consisted of just one person. This meant working even harder to prove the benefit of bringing on additional resources.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Hired to act as an extension of the Georgia Aquarium marketing team, Silverpop Professional Services continued to support the aquarium’s efforts by helping it answer two key questions: who is the ideal customer, and what path do we want them to take?
First, the team worked in sync to identify the aquarium’s key personas: ticket purchasers and event attendees (non-members); members and pass holders; Ocean Society members, and donors. Then, they matched these with the aquarium’s primary goals – acquisition/welcome, loyalty, renewal and reactivation – and brainstormed nurture campaigns to target each ‘bucket’ of subscribers.
After mapping and strategising for months, the team started small, focusing on redesigning the newsletter templates to be mobile-friendly. They also studied readers’ behaviours so they could create better-targeted conversations. With momentum building, the aquarium began using automated programs, preference centres and reporting to help launch and execute three different campaigns.
• Pre-visit Experience: Sent to all patrons who have purchased a ticket one day prior to arrival, this email (see Image A) provides helpful pre-visit details such as directions to the venue, parking instructions, frequently asked questions, and an upsell opportunity (a behind-the-scenes tour).
• Post-Visit Follow-Up: This campaign (see Image B) collects post-visit data and feedback using the Silverpop survey tool, enabling the Georgia Aquarium to better listen to visitors’ needs so they can then tweak messaging and the experience accordingly.
• Welcome Series: To provide additional touch points and drive more engagement, the aquarium expanded this “series” from one message to four, providing more relevant content and helping identify the Aquarium’s “mega fans” based on how contacts interacted with these messages. The behavioural data captured through these emails is used to create more targeted website landing pages.
Customer experience marketing fine-tuned
Not only is the journey improving for Georgia Aquarium’s different personas, but the digital marketing team is seeing improvements and success as well. The results include a 60 per cent unique open rate for all expanded campaigns, a 32 per cent lift in revenue from the email channel alone, and doubled website traffic from the tailored newsletters. On top of that, leadership saw enough value from the email campaigns and results to bring another team member on board.
“Silverpop has supported our communications goals at Georgia Aquarium since the beginning of our partnership, with a commitment to growing our database and customer engagement,” says Rosie Judd, Director of Digital Media at Georgia Aquarium. “Working closely with various departments throughout Silverpop, including the professional services team, we have been able to increase our customer touch-points threefold over the last year, leading to a more engaged and loyal customer base.”
The aquarium knows its journey isn’t complete, with plans to dive deeper into purchase behaviour, milestone campaigns, and even venture into the world of apps.