When you chat with someone who loves what they do – like, really loves it – you can tell. It’s infectious.

That’s how I felt after talking to Mark Bloxham, MD at the UK’s leading villa holiday specialist, James Villas.

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Mark is really passionate about personalisation. And considering the size of the business he runs, personalisation is a massive undertaking. As he says, it’s more than just ‘welcome back Mark.’ It’s a systematic change involving every aspect of the business.

We talked about:
• Why it’s better to sit right in the middle of the office;
• The ultimate goal of personalisation, and how to get there;
• How many people it takes to change a tariff;
• The key to successful cross-functional teams;
• The department that should be sitting next to the marketers;
• Asking the right questions of your data;
• And little tricks for encouraging loyalty.

Mark on…

The importance of understanding the customer:

I think the personalisation that we’re doing when we don’t know you as a name is very much about making the process as fluid and understanding what you’re probably going to do with that bit of data you’re punching yourself… If we can get you logged in then we can start serving up.

The importance of questioning data from different angles:

So what’s exciting is we’re allowed to poke at the data now. So you’ve got products going to data, going to IT, going to web, going to the database guys that are all involved in that single question and of course they’ll come up with an answer that never quite fits everybody – so we (continue to) investigate.

The importance of personalisation:

We’re getting better at recognising you coming back and we have people that have 15/16 holidays over their lifetime and the fact that they spend oodles of money with us and we can’t pick up the phone and say, “Hello Mr Johnson” is ludicrous. So we’re getting better at that and that’s what’s delivering.

The importance of testing, testing and testing again:

On every test we do we can see micro conversion improvements. Now that sounds ludicrous because you’re taking 0.1 per cent increase – we’ve changed or tweaked this content here and that’s the pain, (but) the real pain process of going through personalisation is understanding the consumer and saying, “Do you know what, here is the loop they’re in while they’re searching, here is what we can offer them up from a personalisation, if they give us a bit of data”.


People Tell Richard Stuff: Episode 9
Mark Bloxham, Managing Director, James Villas

Mark Bloxham, managing director, James Villas