The five-minute CIO: Ronan Menton, Europcar

29 Apr 2016

Ronan Menton, manager of internet strategy at Europcar

“Mobile is obviously the seismic shift happening in the online marketing world at the moment,” said Ronan Menton, manager of Internet Strategy at Europcar Ireland.

Ronan Menton has been the manager of internet strategy for Europcar Ireland since 2011. His role requires management of a dedicated team of online marketing specialists, development of information systems and strategic business development. During his time working for Europcar, Menton has formulated and delivered a number of strategic initiatives that have grown the Europcar brand in a highly-competitive market.

Since the website was launched in 2011, traffic has grown by more than 300pc, with conversions growing at a similar rate as a result of Menton’s strategy development and implementation.

Growth in website traffic last year experienced significant growth and, in March 2016, this work was recognised by Europcar worldwide, with the Irish team winning the company’s overall award for best website and e-commerce marketer.

Before joining Europcar in 2010 as online marketing manager, Menton managed online marketing at Thrifty Car Rental Ireland from 2005 to 2010 before the company became a Europcar franchisee.

Ronan graduated from DCU with an MBA in 2011.

What are the main points of your company’s strategy?

The typical customer renting a car in Ireland conducts research online prior to making the actual purchase. Customers visiting Ireland on holidays will research their trip online, while people living in Ireland who need a car rental service or are looking for a flexible alternative to car ownership are again researching their options online. As a result, it is vital for Europcar to have a strong presence where these people are conducting this research.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) plays a key role in our online marketing strategy. Given that a significant proportion of our customer base consists of tourists visiting Ireland on holiday, it is imperative that our website is well ranked in search engine results for a distinct set of keywords for both organic and paid traffic sources.

We also need to ensure that customers are aware of the Europcar brand proposition in the process of renting a car. This is achieved through the development of an effective online marketing mix, which includes organic rankings in search engines, AdWords and display advertising, as well as social media campaigns.

As Europcar offers a range of services, the online marketing strategy needs to be cognisant of the various products we are promoting. The Europcar brand proposition, ‘moving your way’, is about offering customers transport services that meet specific needs. For example, if you are moving house, you might need a van, however, the following week you might be going on holiday or attending an important business meeting and have very different transport requirements.

Do you have a large in-house team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

Most companies will state it is the people that make the difference with regard to their overall success, and Europcar is no different in this regard. Having the right people engaged and empowered is vital to achieving the strategic objectives of the company. Typically we don’t outsource our online marketing function unless we require a specialist skill. Having a strong in-house digital team is important for us because it ensures that we have a group of people dedicated to growing our IT capacity who really know the company inside out.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

As our online team has grown I have had to focus more time on taking a more global view of the work of the department, spending less time in the trenches. To be perfectly honest, it was a lot easier to focus on the detail than it was to step back and concentrate on the management of our strategic approach – while it was challenging to switch up my role it was certainly necessary to safeguard the development and improvement of our online strategic approach.

The biggest wins for Europcar and the greatest satisfaction for me now comes when we uncover an insight that will help drive more business to Europcar through online channels. This can happen as result of challenging previously held truths about our sector or implementation of an insight uncovered through data analysis. In particular, I have a passion for combining digital data with offline data.

In addition, the ability to project manage is very important in an online marketing role, as the role will more than likely involve working with developers to bring forward product improvements and innovation.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

Mobile is obviously the seismic shift happening in the online marketing world at the moment. If a company is not reaching its audience through mobile search or display, not only is an opportunity being missed, but so is the ability to integrate a marketing campaign across portable devices.

Another challenge Europcar is facing in the car rental sector is the recent change by Google to show four ads on desktop searches. This has placed far greater importance on AdWords, and consequently means more competition in AdWords for keywords and therefore higher costs per acquisition through this medium

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well your strategy is performing?

In order to measure the performance of our online marketing strategy, we are naturally focused on the number of bookings generated through various online channels against the cost of generating these bookings. In general, Europcar follows a cost-per-acquisition model, but we also need to use multi-channel attribution models in order to accurately reflect campaign success.

In addition, Europcar spends time examining the booking funnel and conversion rates with tools such as Google Analytics. We also take this a step further and marry online data with actual customer data for a greater understanding of booking trends.

All online marketing teams should be conducting multivariate tests, which can produce some very interesting data and insight that will lead to improvements in conversion rates. An example of a simple multivariate test would be testing different colours on the book button to see which drives a higher conversion rate. This logic can be extended out, and almost every aspect of our website is open for testing.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

Europcar has a number of projects in the pipeline for 2016 and one in particular that I am extremely passionate about relating to one of our primary target audiences: international tourists.

In 2015, I conducted research with the aim of better understanding the tourist experience in Ireland. With so many tourists travelling across the country in Europcar vehicles I felt there was a significant opportunity to learn from their experiences, to capture relevant tourist information and use it to benefit our business.

The goal was to understand our customers better and in turn develop ideas to improve the service for customers. The body of work that came out of this research was substantial and has been shared with other stakeholders in the tourist industry in Ireland. We have also put the data to great use internally to inform and focus our marketing plans on the right areas.

This year we plan to conduct more research, learn even more about how visitors to Ireland experience the tourist product on offer. Our goals are certainly more ambitious for 2016 and we are pushing ourselves to understand better the tourist product on offer in Ireland. In turn, we are keen to develop partnerships with other organisations who could also benefit from this knowledge.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years