Hawaii’s Turtle Bay Unlocks Customer Data for New, Holistic Marketing Strategy

February 7, 2023


In 2018, Blackstone Group purchased the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu with big plans for a new, five-star Hawaii destination. The midmarket hotel wasn’t the main draw, instead it was all about location, location, location – Turtle Bay sits on prime seaside real estate in a surfing mecca, with five miles of beachfront and 20 miles of trails.

“It’s arguably the best piece of dirt in Hawaii,” says Robert Marusi, who has been serving as Chief Commercial Officer of the reinvigorated Turtle Bay Resort since it reopened under Blackstone ownership in July 2021. Today, Turtle Bay boasts 410 renovated rooms in the main building as well as a new category of rooms, the Ocean Bungalows, made up of 42 expansive, private accommodations just steps from the water. The food and beverage program has been reconceived, and there are new, refreshed lobby and pool areas. 

Along with the property renovation, Blackstone and partner Benchmark Resorts have brought in experienced leadership tasked with overhauling the entire commercial strategy and guest experience. The updated brand and amenities call for higher service and commands higher rates. Marusi drives this strategy, as well as overseeing everything commercial: Sales, Marketing, Revenue, Distribution, Public Relations and Communications.

“My job is to decide how we lean forward,” Marusi says. “To get all of our departments and that whole commercial ecosystem to talk to each other and fight for the same causes.”

Turtle Bay Resort

The Challenge: Building Omnichannel Sales and Marketing Strategies

Refreshing the brand and driving higher ADRs after the renovation required new marketing strategies. And, while the resort was closed during ownership transition and renovations, leadership was also afforded the ability to re-analyze the company’s technology stack. They chose to start from a clean slate, putting the customer at the center of all decisions. To build out the proper customer marketing, customer relationships and customer experience strategies, Marusi was convinced early on that partnering with Salesforce “would get us to the Promised Land.”

“We wanted to take it a step further than CRM [Customer Relationship Management] – we wanted a CDP [Customer Data Platform] that gave us that 360-degree view of the customer, that we could use to ingest all of our data to target and retarget, and to effectively allocate our digital marketing spend to the channels that will bring us the most customers and guests,” Marusi says.

At its core, offering a personalized guest experience at each stage of the customer journey requires a centralized data strategy powered by a seamlessly integrated technology stack. A CDP organizes all the data that is collected by different sources, such as website and social media, but also from atypical sources, and then uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to make sense of the data. It stores the data, maps it, and allows hotel marketers to apply rules to action the data. It will also make continual, granular changes to those audiences, such as updating the phone number for a guest, and then send profile information updates to subscribed systems.

“We needed to better understand our guests – understand their personas and their likes – and then develop relationships with them through omnichannel outreach,” Marusi says. “We turned to the core Salesforce offerings in the beginning: Sales, Marketing and Advertising clouds. From there we began mapping our customer journey and building messaging, starting at pre-arrival. 

“Next, we asked ourselves, ‘How can we personalize these guest touchpoints?’ So we installed Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud Personalization to get our marketing workflows into the Salesforce environment.”

The Solution: Turn to a Trusted Implementation Partner

For Marusi, building a Salesforce interface and mapping the data from each of the revenue sources across Turtle Bay on his own would’ve been costly and time consuming. Therefore, Turtle Bay turned to Hapi, a hospitality data platform connecting hotel data to Salesforce, to accelerate the deployment, including integration, testing, data mapping and data quality. 

“Salesforce has been an incredible partner – I think they’ve become the No. 1 CDP bar none – but I knew I needed an implementation partner because I couldn’t do it on my own. With Hapi’s development support – they provided a seamless integration to OPERA Cloud, our PMS – I was able to get our strategies up and running,” he says. “A lot of people think implementing Salesforce is an enormous lift, but it’s not, if you have the right partners.”

Marusi says one of the keys to adopting a fully personalized omnichannel marketing campaign for each guest was buy-in from his marketing team, which he credits for being early adopters. “We now better understand the segments of guests that we serve,” he says. “For example, a couple of our personas are ‘luxury nomads’ and ‘wave followers.’ Now I can send targeted and relevant messaging to these groups.”

The Results: The Customer is at the Center

Turtle Bay Resort

Marusi says Turtle Bay has successfully moved from a multichannel marketing approach, aiming wide and pushing to a lot of channels, to an omnichannel marketing approach, where all actions revolve around a customer journey. 

“The client is in the middle. I just have to create the experiences, pick the driver, and then we head down the road,” he says. “We’re having incredible success. The thing about Salesforce, while you’re doing the lift, you’re also making money, starting day one.”

Today, Turtle Bay is sending highly targeted communications, segmenting by attributes like household income, geography and demographic. For example, based on the type of room a customer booked, they’ll send follow-up offers for experiences that match that type of booking. The most popular campaigns are based on health and wellness campaigns and surfing.

Centralizing the data gives leadership the ability to better analyze ancillary spend. They look at profit contribution per guest and compare guests from their direct channel to OTA guests, for example. They closely monitor website and booking engine conversion, enacting personalized retargeting campaigns for travelers who abandoned the cart before booking. “Cart abandonment is working and is paying dividends,” Marusi says.

Marusi says he’s able to analyze shopping behavior, and has been able to decrease the time and amount of touches between the first time a traveler lands on the website and the booking. What was previously 30 days and 14 touches has been reduced to 11 days and 7 touches, on average, due to more personalized communication, he says. 

“We know you, and we know if you come back within seven days, you’re likely to book,” Marusi says. 

Turtle Bay will continue to rely on data science and is finding new ways to apply it to improve the business. Hawaii is a highly competitive market, and highly personalized, omnichannel marketing is setting Turtle Bay apart. 

“The more savvy you are, the more you’re going to sweep the leg,” Marusi says.

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