Best use of FastStats® 2014 Award

Using FastStats PeopleStage™ to automate 1000's of different creative combinations

Company overview

P&O Ferries is the country’s leading ferry operator, carrying over 10 Million passengers and nearly 2 million vehicles each year on the most frequent and extensive tourist networks to and from the UK. As well as the UK, P&O Ferries is expanding its marketing across 5 key European countries to deliver bookings across multiple channels online, in the call centre and at the Ports.

Central to P&O’s growth target is its continued commitment to evolve its capability and performance in their marketing efforts by their pan-European, marketing teams who work in close partnership with data specialists R-cubed. 

P&O makes extensive use of multi-channel communications to its large customer base which is driven from a pan-European single customer view in FastStats, supporting campaign selections, analysis and reporting across all countries and routes.

 Watch the case study video from R-cubed



Over recent years the UK ferry market has become increasingly competitive. There is now more choice for consumers, as well as online consolidator services in the market, increasing pressure on margins. Fostering brand loyalty and retaining relationships has become a major strategic objective for P&O yet team resources are heavily focused on supporting tactical activity to react to marketplace conditions.

With booking decisions becoming largely based on price, P&O knew developing an overarching communication strategy that could recognise customers and tailor communications accordingly to delight customers, maximise value and get the right message to the right person at the right time was a critical part of their overall marketing strategy. 

The Customer Journey activity is seeing open rates of over 50%, with some campaigns actually achieving an open rate of 70%. This has clearly demonstrated that the more relevant the customer communication, the greater engagement achieved.


P&O were already making full use of FastStats Discoverer to support intelligent targeting of their customer base, and delivering significant incremental bookings. However, the P&O marketing team knew it had to move away from a manually intensive process of tactical email activity and provide a holistic tailored marketing program that focused on each individual customer’s needs. The tailored program would not only drive ticket sales, increase revenue from cross-sell and up-sell but also differentiate P&O in the market by focusing on their engagement with the brand, as well as the customer on-board experience.

  • Decipher the complex multi-channel customer interactions & phases of booking cycle for each customer across 3 routes and 6 countries
  • Investigate and quantify the financial returns of personalised ‘Customer Journey’ communications
  • Develop the contact strategy around these customer journeys through different phases of the booking cycle
  • Increase the frequency of the single customer view (held in Discoverer) update from weekly to daily
  • Implement PeopleStage - translate contact strategy into detailed campaign designs - develop FastStats database with new fields required to support the strategy - create multi-stage PeopleStage campaigns 
  • Test activity versus controls groups
  • Evaluate & evolve the Strategy
  • Capture & harness online behaviour into FastStats
  • Launch integrated trigger based campaigns
  • Use PeopleStage data to manage Real-Time Website Personalisation

The Solution

In the initial stage an in-depth understanding of the customer journeys was needed. Using Discoverer, the team mapped out the booking cycles of different customer segments identifying clear patterns. The results showed huge potential for personalisation and triggering more relevant messaging. However, in order to capitalise on this opportunity with existing tools, P&O would have had to produce thousands of different templates and manually setup each message permutation as manual selections. This simply wasn’t possible on the weekly view of customers that was currently available. Therefore, R-cubed streamlined & automated the single customer view update process to ensure that the refresh could occur on a daily basis without any manual intervention. This included error handling to ensure that the refresh wasn’t carried out with erroneous data. 

R-cubed & P&O Ferries Best use of FastStats Award Winners 2014However, this on its own was not sufficient, it was clear P&O needed a smarter, faster approach that not only leveraged the existing FastStats environment but brought all marketing activity together in a centralised contact management core.

By arming PeopleStage with an in-depth understanding of customers, P&O were able to create a suite of dynamic automated campaigns sending relevant, personalised communications daily on different devices, and soon across multiple channels. This automated capability empowered P&O with a required step-change in their multi-channel communications. 

PeopleStage not only introduces new marketing opportunities, but improves the targeting to existing customers. P&O’s PeopleStage implementation has become a central hub for P&O where a single source of multi-channel marketing activity can be controlled, measured and reported on. These developments will allow P&O to tailor and optimise abandoned quotes, abandoned browsing, cross-sell extras and accommodation and even target emails after spotting competitive browsing. 

How FastStats was used to Meet Objectives

P&O has historically used Discoverer to query, select, target, analyse and measure marketing activity. However, having developed the complex contact strategy and entered the next phase of marketing evolution, P&O added PeopleStage. 

Sign-off on developments was given just 1 month before both the summer peak season and the launch of P&O’s new branding.  In order to maximise the impact of the contact strategy work it was critical that campaigns were setup-and live within extremely tight timescales. Working with R-cubed and the Apteco teams P&O managed to get up and running on PeopleStage within just a few weeks. 

The speed of implementation was down to several factors that helped achieve a rapid approach to deployment:

  • The drag and drop interface enabled us to quickly build and visualise automated trigger based campaigns 
  • Harnessing selections in Discoverer meant these building blocks could be used repeatedly across multiple campaigns saving precious development time 
  • The testing facility enabled us to easily sense check and QA selections/exclusions prior to go live avoiding unnecessary rework  
  • Virtual Variables were used to first to determine and agree up-front actual definitions before commencing database development 
  • Phased development path was taken to ensure we could take a test and learn approach 
  • Reporting from PeopleStage allows us to continually monitor the campaigns
  • Constraints within PeopleStage ensure that we don’t over contact customers
  • A critical benefit of the final solution was the ability to create a series of control groups both by campaign and overarching long term controls with which to measure the incremental bookings being delivered by the contact strategy.

PeopleStage Solution

The different campaign areas, campaigns & multi-stage campaign screenshots:

FastStats PeopleStage Solution

The Marketing Activity

Before setting up the campaigns, P&O created a number of programme areas to ensure that the campaign structure replicated the customer journey:-

  • Pre Booking
  • Active Booking
  • Post Travel
  • Reactivation

In all, there are now 15 campaigns set-up within PeopleStage with the majority of these being run on a daily basis. Each campaign makes use of dynamic templates which vary dependent on a number of attributes including:-

  • Route
  • Direction of Travel
  • Language
  • Currency
  • Party Type – Families, Adult Groups, Couples etc
  • Ship Name
  • Departure / Arrival Details
  • Extras Booked
  • Previous responses to Customer Survey

Any special offers used within the activity are driven by propensity models developed by R-cubed to determine the most relevant offer / promotion for which products should be presented to who based on customer value. 

The output from PeopleStage is automatically loaded to the email broadcast tool without requiring manual intervention from the marketing team. 

New Dynamic Communications

An example of a dynamic email driven by PeopleStage:

Top image – customer is travelling with children, therefore family-friendly image 

Text under purple box refers to the Route ‘Irish Sea’, day of travel, Food Court & Club is dependent on the boat 

Bottom images – vary dependent on ship facilities, extras booked (i.e. club lounge) & party type (i.e. kids club)

Dynamic email driven by PeopleStage

Details of Results and Measurable Improvements 

The Customer Journey activity is seeing open rates of over 50%, with some campaigns actually achieving an open rate of 70% plus coupled with a low unsubscribe rate of less than 0.5%. This has clearly demonstrated that the more relevant, the customer communication, the greater engagement achieved. 

More importantly however, the customer journey activity is generating significant incremental revenue - ahead of the targets that were set.