EP #37 Explore the world of email post-pandemic for the travel industry, a MakeMyTrip story.

EP #37 Explore the world of email post-pandemic for the travel industry, a MakeMyTrip story.

About this Podcast

In today’s special episode of the “For The Love Of Emails” podcast, we have an exceptional guest, Soumyayan Roy from MakeMyTrip. He is the CRM and mobile growth head who’s moving on as marketing head for the MakeMyTrip Gulf business. He is experienced in customer lifecycle management, digital marketing, consumer behavior analysis, product optimization, and P&L management. This Podcast is hosted by  Ayush Verma, Email Product Marketing Lead for Netcore Cloud.

Quick Snapshots
In this podcast, they discussed
Where Email stands in MMT’s martech space amidst other channels
Using Email to drive app use - and how has it changed in recent years?
New age email keys - AMP, dynamic real-time segmentation.
Different types of Email-specific targeting strategies.
Working with a dis-engaged/non-engaged user base.
How did MMT drive conversations through Emails during the pandemic?
Episode Transcripts

Intro (00:07):


You’re listening to the “For The Love Of Emails” podcast, powered by Netcore, a weekly show dedicated to helping email marketers, marketing enthusiasts, and professionals of all walks engage, grow, and retain customers through reliable, smart, and effective email communication and engagement. Discover actionable ways to increase ROI and deliver value through email innovations, personalization, optimization, email deliverability, and email campaigns.No fluff tune in to hear best practices and tactical solutions from the best thought leaders and practitioners master your email communication now.

Ayush Verma  (00:41):

Hello and welcome to another episode of “For The Love Of Emails” podcast. I will be your host. Ayush Verma, Email product marketing lead for Netcore Cloud. And I have a very special guest today, a marketing professional with diverse experience in multiple roles in the travel ecommerce and telecom industry he’s experience in customer lifecycle management, digital marketing, consumer behavior analysis, correct optimization and PNL. We have Soumyayan Roy from MakeMyTrip, CRM and mobile growth, who is now moving on as marketing head for mobile from make my trip Golf business. Soumyayan. Welcome.

Soumyayan Roy (01:14):

Yeah. Hi Ayush. How are you?

Ayush Verma  (01:15):

I’m good. How are you

Soumyayan Roy (01:18):

Really nice meeting you after so long and thank you for the kind introduction and for this opportunity.

Ayush Verma  (01:24):

Great. Right. It’s really nice to have a combination with you and it’s good to have you here. How is how’s the new year treating you something new in 2022?

Soumyayan Roy (01:33):

Yes, Omnicorn is new. I hope everyone is keeping safe out there and just need to be cautious. I hope this blows over soon and we are back to traveling as soon as possible.

Ayush Verma  (01:44):

Right, right. And definitely from make my trips perspective. That is a good aspect to look out for.

Soumyayan Roy (01:51):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean we are going to help you guys out really with all our improved products and all, and I don’t wanna make, run to be a bummer for you. So all the best, but just stay safe for the time being, stay indoors and take care of yourself and your family.

Ayush Verma  (02:07):

Oh, that’s, that’s really nice. That sounds really nice way to set this thing up. So I’ll just directly jump in, help me and listeners know what do you do to make my trip and where does your role fits in the whole business and marketing plethora at MakeMyTrip?

Soumyayan Roy (02:22):

Sure. So I’ve been with this amazing organization, the leader in the travel industry and e-com, and one of the first startups of India I’ve been with MakeMyTrip/ Goibibo group for the last four years. First is part of the CRM team. And right now till last month, I was heading the CRM and loyalty team as well as a mobile app team for Goibibo brand under make my trip while I’m currently moving on to the role of marketing head for makemy trips, gulf business. So that’s about it.

Ayush Verma  (02:54):

Hey, that’s nice. Congratulations. Great. so being in this MarTech space, right, and make my trip coming from the travel industry, like you just mentioned, right? One of the first startups of India, help me understand where does email as a channel stands in the whole MarTech space for you within amidst every other channel?

Soumyayan Roy (03:14):

I think email as a channel is at the very core of our communication when we talk from a CRM and retention perspective, or when you talk about from a brand engagement perspective, I think email is a way that facilitates a lot of communication. It facilitates bringing out the right offerings, bringing out the right dialogues, brings the right kind of information out to the customers. And it is not a channel where we are only looking at ging to get some new transactions and you get some new traffic out of the customer base, but where we want to have a free-flowing conversation where we want to tell customers what our brand stands out for. I think it’s one of the main mediums for branding is not a traditional sense where you actually see branding out in the social media or on mass media on TV or radio. But I think on a day-to-day basis, email is a medium where you engage, where you spend some more time than you usually do on social media, and where we actually get some Headspace and mind space of the customers to convey what we actually want to do to them. So it’s, it’s very central and core to our Philosophy of CRM.

Ayush Verma  (04:29):

That’s really nice. And I really like that particular part. When you mentioned that email, it’s not just such a channel to increase your traffic, but just drive users to a particular app and help me understand, because I have noticed this thing many, a time that many companies startups out there just end up doing this particular part of using email to drive traffic and their core metric happens to be how many people came by an email. What do you think is the right metric for you? What do you do at MakeMyTrip?

Soumyayan Roy (04:56):

I think I am really glad that you picked up on that particular point and is very close to my heart. I mean, I think it’s a journey in the phase of a company or an industry where we try to optimize the particular KPIs we look out for, but what we have figured out over the ages and my personal experiences, it’s not where we can actually expect to send emails to some millions of customer base and expect a particular open rate and CTR to hold through and give you conversion and traffic then. And their email is a warmup medium. For me, it’s a medium where you actually go and talk to customers in a very friendly manner and don’t try to sell on his face what are the offers and what are the product offerings you have? So a case in point is, and, and we saw or saw this particular thing really helping us in the post-COVID time.

Soumyayan Roy (05:47):

we try to actually be more empathetic through our emails. We try to reach out to our customers and we try to tell them how they should keep home and stay at home and keep safe. We try to tell them how they should take care of their health, of their family. We try to give them some tips about passing time when every one of us is locked down for the first three months of COVID. And we so amazing engagement, amazing open dates and all which we have not seen giving our normal day to day product mails.

Ayush Verma  (06:15):

Yes, that’s really. Yeah.

Soumyayan Roy (06:18):

And, and this actually upholds my conviction that this is a medium where you can actually engage on a, on a quarterly basis or a monthly basis. So if I, what I used to do when I was heading the CRM piece with rather having a weekly plan, I used to have a monthly plan or a quarterly plan. That what is my idea of what up to a customer? how am I talking to him? So he, he should be treated like a friend where the first day I’m talking to him about offers, say, I’m talking about the kind of engagement plan I have for him. On the third day, I’m talking about some product offerings. I think that we should keep that in mind and not just brand look after KPI optimization.

Ayush Verma  (06:57):

That’s very nicely put. That’s very nicely because empathy, of course, these are difficult times from everyone’s perspective and probably it’s two years now it’s two years that we just went into a new norm. Empathy probably is one of the core things. People might just be missing from marketing and glad that you bought that thing up. It’s close to my heart anyway.

Soumyayan Roy (07:19):

And just remember that your notification on SMS can’t amplify those core feelings. You just got only those one 60 characters and, and those 200 odd characters to convey your message, but email, at least you have some space, some mind space, some screen space to actually have that conversation. So I think we should all look out to optimize it.

Ayush Verma  (07:42):

Absolutely, absolutely. And that actually is like, you know, the reason we call it for the love of emails, email is one of those channels they can actually go to the heart of the particular customer and can relate to it. So that’s a beautiful point that you made and because you bought that, COVID part up. And I know it’s a very cliche thing to us and now everybody knows a particular part of it also, but things changed, right? And we all know that hospitality, travel. This was one of those industries was, which was impacted the most by COVID, how things changed for you. And this also becomes interesting why, because many, a times when we were gearing up, right, we were preparing for a new norm. A new lockdown happens, then we prepare for a new norm, and something changes. So the norm itself changes now, like for example, two years, we pretty much thought that everything is gone six months back, but then again, we are seeing the new year in a really difficult time. Again, how are you preparing, what was your learning? Did you do something new? Help me understand.

Soumyayan Roy (08:38):

So I think thanks for that question. I wish, I think it’s aptly put that we are the industry, which has been hit the worst. If, if not one of the worst I think what happened was in the post-COVID time, it became more important for us to reach out to our customers and be in a touch base with them because there were a lot of evolving guidelines and there were a lot of evolving rules that were out there in the macro scenario, which a customer might not know how to navigate through in an app or a desktop on the first instance or they might just be missing out on a notification or an SMS, or people just might need to just save some guidelines or a PDF document, et cetera. So one of the first use cases that we figured out that worked beautifully for us was a PDF file, which we compiled.

Soumyayan Roy (09:29):

And we sent out to our user base where we gave them the state-wise guidelines and, and we urge customers to save that. And totally it came back and a lot of friends and family came back and we got some social post where people say that they’ve actually downloaded that. And they’re using it as a reference point before they’re making any kind of bookings. So that shows you the true power and, and what I was telling you, the power of engagement and having the right communication out there, which is not about offers and products. And once we saw that particular thing taking off, we figured out how it becomes important that people are actually interacting with us on the mailbox. You actually feel delighted if, on a particular day out of the thousands of emails that you get the solicited,   unsolicited mails that you get, there is one good subject line with, with good content, which can actually turn your day around. And we have seen that virality happening for MMT over the last couple of years, where people have taken to social media and, and shared our content and shared the kind of wi things we have done for them, so I think there’s a validation in the post-COVID days and that non-serious approach. But I useful approach. I think, seems to have worked for us.

Ayush Verma  (10:47):

Absolutely. AT MMT we are largely in touch for years now you’ve been in touch with two years, right. Make my, might just be a customer for netcore cloud, but I particularly am a customer of make my Trip, so I love using the app. What you just mentioned, over the period of COVID is that I was one of those people who actually loved the way you sent an email and actually tagged you up over Instagram and said, this is awesome communication, which has been done there. So hundred percent sure there are so many people who did that, who love that particular part of it. And it’s also about that new age thing, right? People want you to communicate to them, which is not just one way, which is not just selling. They want you to relate with me as a customer. And that’s where I really believe make my trip is doing beautiful.

Soumyayan Roy (11:30):

Thank you for those kind words. And one, one another good example was on goibio we got a good response to one of those mail trades. So, we started something called a mail thread where actually it was kind of a newsletter that we started for two kinds of customers. One is for our loyal customer base code, right, where they actually were looking forward to anecdotally, a lot of people came back and said, Hey, last month I got this newsletter. And you told me about these stats or something, these extra fun things when are going to send it this month. And, and we are going to send it the same day of every month, please hold on. That, that is one good thing. the second thing is we started something for it is where we actually wanted to talk about the real features, but we wanted to communicate the form of a storyboard. And there was a series of three to four storylines. And people came back and said like, this is so NOST, this is like reading a comic. And that actually makes you feel good that that customer is engaging through the mail. I think that’s the biggest validation of the kind of work we have done over the last two years with you guys and the amazing job done by then content and creatives.

Ayush Verma  (12:44):

Absolutely. Like, this is something which should like the kudos should be given to the content team in the CSM in mind, they’re trying to strategize this thing in that particular manner. This is really awesome. I, and I really like that idea of what real value it is. Yeah. That’s really nice. That’s, that’s something good. Okay. Because we’re talking about the campaigns and everything help me understand, like, you know, you just mentioned that you bifurcated your audience, your target customers in a manner, somebody who is loyal, somebody who is not helping me understand how do you actually segment data and has it changed during the COVID period of time? Because a normal way of segmenting data is let’s say the active users, right? These are my six months active users, or 12 months active users. Did you do something different or is something different being done at the, make my trip? And anytime, if you want, would want to share some strategies with us also

Soumyayan Roy (13:33):

So broadly what I can tell you is that this is a topic that is very close to my heart for MMT we take advantage of robust analytics and data gathering that we have had where we actually use hundreds of segments to bring out the right communication and the right offering and the right engagement to the customer. Well, you mentioned that active at risk and lapse. These are the usual industry norms. We try to overlay some of the intelligence that we gather, not only from booking but also from search behavior. We also try to overlay information about a number of it that the customer is doing. The different kinds of offers that he’s looking at different kinds of businesses he’s interacting with, whether it’s a flight or a hotel or a train what kind of booking does he do?

Soumyayan Roy (14:28):

Is he a discount seeker or is he a premium customer, is he a, weekend traveler, is he a business customer or leisure? So all this intelligence goes there and we ultimately divide customers into some broad hundred-odd segments that we have. And we use that intelligence finally, to create those segments with help of your team and, and have that final communication out there. Because I personally believe that sending the same communication to the entire base doesn’t make any sense. I mean, you won’t like if you’re using an iPhone that someone comes in, tries to sell you a phone, which is not as per your variant or you’re liking. So you would wonder the person who is targeting you to at least know something about you so that it becomes relevant for you to even consider that. And I think we always want to be in the consideration space and we have done great. And over the last two years that segmentation has actually worked because bookings have not happened as much as we would’ve wanted, right. Because travel has maximum heat, we have been able to really work on the search segmentation basis to give the right offering to the customers. And it has really converted and helped us a lot, so, that’s how we do segmentation.

Ayush Verma  (15:47):

Perfect. Help me understand the search by the, to mention, so is it about what I’m searching over the, make my trip app? Yeah, absolutely. Am I interested in, so you, you are asking about the type of service that I’m interested in, right? Like if I’m looking for a cab booking or if I’m looking for a booking or something of that angle,

Soumyayan Roy (16:03):

So what happens Ayush is in the industry across most of the companies, most of the segmentation is based is the past booking behavior. Now post COVID, we have seen, there has been a huge change in customer preferences. So for example, if I’m, I was a customer who was looking at booking a budget post-COVID because of my family restrictions, because of the kind of hygiene I might be looking out for personally, I might believe that a more costly hotel gives me better service, that’s a personal belief. Now, if I have to target the same customer and make him believe that you do a transaction with us, can I succeed if I am selling him a budget hotel, or can I succeed if I am selling a hotel, which is more features and how do I get this signal is from what he’s doing inside the app. what he’s looking at. So I think we had to unlearn a lot from the past behavior. We had to look at a lot of present search behavior and kind of collect the dots and, and bring all those hypotheses out there in basis, the evolving situation post and create new segments.

Ayush Verma  (17:17):

Got it, got it. I don’t know if you can help me and support me with a number, but where does make my trip takes care of it? Like, is it more on the app basis, your where is that business angle? Like, you know, you focus a lot on the app, part of it, or the web aspect, the website aspect, how does it work on the, on your angle? What is your go-to place that if you want to redirect to a person, would it be a website or the app?

Soumyayan Roy (17:42):

A customer is free to choose his or her own preferred device, right? Whether it’s your <inaudible> or your desktop or your app, what we feel is, and what we have seen is a customer who interacts with app tends to come back a lot more because of the convenience, because of is most of our customers being young and being mobile-friendly and a mobile-first country. we believe that the app has a lot more headroom to grow. and that’s one of the preferred challenges, but as I mentioned, customers can really feel free to choose their own set of devices.

Ayush Verma  (18:22):

Hundred percent, hundred of course. How about the new ways of doing emails? Right. We just mentioned the segmentation part of it, right. But like, you know, you are in my team, we talk a lot about the dynamic part. Like, you know, you do a dynamic segmentation, you do send-time optimization. Now we are also including amp within the emails, just trying to understand how people can actually interact in the emails. What are your views moving forward and how are you coping with all of those things, amidst all the things which are happening on additional marketing channels as well.

Soumyayan Roy (18:54):

I think email marketing basics or as I try to call it email marketing 101, you, we should always know that what is the right time to send a communication to the customer? So Roy might like an email at 11:00 PM at night versus Ayush, who is early, and usually looks at an email at six in the morning. I might be looking at emails all the emails of the week over the weekend versus someone who is looking at emails every day. So this particular insight that we have, and there are a lot of global strategies out there, which talks about that, which other preferred days out there in the market, or the preferred timing where you should be sending the right kind of communication. And given that we have been in the business for so long, and we have interacted with our customers for so long.

Soumyayan Roy (19:41):

I think these are important signals to capture and have your communication strategy around it that is the aim. Building and amplifying on it is the, see the in, in inhouse segmentation that I was talking about the, whether you are creating a loyalty base your water right base, whether you are taking care of a searcher, whether you are taking care of a customer who has just dropped off and, and becomes a dropped off traffic, know all these inputs are good on paper, but I know the kind of challenges and the kind of events that we pass and the kind of billions of data points that we gather. I think, as a marketer, the first hurdle is which are events to be considered, which can actually make an impact out there. So having to make sense of those particular KPIs made sense of those events and working closely with your team. I think we have been able to formulas 10, 12 broad segments basis, customer behavior, past booking, and the search behavior and the KPIs we think on basis of timing, dates, and days of the week. I think those are the broad metric that we consider as of today, but it’s an evolving set. And every quarter we really look at these numbers and the numbers just tend to change.

Ayush Verma  (20:57):

Yes, a hundred percent, of course. Also like then this is something which I would want to know from you as a point as may be like, you know, you would be a right person to understand that particular angle as well. During COVID many people came back as well, right. People had time in their hands, they were just, they were just trying to reengage, how did it fare with you, were you able to get a lot of disengaged users, which were probably using make my trip years back, but didn’t use it. And during COVID they started using it as well. You had a specific email strategy. For those kinds of people as well. If you focus on those people

Soumyayan Roy (21:32):

Very good point travel was not in the set of consideration for most of the customer base due to value reasons. we actually took to email to have a conversation with them. So while the customers got these engaged with us, in terms of booking, making a booking and all, we knew that we should not be pushing them, right, because it’s, it’s, it’s not valid and logical. So the way we try to actually engage with them is through those conversations, to how to prepare your dalogonna coffee, how to do yoga or how to what are the new games that you, you should be playing with your friends and family. And, and then hindsight told you that our open rate and our CTR never faced a problem there because we knew what was the right communication, which we needed to be sent to the customer. And that has been a learning for us. And we have been being successful to stay in touch with our customers and feel their pulses.

Ayush Verma  (22:35):

That is nice. That is a nice way. I put it up because I see this thing was one of those aspects, right? People who were worried about losing customers, getting how to just acquire them back. Cause, and of course, travel industry, as you mentioned, one of those things, which probably the most, so this is one of those things which probably should be looked out for Roy a separate thing probably. And I’m sorry, this was not in the line of questions, but because you brought this particular point up and I just felt like asking you we’re moving more towards the web three-part, the crypto, the NFT tokens, right. If I’m not wrong go cash, probably the first virtual currency, right. Travel virtual currency, which absolutely goes and goes cash, press a divorce, and all of those things. Right? Yeah. Did they help, how were they faring across all of those things? What are your loyalty programs, if there are, and how do you relate those things with emails, you can just probably shed some light on those things?

Soumyayan Roy (23:30):

So as you already mentioned, we have in the pioneer, in the travel industry to come up with this. And we always try to give the best benefit out there to the customer. So whether it is through a program or whether it’s through a new program called to scan and where a customer can just stay in a hotel and he or she can become an influencer and just recommend the same hotel to someone. And if the person makes a booking here on something or, or whether it’s just signing up to our platform and getting transactional cashback to the transaction, or just become a loyalty member and, and get rewarded every after every transaction. So I think this incentive to customers had been at the very core of our offering. We know that customers love us. They have put their faith in the kind of innovation we kept on doing previously also. And I think in post-COVID, the pay of innovation has only increased. So you are going to see much more such new products and innovations lined up over the next couple of months. So just hold your attention and you’ll be rewarded much

Ayush Verma  (24:43):

Perfect. That’s a really nice way to put it up and like, you know, just trying to gather the attention I can see from where the marketing is coming up on that angle as well. That’s, that’s, that’s really nice. Roy on a separate segment as well. Like let’s talk about something apart from emails, too email, and like let’s involve other channels alongside as well. Where do you see email moving further in the next four to five years? Because with the of notifications, post notifications, you rightly mentioned India as a mobile-first country, right? They definitely use emails, but email essentially becomes, let’s say a B2B kind of a channel. It might just become a first-time first touch, right. Maybe you have to just verify emails and just look over the transactions. Where do you see in the next four to five years email moving in the whole hierarchy in the whole segment of the so many channels over marketing space?

Soumyayan Roy (25:36):

So personally my take on email is email is awaiting one revolution, like WhatsApp or instant messaging. I’d say a lot of companies have moved their customer support or their conversation too, WhatsApp or a Facebook messenger or any bot, which can have an interaction with you. It’s a two-way communication Google has come up with their RC services where your normal SMS have become very enriched. Your day-to-day notifications are much more enriched in terms of your Carousel, GIFs for the colored notification timer, et cetera, that you can do. I think email the innovation has been there, but it has been a little slow. What, what I would want to see is the days of the email being a transactional mailer or a confirmation mailer might sunset it in a couple of years because a lot of companies are moving to a channel like a WhatsApp or confirmation book indicator, Cetera, mm-hmm, <affirmative> what email should be used more and, and, and less of spamming.

Soumyayan Roy (26:45):

And more for valuable information is more like a newsletter, more like a curiosity channel where I can come up and tell you, Hey, these are the top 10 ideas for you to travel. Can you can, can email then how ate a conversation between me and you then you tell me that these are the 10 destinations, but Hey these are the two more destinations I have figured out and can there be interactive media where that can be stored and that can be published over a desktop or an app. So I think email as a channel is very underutilized, or I say it has been overutilized in a different direction, and people, most of the emails end up being in the junk for us. Or we just look at emails only for our account statement and, and to check a PDF file or IT return. I think email is awaiting their personal touch now.

Ayush Verma  (27:41):

Got it, got it. Right. And I love the way you mentioned this thing. That email probably is underutilized in one manner and overutilized in another. And like you mentioned that there are a couple of things, make my trip as planning as well at your end. I’ll just give a glimpse that there’s something big revolution that we are also trying to build in and around an email that you’re gonna see in the next three to six or months. So again, on similar lines, all your breath to everyone who’s listening, because this is something which is really awesome, which is coming from our end. And definitely, we’re just gonna work alongside, make my trip, and see all of those things happening at both the, as well, really

Soumyayan Roy (28:16):

Waiting for the, and let me know, I’ll be the first one to offer those services, whatever it is,

Ayush Verma  (28:21):

A hundred percent, Roy, as we are already moving towards the end of this conversation, it was a really nice conversation. This year onwards. So in all the podcasts, I’ve introduced one new segment and that’s largely called us learning from experience. So what essentially, and I read this thing somewhere and that was about that, you know, nobody can compete you at being you. So everybody is very unique way different in their own manner pertaining to email Roy. And that, this is the question pertaining to email Roy. I really want to know if there was a mistake that you made along the way along the lines, and you really believe you shouldn’t have made you learned of course, but you didn’t so that the people who are listening to us and knows that, you know what, this is probably not the way to look out for it. That should be the way something that should be taken care of whenever you are working in and around the email marketing space.

Soumyayan Roy (29:13):

Good question. I wish, and I’ll just repeat myself and this is personal learning and not organizational learning, but what I’d say is don’t look at email to work on wonders on a to day basis and deliver your KPIs and numbers. That’s, that’s a trap we shouldn’t fall into look at email as an engagement metric. Look at email as a brand channel look at email as a channel through which you can actually help improve your NPS over a long period. Have a quarterly plan for an email and not a daily plan. That’s the thought I would leave the listeners with.

Ayush Verma  (29:51):

Perfect. This couldn’t have been any better. Thank you so much, right. It was really nice having a conversation with you here.

Soumyayan Roy (29:57):

Thank you, Ayush for hosting me here. And again, just everyone take care, be safe.

Ayush Verma  (30:04):

Great, Roy,  hundred percent. Thank you so much for joining us in the podcast. This was really insightful conversation for all our listeners out here and to the people who are listening. If you have an ear to the ground, for all things, email marketing, we have a massive report that has all the email metric benchmarks across five regions and 19 industries coming up, call us a study of a hundred billion emails. The link probably would be somewhere in the descriptions, wherever you’re gonna listen. In this particular part, the pre-booking is already up. Book your copy now, and I’ll see you in the next episode. Thank you so much for joining goodbye.

Outro (31:40): 

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