Certain details of the case study have been withheld for client confidentiality reasons.
In 2021, Digitalist partnered with a Canadian transportation authority to deliver an email marketing strategy and visual refresh for their email newsletters, to announce their first ever sweepstakes (see Case Study 1). In 2022, this public transportation agency reached out to Digitalist to conduct a retrospective and assess how the campaign went as a whole, and to provide recommendations for future initiatives. Furthering the relationship, Digitalist worked with their internal team to strategize based on customer experience insights and business goals.
The public transit agency wanted to know if the sweepstakes actually encouraged riders, especially new riders - those who were brand new to the transit system’s brand and experience of riding transit, or had taken transit frequently prior to the pandemic - to take transit or not, and ultimately the campaign’s direct impact on revenue. However, from our initial project with the transit agency (see Case Study 1), it was clear that it would be difficult to define and measure the success of the sweepstakes in a quantitative way, as there are many factors that contribute to riders taking transit. Thus, Digitalist had to provide a comprehensive analysis, looking beyond our own involvement with the strategy, and conduct research to gain qualitative insight on how the initiative went from multiple perspectives.
The public transit agency had received feedback from the sweepstakes registrants through a survey after the campaign had ended. However, it was difficult to draw meaningful insights from just the survey alone, as it focused primarily on audience behaviour and not the riders’ initial reactions towards the contest and if it impacted their impressions of the agency. Therefore, Digitalist recommended and conducted nine remote customer interviews for additional insights, asking deeper questions around riders’ underlying thoughts and experiences during the campaign.
Besides the riders’ perspective, it was important to take a look at how it went behind the scenes for the internal team in terms of planning and execution. Digitalist facilitated a hybrid workshop for internal stakeholders, where nine participants showed up in-person and one participant joined remotely. After the workshop, follow-up questions were sent to the participants for additional details they could provide. These activities allowed Digitalist and TransLink to collectively review the pros and cons of the campaign from various angles.
Digitalist analyzed the insights gleaned from the customer interviews and the internal stakeholder workshop against all other materials provided by the public transit agency - quantitative data on the campaign, metrics, internal documentation, and information on related initiatives. A higher priority was given to the overlapping insights and ideas provided by both the customer and public transit agency.
The end result was a 116-page report of synthesized insights and recommendations, structured in a way to clearly articulate the overall strategy and detailed tactics for future sweepstakes. The overall strategy can be broken down into the following categories:
A key finding from the customer research was that the majority of riders who participated in the campaign were those who were already taking transit, because it was convenient and easy for them to participate. This led to the speculation that the initiative did not provide a large contribution to the revenue.
Therefore, our overarching recommendation was to focus on non-riders and new riders for the next sweepstakes contest. One idea to attract this audience was to lower the barrier to entry by providing non-committal ways of participation, with the goal of encouraging this group to take transit more often and to follow the public transit agency’s future initiatives. Another recommendation was changing the prize structure to be inclusive of all types of riding behaviours, and not just rewarding those who take transit frequently.
Also, it was critical to note that a contest may be the only touchpoint within a non-rider’s journey with the agency, and that the agency needs to take a holistic approach to encourage and empower non-riders to take transit.
The report was structured to be like a ‘blueprint’ that would easily enable the public transit agency to utilize the report as a planning guide for future contests. Recommendations were organized based on department, so that each member of the project team could quickly search for information relevant to their respective role. Besides providing practical suggestions on the timeline and planning of future programs, Digitalist also listed questions for the internal team to consider from the bigger picture of a rider’s journey with the agency.
The transit service that the agency provides is seen as an essential public service that riders use out of necessity, and therefore, it is extremely important to pay attention to all dimensions of the service as a whole when implementing a sweepstakes campaign. Other aspects of customer experience (safety, economical, environmental friendliness) should be considered and kept in mind as factors that impact a rider’s overall impression of the public transit agency and their attitude towards taking transit in the long-term. When running a contest, it is crucial to make it equal, fair and for it to be perceived as an act of rewarding and not an act of selling.
Other recommendations that Digitalist provided for the agency to consider include the bigger role that campaigns can play in actualizing the shared values of both the agency and riders. For example, there were many intriguing ideas on tying initiatives, like environment and charitable causes, into future sweepstakes. This would not only allow riders to feel that they are collectively contributing to something meaningful, but also empower the public transit agency to demonstrate that concrete steps are being taken into achieving their vision.
Lastly, Digitalist raised the importance of better defining, gauging, and measuring the success of future programs more accurately. One recommendation was looking at the customer journey more holistically, beyond a campaign, and measuring individual ridership behaviour across time. A rider has multiple touchpoints with the agency, and it is crucial for the agency to consider other complementary initiatives that not only encourage people to take public transit, but also empower all groups of people to ride based on their preferences, circumstances and needs. Riding behaviours are constantly fluctuating due to many factors. Thus, measuring and comparing these changes on an individual level enables the public transit agency to see how an initiative, like sweepstakes, can increase ridership at an aggregate level, and ultimately equate these changes to revenue figures.
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