Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: How to Automate the Enterprise

How marketing automation is freeing up a motorist group to tackle digital transformation

Implementing an Oracle cloud solution has opened up a range of possibilities to the NRMA, changing how they operate marketing campaigns through automation and giving it the ability to leverage data to keep competition at bay.

nrma-roadside.jpg
Image: NRMA

The National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA) is a member-owned organisation that is well known for its roadside assistance. Having been active in New South Wales since the 1920s, Jana Kotatko, general manager of Marketing at NRMA, said parts of the organisation is still deep-rooted in its 96 year-old past.

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Kotatko joined the organisation 18 months ago to help bring it into the digital era and steer it away from solidifying its business as a one-trick pony.

One of her first observations was that with 2.4 million members on its books, the NRMA has an incredibly rich dataset. She realised very early on that the NRMA has a very strong brand and a name that is loved. Kotatko also learned very early on that there was a desire to send letters to everyone on its books, five times a year, just to let them know how things were going, wasting an incredible amount of money on print and distribution.

"Very little automation going on and quite a traditional approach to marketing," she said.

"The campaign manager would roll up to the business intelligence (BI) team to get a segment to then go to another part of the BI team to pull the data and maybe six weeks later the start of a campaign might emerge and then we'd send that largely out by post with one kind of segment.

"Without overdramatising it, you could see the opportunity to do so much more with the data and to open new channels of communication for our members."

A new way of thinking

To Kotatko, having an older membership base is not a good enough reason to have archaic processes in place, noting that the aging members are generally embracing digital technology as quick as any other part of its membership base.

She said it seemed obvious for the NRMA to put some sort of platform in place to transform the way that marketing is performed.

Adopting an Oracle cloud solution meant Kotatko could focus on the culture of the NRMA, transforming the role of the marketer in the four short weeks since it went live with Oracle's platform.

But it also meant she could bring a new way of thinking to the entire business.

"What we're known for is the car bit -- that roadside business -- but actually there's a breadth of portfolio there where we can offer services to members and non-members around maintaining a car," she said.

"What that means is typically just farming off the same old base with the one product -- a one trick pony in terms of it's just about the roadside plus that renewal -- is largely where we've been. Actually being able to use insights to look for other opportunities to talk about next best product or an up-sell or cross-sell opportunity ... there's a huge amount of opportunity for us in our business to do that whilst delivering a really valuable service to our customers."

Oracle's solution eased a lot of the manual tasks within the NRMA and the value of automation found its way to centre stage.

"For us it is less about being focused on the underlying technology and more about being able to create campaigns that resonate with our various target segments," she said. "The cloud allows us to achieve this in ways that previously were not possible."

Kotatko said the opportunity run the organisation's marketing strategy in an automated way impacted customer communications in a "transformative" way. She said the NRMA was now able to launch a new campaign, monitor responses, and then quickly adjust components as required.

"We're rebuilding onboarding, renewals, life cycle communication, and we're able to do that with velocity," she explained.

"Loading it into a platform like a marketing cloud solution means that we can move as fast as we like and we can trial segments without upsetting anyone in the BI world or the finance world and we're not hurting the integrity of that simple source of truth in the CRM platform.

"[It means] we're actually able to work with agility in building out those segments and then tailoring messages, products, propositions, journeys around those segments."

While her teams are rapidly building those out on the Oracle platform, the NRMA is turning its minds to a few other things only automation has made possible.

"The first one is actually how do we bring this into being able to target and retarget better prospects," she said.

"On the road map we're looking at a data management platform (DMP) which will tie in with the implementation of the content management system (CMS) platform, which initially the DMP is a great opportunity for us to optimise media and the business case is very much a no brainer around that.

"At some point plugging that DMP into a CMS means we can then deliver on a degree of personalisation that we've not been able to in the past and make sure that journey continues right through into our digital environments."

Another thing that the NRMA is currently grappling with is how to leverage not just first party data sources but second and third party data sources to bring in more data to its warehouse.

"Forming some sort of data lake would actually mean we can build segments out with velocity -- start to try different things and leverage that enriched data source," she said.

According to Kotatko, thanks to task automation, the role of the marketer has changed, which is why she finds herself deeply involved in the previously IT-centred projects.

"Previously, the BI team was kind of churning out data briefs and pulling data, loading it up into campaigns, and giving us reports, and ROI on those campaigns. That's the role of a marketer. Marketers should be able to do that," she explained.

"It doesn't make the role of the smart analysts and the BI people any less important because what they can now turn their mind to is less of that and more of actually going deep and looking for the insight.

"We've now just made the role of the data scientist much more interesting because now they're actually doing what they love.

"The old world, and there's a lot of people still holding on to the old world of, 'Well I'm a campaign manager and my job's to do the creative and pick the headlines and the colours', and while there is still a role for that, increasingly we need curious, data-driven, analytical, critical thinking marketers who are loving the opportunity and the autonomy they've got now."

According to Kotatko, that is the new marketer who has a blend of science and marketing.

Tackling new market competition

With the emergence of ride-booking services, Kotatko said it is a path the NRMA is looking into, now that task automation has freed up a lot of the time staff were spending on manual processes.

"We're not complacent on the subject of disruption at all," she said. "I think our response has a number of different approaches, the first one in actually making sure that there are parts of the portfolio where we will also be disrupting."

For Kotatko, it is about becoming a brand that wants to be more proactive than reactive, pointing to the opportunity car-sharing and parking presents to the NRMA.

"Telematics and the amount of data that can be extracted from the on-board diagnostic system in the car is mind blowing -- it's not just about fuel emissions and all of that, it's actually everything. You can tell a huge amount about that person's driving standard -- speed they drive at, their breaking habits, collision moments -- there's a huge amount of data, that's quite scary -- but then if you put the customer hat on, it's also incredibly useful," she said.

"We're in the business of getting people going from the side of the road, it turns the ambition to making sure no one breaks down at all and it's an entirely different proposition which then protects our core business from being disrupted because unless you've got access to that data in that car, you can't disrupt us."

As cars get more reliable, Kotatko said the NRMA is looking more into where it needs to be to support its members.

"If you buy a new Tesla, that thing ain't ever going to break down so actually what does the future look like? That's where we move into mobility where it's less about the car itself or even someone driving the car," she said.

"Car ownership might be less relevant in the future and so that move into mobility which sounds like a nuance is actually a really big step that will involve acquisitions, new lines of businesses ... now for us to be able to move with agility, whether that's through an acquisition or starting up a new business, quickly integrating that into our heritage business, that's going to become a mandate in the near future."

"When it comes to tackling the likes of Uber or GoCatch, Kotatko explained that NRMA's involvement may involve it being a booking engine, owning a fleet, or even becoming a fleet trouble-shooter.

"In the first instance we are leveraging our ties with government and actually making sure that we're part of the conversation. There's a huge amount of regulation that has to be overcome and we're part of that conversation, so I think that's the first thing," she said.

"We have a role, being a member-based organisation to advocate the role of our member and so that's job one. What comes out of those discussions will largely be round what's right for them, what's commercially viable, and also the other players that are in the mix, because I don't think any one party should be at that table having that discussion and thinking they can own it all."

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