Celebrity Cruises and their new interactive apps compelling, memorable digital experiences
Digitally Marketing: Tina Alexander of Celebrity Cruises penned this guest column on cutting through the marketing clutter in the travel business and effectively connecting with travelers and travel agents using digital sales aids
A vacation is fundamentally about the richness of the experience, and our marketing has to capture the excitement and inspiration that passengers on our cruise ships experience. With so many advances in technology and even more intense competition in the travel industry, we wanted to engage audiences in fresh, new ways and give them a virtual experience that got them excited long before they stepped aboard one of our world-class ships.
I lead the digital marketing for Celebrity Cruises, a division of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., and face the daily task of creating and delivering compelling, memorable digital experiences that stand out in the crowded travel space.
One of our primary goals was to make researching a vacation a more fun and immersive experience that transcends a traditional website or printed brochure. We wanted a digital experience for potential customers that was highly interactive, beautiful and dynamic, giving potential travelers a real vision into what they trip might be like. The experience would also make it easier for travel agents to sell Celebrity Cruises to their customers.
Another important aim was reinforcing our brand promise: modern luxury. What better way to showcase our spacious accommodations, exceptional cuisine, attentive service, hip style and design, and high quality than a truly powerful, easy-to-use digital app for tablets? Tablets are incredibly popular, especially among our “sweet spot” target audience, which includes relatively affluent individuals seeking a premium travel experience.
Our design team first sat down and thought through how to organize the content. We all agreed: the first question a traveler asks is, “Where do I want to go?” So we categorized our apps by destination, and we now have apps for Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific, and Alaska.
Then we thought about ways to draw people in and virtually transport them to the destination. We knew the app had to have interactivity and take advantage of the immersive experience that tablet offer by integrating video and gorgeous photos, accompanied by the tactile process of touching and swiping. It’s not surprising that people who download our apps are likely to be more invested in the travel planning process, so we want them to relax with their tablets and fantasize about their dream vacations.
Next came the choice of the tools we would use to design and publish the apps. We knew we did not want to hire developers to build native apps from scratch. It would defeat several of our main goals: controlling costs while increasing the frequency with which we could update material. We also did not want to worry about the extensive coding and quality assurance required with custom development.
For years, we’ve been using Adobe InDesign to create our printed brochures, and then we learned about Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. The two solutions—InDesign and Adobe Digital Publishing Suite—work hand-in-hand, so we could leverage our existing workflow and content. We were excited to try the software because we could easily publish apps without writing code. It was so freeing as digital designers to be able to leverage our existing design tools and skill sets to move into the world of digital app publishing.
We worked with Casa Miami, a digital marketing and mobile technology agency, to help us design our apps and convert our original content into the app world. Our print designer delivered InDesign files to Casa Miami, and they used Digital Publishing Suite to create interactive apps that can run on iOS and Android devices.
The apps are available on iTunes and Google Play for free, and we’ve started promoting them through our website and email campaigns. We’ve also been showcasing them at professional conferences for travel agents.
Digital publishing has opened so many doors for us as designers. In addition to being able to create gorgeous apps without coding, we’re finding new avenues to connect with customers in the ways they prefer. With the release of each new destination app, we encourage downloaders to identify their preferred methods of communication. This has allowed us to reach out to travelers in ways that are most relevant to their preferences and avoid sending them offers that don’t match their interests. We are also planning to leverage push notifications for content updates.
As designers, it is empowering to be our own digital app publishers and control the process from start to finish. It has been very easy for us to incorporate multimedia content such as videos and try new ideas. Right now, our plan is to update each app twice yearly. We’re also considering integrating additional features, such as social sharing, to enable customers to share their vacation dreams and plans across their social networks.
As far as I know, we’re the only travel brand today making elaborate, sophisticated apps like ours. The biggest advantage is that it has helped us speed time to market so travelers always have access to our most up-to-date content.
Tina Alexander is the Associate Vice President of Digital and Web Marketing for Celebrity Cruises