The Silver Spring, Md., hotel chain expects to start using the software as early as next month for marketing tasks, but it will take 18 months to fully integrate the applications with the rest of its IT system.
Choice spent six months evaluating analytical customer-relationship management and marketing-automation applications from numerous vendors before choosing Unica in September, says Gary Thomson, Choice's CIO and senior VP. Unica won out primarily because of its openness: Choice management was impressed when Unica was able to connect its software to Choice's Informix Corp. data warehouse and create a marketing campaign in three days, Thomson says. Affinium's scalability was also a selling point. The entire Affinium project, including training and hiring two IT staffers, will cost about $1.5 million.
"We think it will lower the cost of our marketing and increase our effectiveness," Thomson says. Choice already mails fliers and sends marketing E-mails to frequent guests at its nearly 5,000 hotels. But those efforts are not as targeted as the company would like. Using Affinium's analytic capabilities, Choice hopes to better understand who its guests are, identifying business, leisure, and elderly travelers, to target marketing literature sent to them.
Choice plans to integrate the Affinium applications with property-management software the chain recently installed at about half of its franchise hotels. That will provide receptionists and other hotel workers with real-time access to data about guests, such as room preferences.
Additionally, Choice is close to buying from an undisclosed vendor data-identity-management software that operators will use to bring up the histories of customers calling to make reservations, inquire about rates, or lodge complaints. Affinium will link to that application as well, helping call-center workers tailor their responses to individual customers.