NS Reveals Top 5 Tips for Successful Relay42 Implementation


As Joost Kaart, Manager of Online Marketing & Personalization at NS (Dutch Railways) puts it: “As a marketer, it’s about being where your customers are. The goal is to be more relevant to your customers. And you can do that by orchestrating the journey across channels and by combining different data sources.” 

NS Improves Omnichannel Experience with Relay42 Platform

Joost has long understood the need to be ahead of the customer experience curve. Over three years ago, he saw the need to offer a unified customer journey across online and offline platforms, and he went on the hunt for a platform to help him make it happen. 

In 2016, NS implemented Relay42, a platform that would help them unify their customer data from all channels, predict customer actions, and engage with customers with the right message, in the right place, at the right moment. Since then, Joost and his colleagues have successfully implemented dozens of use cases with Relay42, and now he’s sharing 5 tips to make your Relay42 implementation easy and successful. 

Tip 1. Think like your customers 

Don’t put systems, campaigns or individual channels first. When you start conceptualizing a use case, think about what your customer should see and which channels they will interact with. 

We apply a use case canvas from Oogst for this where we plot everything out – which segments, messaging, channels, processes and systems are involved — and then we use those factors to define the business case. If you have a number of use cases you want to try out and aren’t sure where to start, this is a really helpful tool. 

We prioritize use cases based on business impact and complexity. The best use cases are those with low complexity and high business value, so they get the highest priority. Then we choose from the ones with high complexity and high business value, or low complexity and low business value. Then, if you really don’t have enough work to do, you can choose from the ones with high complexity and low business value. 


Tip 2. Work with a multidisciplinary team 

As soon as we started doing this, everything began moving much faster. Working in multidisciplinary teams eliminated situations where a marketer would think of something and then throw it over the fence to a customer intelligence specialist, sit around and wait until they had time, and then get it sent back to them weeks later. 

If you’re already working in an agile team this will, of course, be much easier. In our case, our multidisciplinary team consisted of an online marketer, a CRM marketer, a database analyst, a content manager, a campaign manager, and some technical consultants. 

It’s worth noting that this original team setup has evolved as we’ve continued to learn and grow. Nowadays, we organize ourselves in a different way with multiple teams. Perhaps the biggest learning here is that it’s important to continuously evaluate the way you’re doing things, constantly ask yourself if it could be better, and then remain open to change — and growth. 

Tip 3. Make one person the business owner 

Once you’ve implemented a journey orchestration platform like Relay42, you’ll need someone to make the roadmap, start up new use cases that require new connectors, and ensure the teams are making use cases with the connectors you already have. 

Designating a single person in your business to be in charge of all of this will help you implement use cases much more smoothly. If you don’t have one owner, then who decides which use cases get priority? The business case selection process has the potential to get rather complicated (and even contentious) if there’s user overlap in the selections and no one to make the final call. 

My advice would be to choose someone from the business side of things to be the owner – the person who’s most invested in the results. They will be responsible for creating and maintaining the roadmap, starting up new use cases that you need new technology connections for, and ensuring that all of your teams are continuing to create use cases with the connections and insights you already have. 

Tip 4. Share success and inspire 

Particularly in the beginning, it’s important to create a few good use cases and share the results with your team and the rest of the organization. Taking the time to share success is the best way to ensure everyone really understands what you’re achieving with the platform. It also serves to inspire others to create similar cases and not just keep thinking from their own channel.


Sharing success is vital to the process of gaining support from both management and other colleagues. Offer them proof that the investment has been money and time well spent. Once everybody is enthusiastic and really understands the possibilities of the platform, it will be used more and it will be much easier to get higher priority when you want to build new connectors.

To make most of the platform you need more people/ambassadors to make use of it.

Tip 5. Start small and scale

When you’re first getting started, my main advice is to select a few small use cases (with low complexity and high business value) that are easy to scale. Get these first use cases live as quickly as possible so you can start to improve and optimize them. 

Or as Don Draper said: make it simple but significant. 

With so many new possibilities at your fingertips, it’s tempting to wait to do anything until you’ve made a complex master plan. Don’t let this temptation lead you away from the goal at hand: improving the customer journey. It’s better to start small and let your customers — and your business — benefit from your investment right away. You will learn as you go, and your customer journey will naturally improve and evolve throughout the process. 

Curious to know more from other companies who have implemented the Relay42 platform? 

Read about Transavia’s quick-win methodology in the airline industry here >>
Or check out KLM’s growth hacking for marketers guide here >>

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