Ardennes-Etape : Building a cloud for marketing infrastructure that made customer data work for Ardennes Etape | Presentations and Cases


The biggest challenge for marketers today is turning the sheer volume of data they have access to into actual actionable insights. Not only is (1) the volume of data problematic for a human brain to handle, (2) the technical skill sets are evolving. Marketers can only make data informed decisions if both challenges are tackled. Semetis succeeded in tackling these challenges by extending the marketing ecosystem with both technological capabilities and human skills. By combining cloud computing power through the usage of Google Cloud Platform and its machine learning capabilities together with our data engineering teams we are able to supercharge the client’s marketing efforts and turn any marketing team into a data-driven quick shifting marketing unit. The result? Tailor made customer experiences and soaring ROI marketing results. From a business perspective, this is a game-changer on five levels: cost-effectiveness, digital transformation, effective development of products and services, data back-ups and scalability.


The hard truth of becoming data-driven and why most companies aren’t

Let’s start with the context. We all agree that there’s more data available than ever. While everyone claims to be data-driven, only the ones really trying to put data at the center of their organisation realise that they hit a wall very quickly. The abundance of data is simply too much for human beings to handle. It’s impossible for even the best analysts to distinguish the signal from the noise as soon as the volumes go up. Knowing that understanding your data actually holds the key to making better decisions it sounds like we’ve reached the end of the line. Not necessarily. Over the years cloud computing has democratised the way complex data analysis can be conducted. However, these operations required specific skill sets that were too far away from any marketing department to obtain in order to be able to benefit from the benefits the cloud can provide and get access to the data insights.

We’ve put in place a data science unit that helps clients benefit from the insights hidden in their data by putting in place a cloud for marketing infrastructure for them. This removes the bottleneck clients are facing due to data overload, limited computing capacity and the lack of technical knowledge.

Unlocking and supercharging your marketing through data science and cloud computing

The added value of this new development? By deploying an advanced data architecture in Google Cloud we were able to help the marketing department become 100% data driven by giving them access to insights that we’re previously inaccessible to them due to the complexity of the data that we needed to handle. The added value of this development is the migration to cloud, which is an important step for businesses engaging in digital transformation. As digital migration of processes is one of the best ways for companies to be able to remain competitive in today’s crowded market. The pipeline we build between Google Cloud Platform, web analytics and advertising tools enables companies to scale insights from data across the company. Semetis incorporated this innovative way of working at Ardennes Etape.

Ardennes Etape has made it their mission to help people discover the Ardennes. They do this by connecting local homeowners and vacationers in order to create a magical Ardennes experience. But, they are being put to the test by the increasing pressure from international players (AirBnb, Belvilla, To set them apart from the competition, Ardennes Etape has to play their cards right. And that is, leveraging their local expertise to create the best personalized experience. We see data as the voice of our customers, the goldmine for decisions across the whole company. This means we need to get in the mind of the people and act on that to deliver a great experience. What do we need? Data engineering and scientists to be embedded into the marketing teams. At the heart of the Ardennes Etape website sits the booking engine. Our objective was to replace the basic functionality with a more user-data driven one.

To do that we build a Cloud infrastructure bridging all platforms together: web analytics, CRM and advertising channels. We started by collecting raw data in Google Analytics 360 from the dataLayer and then exported it to BigQuery for storage and analysis. BigQueryML is then used by our data science team to build and run custom data models and algorithms driven by machine learning capabilities. These models correlate the usage of filters to the booking of a holiday vacation home. In addition, Google Cloud Feature Importance allowed our data science teams to generate predictions about the probability that a user would book a stay based on the filters they used in the booking engine. This allows us to go from a mass of data to actionable insights.

The results of scaling data science and cloud to all departments of Ardennes-Etape

This innovative workflow allowed Ardennes Etape to be much more sophisticated in the way they leverage data. The marketing teams were able to adapt to rapid customer behaviour changes like COVID-19 created, this all at large scale and high speed. It wasn’t a walk in the park but the results speak for themselves:

  1. The paid media team -- Action > Cost effectiveness - We could accurately predict if a returning visitor had no likelihood to book a stay with us. By cutting those out of our remarketing campaigns, our ROI went up by 17%. On a yearly basis we are saving over €40K in marketing spend, while keeping the number of absolute holiday bookings stable. The budget saved can then be invested in new initiatives that yield a higher ROI
  2. The marketing communication team -- Action > Data-driven persona’s -- Making the marketing team data-driven by providing them with first hand acquired audience data to plan their next campaign. 
  3. The CRO team -- Action > A/B test roadmap -- The ability to access detailed measurement of how users are interacting with the Ardennes Etape website allows the CRO team to plan A/B tests based on actual observations. These A/B tests are later on moved into the product team’s backlog and put into production to further optimise the AE website.
  4. The product team -- Action > Website personalisation - We are able to identify the search parameters that predict a higher likelihood to convert. We saw -- for example -- a 40% lift in conversions from sauna-lovers. The data scientists discovering this, showed it to marketing teams and engineering teams to customise the entire booking experience down the line. 


Why is this the innovation of the year?

By extending the marketing team through the introduction of data scientists/engineers and by adding the Cloud for marketing infrastructure as the centerpiece to make data-informed decisions took marketing to the next level. The digital transformation of the marketing team was driven through operations. The result was actionability of the data in all of Ardennes Etape’s marketing teams and resulted in the digital transformation of the overall department. Next to that immediate ROI gains have been booked. 

This case is picked up by Google EMEA as a flagship case in the field of cloud for marketing and is a first real example of how cloud computing can drive results in the domain of marketing.  


publication author Glenn Venderlinden
Glenn Vanderlinden

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