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«It was brave to abandon an online shop»

Martin Sturzenegger, Director of Zurich Tourism, 42-year-old business economist has headed the Zurich Tourism organisation since April 2013. Before that, he worked as Sales and Marketing Manager, as well as Management Board member at the Rhaetian Railway.

The main focus of Zürich Tourism website is information and inspiration. A successful concept, as figures show. However, director Martin Sturzenegger still sees optimisation potential and is already planning the future.

Putting customers is the centre of attention is the key to the company's success. What is the role of Customer Centricity?

Martin Sturzenegger: For me it is about a different direction. A radical customer focus does not have to lead to success. Sometimes the customer cannot even imagine what is possible, since he usually does not know enough about the technological developments. From my point of view, it takes professionals who have the courage to try something out, analyse, record customer feedback and constantly improve based on it. That means getting away from "taking everything from the customer" and "moving forward with pioneering ideas". This is how I understand Customer Centricity.

You speak of courage - to what extent has Zürich Tourismus shown courage?

Our primary goal is about marketing and positioning Zurich as a tourist destination. Selling is not one of our top priorities. The «inspirmation» - inspiration and information - is the focus. We are one of the few tourism platforms that do without a central shop. Of course, the customer can make bookings or reservations at the appropriate locations. It was a rather radical step and took courage. We have decided to remove this hitherto central and usual element from the home page. However, we are still learning. For example, we observed the city tours were less well booked, so their searchability had to be improved.

The essence of the 2014 relaunch was to make Zurich experienceable in the digital world. Was it a success?

If we look at figures, definitely: the length of stay, the number of visits and the bounce rate have developed very positively. However, it is difficult to say whether this fulfils our requirements. Maybe it is more of an indication that our customers, guests and hoteliers, enjoy the digital appearance. In tourism this is already half the battle. It is about capturing people's longing for unforgettable experiences. Arousing desire is very important.

Where was there potential for improvement?

There were positive and also critical reactions. And so the usability was not beyond all doubt. The evaluation of our data has shown that the Customer Journey is not optimal yet. The visitor should find the content they want more quickly, and the way to selected conversion points should be even shorter.

We have also noted that most visitors get to the site indirectly, for example via Google, and cannot find their way around. An unpleasant feeling, because people like to know where they are. Also on a website. Only when they find orientation, they start to use the website in all its dimensions.

These improvement potentials were the trigger for this year's «relaunch of the relaunch». The focus was on improving user management. For the customer, the platform looks completely different, but in the end this was «just» a cosmetic change. The central building blocks in the background such as the information architecture, the whole logic behind it, the technical basis and the content remain the same.

«Our primary goal is about marketing, not selling. »

What is the role of the service partner in the further development of the digital presence?

Consistency and stability in the partnership are central to me. It is about knowing the circumstances and distinctive features of a customer. This is the only way to find a way to success together. What is also important to me, is that an agency thinks along the same lines and critically questions, brings its expertise from other projects into play, notices synergies and highlights alternatives. On the other hand, a certain freedom, openness and trust must also be offered to the partner - in the end, they are the experts.

Your customers are approached not only online, but also offline. How do you orchestrate the channels?

In tourism marketing it is even more complicated. It is not just about digital and offline. We are operating in 14 markets and cannot generate appropriate campaigns with the necessary market pressure. That is why we use four main levers: advertising, key account management (presence of partners such as Emirates with our content), key media management (consistent media work, for example about 300 media tours per year) and trade fairs for tour operators. Only the first of these pillars is entirely within our sphere of influence. The others must be coordinated and orchestrated. The content must be consistent so that Zurich can be experienced at all touch points. What it takes to ensure this, is a concise marketing strategy and a functioning management willing to pull together.

What does it mean to market a destination such as the tourist region of Zurich?

Zürich Tourismus operates worldwide with a limited budget. It is about positioning the destination in an attractive and unique way, without offering any specific product or service. It means that we have to search for messages. Naturally, it leads to a question: What do we take and what do we focus on? Marketing means intensification and conciseness. We position the destination through three brand building blocks «Urban Zurich», «Natural Zurich» and «Cultural Zurich», to which every year the most important core product are allocated (for example «Viadukt» to Urban). These messages serve as the central thread and form the communicative bracket around the four platforms or main levers.

What are the next stations on the digital tour of Zürich Tourismus?

The central issue for us is to «spread» knowledge and content more widely. When we look at the customer journey of our customers, it is about finding out in which universe they live. What kind of touch points outside our sphere of influence can we use as «offshoots» for our site and thus spare the customer an additional step? In addition to our own platforms, we want to «supply» useful third-party platforms such as hotel websites with our content. We are developing this network, which productively connects the touch points within the customer universe, now. In short, the focus is on consistent content marketing.