Center Parcs UK gives visitors peace of mind during COVID-19 with support from Adobe.

Short-breaks leader rebuilds its website with Adobe Experience Cloud and taps Adobe Consulting Services to personalise its digital customer journeys.

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Established

1987

Employees: 9,800
Nottinghamshire, UK
www.centerparcs.co.uk

Built a new responsive website and brought campaign creation in-house 

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Objectives

Modernise website with personalised guest portal and journeys

Replace Waterfall methodology with Agile to work faster and break down siloes

Keep guests up to date with the latest COVID-19 guidance and booking flexibility

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Results

Responsive website draws on guest identities to make booking and modifications easier than ever

Agile framework cuts down website release cycles from months to two weeks

COVID-19 updates sent via email and SMS in less than an hour, down from two weeks

Brought coding and campaign creation in-house, supported by Adobe Consulting

Digital customer journeys that make a difference

Center Parcs has an incredibly loyal customer-base. As the UK’s leading provider of short breaks in the forest, it welcomes new guests and repeat visitors year after year, rain or shine. With more guests booking their Center Parcs experiences online, the company began a journey five years ago to build and nurture visitor loyalty on digital channels.

 

For Head of Digital and Media, Elena Ragone Marriott, that required a complete transformation of Center Parcs’s website and digital experiences. “We needed to deliver personalised journeys that make a difference for our guests, online, over email, and via our mobile site.”

 

Working closely with Adobe Consulting Services, Ragone Marriott and her team replaced the company’s 15 year-old website with a complete suite of Adobe solutions, including Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Campaign, Adobe Target, and Adobe Analytics.

 

In parallel, Center Parcs adopted agile methodologies to integrate its teams. This in turn helped it to build a new responsive website and personalise its customer journey across channels in record time. 


“Safety comes first for Center Parcs no matter what happens. With regulations changing each day, guests needed the latest updates on our services and their bookings, as well as the flexibility to change or cancel their bookings with no fuss.”

 
Elena Ragone Marriott

Head of Digital and Media, Center Parcs UK


Getting up to speed 

Before implementing Adobe Experience Cloud, Center Parcs’s website infrastructure was behind the times. Its website was more than 15 years old and built on an even older reservation system. Center Parcs also relied on an externally hosted database that often took more than 24 hours to complete essential data processes.

 

These limitations manifested themselves in the customer experience, making it impossible for Center Parcs to build guest identities or personalise its digital journeys. “Even guests who had previously booked via our website would be treated as first-timers on their next visit,” Ragone Marriott says. “They would have to enter the same information over and over again, which doesn’t meet their standards, or ours, in today’s digital world.”

 

The issues extended to Center Parcs’ email communications. Slow data processes combined with a lengthy approvals chain meant it could take up to two weeks for Ragone Marriott’s team to get guest emails out the door. Essential automated pre-campaigns would grind to halt every time the data took more than 24 hours to process.

 

“Those timelines weren’t tenable, especially during COVID when the Prime Minister was providing new guidance on travel and hospitality daily that directly affected our guests’ bookings. We needed to move faster,” says Ragone Marriott.

Guests come first

Center Parcs’ digital transformation was put to the test in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed down its six locations indefinitely, putting thousands of breaks with pre-booked itineraries at risk of cancellation.

 

The pandemic created uncertainty for Center Parcs and its guests alike, but with a strong digital foundation in place the company was able to respond immediately.  

 

“It was imperative that we adapted quickly and communicated with our guests at speed, not just to maintain our usual high standard of service but also, when the time came, to give guests peace of mind when booking their experience online,” says Ragone Marriott.

 

Thanks to its agile way of working and supported by the Adobe solutions, Center Parcs cut its turnaround time for guest emails and SMS communications from two weeks down to less than one hour. Since the start of the pandemic, it has sent 82 all-staff announcements, 46 rounds of village newsletters, 153 guest closure announcements, and 78 guest survey campaigns, and these numbers still continue to grow. All of which have helped it to maintain strong guest and staff relationships.

 

“Safety comes first for Center Parcs no matter what happens,” says Ragone Marriott. “With regulations changing each day, guests needed the latest updates on our services and their bookings, as well as the flexibility to change or cancel their bookings with no fuss.”

Center Parcs also changed its pre-arrival programme multiple times at short notice. According to Ragone Marriott, none of that would have been possible using its previous systems and siloed working practices.

 

Another sign of Center Parcs’s commitment to guests was its “book with confidence” guarantee, fuelled by Adobe Target. The guarantee was made clearly visible through every stage of Center Parcs’s online customer journey to assure guests they could change or cancel their booking for a full refund.

 

“Our aim is always to provide the best experience to our guests and normally to provide the best breaks for our guests to enjoy. Suddenly, our world shifted to not being able to provide those breaks and having to cancel and refund guests in many cases,” says Ragone Marriott. “We wanted to continue our commitment across Center Parcs to put guests first and therefore provide the same exceptional service for cancellations and refunds as we normally would with all enquiries and breaks.”

Time to go agile

To transform its digital customer experience, Center Parcs had reshaped its approach to digital project management. The company moved from a waterfall methodology, which saw teams working together sequentially and releasing new website features a few times each year, to agile working, which allows it to roll out new digital services every two to three weeks.

 

This change came into its own during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing Center Parcs to launch a mandatory-for-reopening slot booking system for its Subtropical Swimming Paradise, to allow social distancing. Guests were able to pre-book swimming times before their visit, ensuring they stay safe and respect social distancing rules without compromising their holiday experience.

 

Today, Adobe Consulting Services empowering Center Parcs to create more digital experiences in house. Its coders work alongside the Adobe team to create and optimise target tests for the Center Parcs website. 

 

“We have coders on our digital team working alongside Adobe’s developers to build A/B, tests with Adobe Target and optimise our online experience,” says Ragone Marriott. “The collaborative work ethic we’ve fostered with Adobe’s consultants has been invaluable. On top of their specialist product knowledge, they truly understand our business and have become a genuine extension of our team.” 

 

Working with Adobe Consulting also allows Center Parcs to scale its website development to meet its specific project needs. The company can quickly bring on support to capitalise on short-term opportunities while simultaneously focussing on its long-term development goals.

Unifying the customer journey

Ragone Marriott’s team delivered, showing true resilience in the face of unprecedented circumstances. With support from Adobe’s technologies and consulting services, Center Parcs was able to meet the challenges of COVID-19 head on and become a digital hub for its guests in the face of constantly changing circumstances.  

 

Where five years ago it had multiple points of failure in its digital platform, the company’s website now offers greater uptime and robustness. Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Analytics allow Center Parcs to build guest identities, while Adobe Target supports more personalised experiences throughout the booking journey.

 

Today, guests can log in to their Center Parcs account, make bookings, or add to their experience without re-entering their personal details every time. What’s more, every member of a party can access a shared itinerary and communicate with each other, allowing them to coordinate their visit remotely during the pandemic.

 

“Every experience on our website has been enriched,” says Ragone Marriott. “It’s more visual, easier to use, and guests can find, book, and modify their trip as quickly as conditions change.” 


“Technology is often described as a means to an end, but in the case of Adobe, their technology and expertise have been worth their weight in gold.”

 
Elena Ragone Marriott

Head of Digital and Media, Center Parcs UK


Thanks to its transformation, crucially, Center Parcs had the tools in place to adjust to the realities of COVID-19, giving guests much-needed flexibility and helpful information to help them book with confidence.

 

Supported by Adobe Campaign, guest emails about village closures or closure extensions were drafted and sent within hours. Updates to pre-arrival emails and SMS notifications were just as quick, ensuring guests had visibility into every possible variable to help them make informed decisions about their booking. 

 

“I can’t overstress the advantage of having in-house digital tools and a guest data warehouse,” says Ragone Marriott. “It took us two weeks to get emails to guests when working with external partners. We now can get that process rolling in less than an hour of an update from the UK government, including details on how evolving COVID conditions affect our guest experience and break status.”  


“I can’t overstress the advantage of having in-house digital tools and a guest data warehouse. It took us two weeks to get emails to guests when working with external partners. We now can get that process rolling in less than an hour.”

 
Elena Ragone Marriott

Head of Digital and Media, Center Parcs UK


A partnership worth its weight in gold

Center Parcs continues to modernise its website and refine its online experiences. But for Ragone Marriott, the digital foundation her company built prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was critical.

 

“Technology is often described as a means to an end, but in the case of Adobe, their technology and expertise have been worth their weight in gold,” she says.

 

“I shudder to think how different the situation could have been had we not been able to keep guests informed throughout the pandemic,” says Ragone Marriott. “It took years to build the halo of trust around our business, and that could easily have been destroyed. With Adobe’s help, we were able to maintain that halo. There’s simply no way to quantify that accomplishment.”

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