Akshatha Kamath
May 28, 2015

Cross-channel advice for airline marketers

For airlines today, the traditional loyalty program doesn't fly. They must build a complete cross-channel marketing experience with data at the crux.

Akshatha Kamath
Akshatha Kamath

Customer experience and continued engagement have always been a pre-requisite in the airline industry worldwide. While in the past, airlines have accomplished customer delight through loyalty programmes, the digitally connected world today presents manifold opportunities to maximise customer lifetime value.  

With a maze of online-offline touch points and personalised experiences that customers have grown to expect, customer delight has taken on a whole new meaning. Hence the need for a renewed cross-channel marketing strategy with data at the crux.

Here’s an example. Ben looks for flights to Amsterdam on an airline's desktop website and then drops off. Later, as he browses a news website on his phone he notices an ad offering great discounts for flights to Amsterdam. He clicks on the ad to complete his bookings.

Ben has used two devices from search to purchase. He may have interacted with the airline through other touchpoints like a kiosk at the airport, loyalty program or past bookings, which means that Ben could be scattered all across the airline's customer database. In the absence of a cross-channel marketing strategy, the airline may know Ben as MOB123 on mobile, USER001 on the desktop and TBXYZ on the tablet. The airline also knows Ben’s email id, submitted by Ben during one of his flights. The challenge for most airlines today is connecting these dots to better understand Ben and offer him a continued brand experience across devices and channels.

The need for a cross- channel marketing strategy?

  • Creating personalised experiences spanning channels tops every marketer’s wishlist, and rightly so. Pertinent cross-channel messaging is essential to establish a connection with customers in a crowded digital space.
  • Happy customers are loyal customers. A satisfying end-to-end experience guarantees repeat bookings, as airlines know better than anybody else. While loyalty programmes and coupons are designed to promote repeat purchases, personalised attention to customers can do wonders in terms of boosting loyalty.
  • Understanding your users better will help you understand your business better. For example, once the user behaviour data across channels has been aggregated, an airline might realise that the most searched route has very few flight options, while a less popular route offers too many flight options.

Five things to remember about cross-channel marketing for airlines

  • Multiple transaction points results in siloed user data. In addition, internal data like loyalty programmes and CRM will typically have a vast user-pool. While this repository of data can be extremely valuable, in most cases it goes unused. Converging all of this data onto a single data-management platform helps airlines unify user identification. The success of a cross-channel marketing campaign heavily depends on how well data from different sources are integrated together. 
  • Once you know your customers better, it should be simpler to reach the right user with the right message on the right channel. A customer-centric approach is quintessential as it allows airlines to build a unique experience for every customer.
  • Social-networking channels like Facebook have the most engaged audience. Also, with customers frequently switching between desktop and mobile devices, social media is perhaps the most effective cross-channel marketing tool. Targeting users on their most frequented cross-channel touchpoints helps airlines with greater reach.
  • To go back to our example of Ben, wouldn’t it be annoying if even after he booked his flight to Amsterdam, ads for Amsterdam flights continued to greet Ben everywhere on the internet? Campaign tracking, performance measurement and attribution must go cross-channel as well.

From desktop to social media to the fragmented mobile sphere with web and apps, every channel is powered by a unique technology. Therefore, your ad tech partner must support ads across all formats and technologies.

As the digital world churns out new channels, it's evident that airline companies must evolve a marketing strategy that is flexible and can accommodate new channels. With an integrated cross-channel marketing approach, airlines could go beyond the device and channel boundaries and stay with their customers at every step of the journey to purchase.

Akshatha Kamath is mobile product marketing specialist at Vizury

 

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