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How First Great Western used Direct Mail to drive Season Ticket sales

How First Great Western used Direct Mail to drive Season Ticket sales

Best practice from EHS 4D.

The Challenge

The very nature of the business of train operators means that they have an extremely broad customer base and First Great Western is no different. Ranging from daily commuter Season Ticket holders to corporate business travellers, Railcard holders, families, students and seniors, the company possesses an enormous wealth of data spread across a huge cross-section of the public.

First Great Western challenged EHS 4D to enable the operator to communicate with its huge customer base, to change perception of the service and to encourage people to take the train.

Initial discussions between EHS 4D and First Great Western revealed that perception would have to be a central component of the project. For Season Ticket holders in particular, First Great Western had found itself having to rebuild trust and confidence and communicate with them in a way that made them feel valued.

Season Ticket holders rely on First Great Western to get to work, and for them travelling by train is a daily necessity. EHS 4D had to find a way to engage this group and ideally cross-sell leisure offerings or persuade them to try new services, such as travelling first class. The agency also aimed to better communicate company improvements and product innovations from First Great Western.

In addition to Season Ticket holders, First Great Western also provides a dedicated service for corporate train users and companies that spend over £5,000 annually on business travel. Despite the high-end status of these customers, the Business Direct service had never previously been actively promoted.

Following substantial research and product development by First Great Western, EHS 4D was tasked with developing a B2B lead generation campaign for the Business Direct service with the aim of acquiring new corporate customers, generating incremental revenue and maximising use of service.

The Strategy

To engage with First Great Western’s Season Ticket holders, EHS 4D developed a programme of communications that followed the journey of the customer and engaged with them at various relevant touchpoints. The underlying aim of this process was to highlight that the Season Ticket could take the customer further than their daily commute of ‘A to B’.

By targeting First Great Western’s Annual Season Ticket holders, a ‘Renewal’ and ‘Thank You’ rolling programme was created to remind customers to renew and reinforce how simple it was to renew online through a monthly mailing.

An incentive of free weekend tickets was used to encourage immediate renewal and further valuable data capture. ‘Quarterly communications’ to all Season Ticket holders were also established to encourage a different use of the train, generally promote reasons to travel with First Great Western services and continue to capture and cleanse data.

The underlying aim of this aspect of the campaign was to generate additional off peak and weekend revenue, and to encourage customers to explore the vast First Great Western network.

For the Business Direct service, EHS 4D modelled and identified relevant prospect companies and targeted individual decision makers within those companies with a pack followed by a call. The message promoted was ‘let Business Direct take the hassle out of sorting your business travel’.

In addition to Season Ticket and Business Direct customers, First Great Western also wanted to reach families and ‘leisure’ travellers through targeted DM packs.

By way of reinforcing the message that train travel for the whole family needn’t be expensive but an affordable facilitator to a great family day out, EHS 4D decided to leverage ATOC’s ‘2 for 1 entry’ offer at London’s top family attractions.

Designed to encourage brand engagement and interaction, the pack includes a competition prize for the whole family, for the child to enter a painting of their family day out.

The Results

One of the complexities of the challenge and campaign was the need to target different aspects of First Great Western’s vast customer base. By taking a tailored approach, the results generated for each aspect of the campaign indicate a resounding success.

As a result of the DM pack sent to Season Ticket holders, First Great Western recorded a 70 per cent renewal rate of Season Tickets within one week of expiring. Season Ticket holder churn rates were down month on month throughout the duration of the campaign, and an average take-up of 3 per cent was recorded on the weekend offering.

Anecdotal feedback from the campaign has showed that Season Ticket holders now look forward to receiving their communications and have even been heard chatting to fellow Season Ticket holders on the train about the great offers. And if you can get morning commuters talking at 7am, you know you’ve created something special.

The family mailing generated a whopping 31 per cent response, proving that families really were happy to leave the car at home and travel by train.

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