Hugo van Mol – Efteling

Hugo van Mol – Efteling

Hugo van Mol is Team Lead Marketing Specialists at Efteling. Efteling is a fantasy-themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel, the Netherlands. Hugo is responsible for managing an in-house team of 15 marketing professionals within the areas of online advertising, web analytics, conversion optimisation, web personalisation, CRM & data marketing, social media, content marketing and earned media with commercial focus.

Main KPIs for brand growth

When thinking of brand growth, Hugo shares that long term growth comes to mind: “This is something we are aiming for at Efteling. But brand growth is also where brand building and awareness cross paths, short versus long term goals. We have adopted a three-step brand strategy in which we use brand awareness to make that step towards brand salience and eventually brand fame. I think a brand such as Efteling lends itself perfectly to that brand fame and those love brands. We have grown organically throughout the years through our product and experience: we don’t sell tickets, we sell memories. From a marketing perspective, we try to make a connection between brand fame and content. Bringing our content into people’s daily lives, on their kitchen table, and sharing frequent updates through channels such as our socials, blog or segmented newsletter. That is how we maintain that connection.”

Role of data

Hugo shares that being data-driven in marketing means being there at the right time: “Data facilitates in sharing the right message at the right time with the right person. We are now at a point where we know where someone is in the journey, and we know how to connect that with that person’s history, whether they are a returning visitor or a first timer. We try to be more relevant step by step, not just commercially, but also on a service level. Why should the homepage for a season ticket holder look the same as that of someone who has never visited the park? We look at it from both sides, trying to offer that 9+ experience in all our touchpoints. When people book a cottage, we send them an e-mail before their stay with a personalised video starring our sleeping caps, ‘the Sluis Family is coming’. How special is that? We aim to surprise in a relevant way, not only in the commercial pre-phase but certainly also in those phases after purchase.”

“Working with data is not an end in itself, it should be a means to help drive the business forward.”

“I can’t say whether data is embedded in all facets of the organisation, and I’m not sure if that would be the case, that would be a good thing”, Hugo continues. “The combination of common sense and experience, and, where possible, data that helps you make those decisions, that’s the sweet spot. I think we are at the point where we will always look for data to help us. Working with data is not a goal, we use it where we think it will benefit us. We look at it from the perspective of a business case, whether that is improving our service or becoming commercially smarter. We have brainstorm sessions with the more operational side of the business, asking them how we can help, and which issues they are currently tackling. Sometimes the most powerful thing is to simply take those current business issues as a starting point. How can we tackle that and how can data play a facilitating role in that? Then you know that it will add value. It is not like we are necessarily looking for those data cases from other companies and then doing it ourselves. In my opinion, you then start working with data because it is hip or cool, instead of focusing on the main objective, which is to improve or solve.”

A means to an end

According to Hugo, the success of data in an organisation starts with people: “Having the right people within your team and partners to work with, preferably in a multi-disciplinary way. When departments like IT, sales, and marketing don’t talk to each other, you need to start building those bridges before you can take the next step, and I think we have done a good job at that at Efteling. Not just talking with one department or one team but involving the right people with the right specialisms at the right time, all from one Efteling vision. Furthermore, technology is quite essential, understanding the tools in the landscape. In our case, it helped us a lot to have a clear architecture in place: which systems do we have, how do they talk to each other, what do we need and what should we shelve? I can recommend working in those business cases as it creates a clear framework of what you need to achieve. If you don’t know what needs to be done, you might make it too big, and end up with systems you might not need. Again, I think that working with data is not an end, it should be a means to help the business.”

As an example of using data in the organisation, Hugo shares that Efteling has tested their website extensively: “We ran an extensive conversion optimisation programme where we had two to three a/b tests live every week. Either in collaboration with research where we have questionnaires running among visitors, but also running questionnaires on the website. We try to learn from that and making those touchpoints more valuable to reach that 9+ score. There is a strong collaboration with research in that as well.” Hugo comments on how Efteling measures the success of their efforts: “When it comes to long and short term, we have a different set of KPIs. Think of a banner, we need to know how long our brand is visible and what the interaction is like, which are completely different KPIs. They don’t directly relate to sales, as the banner doesn’t need to deliver that. The banner needs to contribute to the ultimate growth of the brand, but we don’t assess that on short term success.”

The best experience

Hugo reflects on challenges within data and future trends: “There is a huge landscape of technology, and that is a challenge. Currently, we are looking at how we can optimise the operation in the park. Understanding with visitor flows when to close which shops or rearrange the assortment based on footfall. We are also looking into using data in a more predictive way and understanding that from human experience. We are already trying to track various data streams to see where correlations lie, understanding when to scale up or down on our campaigns based on signals like capacity limitations during covid or ticket sales.” Next to that, Hugo believes that the trend of conversational strategy will continue to develop: “There are already websites that are completely built on those chatbot conversations, and we have been taking small steps as well. We currently have a chatbot where people can contact us. I think this will get a more prominent position in the years to come. Instead of letting consumers navigate through the website themselves, they will just type directly what they want, and they can continue to check out straight away, all in a mobile-oriented way. We are now taking those small steps, and there is certainly room for optimisation. At the end of the day, all those small steps contribute to ensuring the best experience for our visitors.”