Sep 22 | 4 minutes read

How Airlines can win on customer experience – 5 campaign ideas

Following on from our attendance last week at the London Aviation Festival, where we presented with Consulting Partner, Data Talks, I wanted to share some insights and ideas of how airlines can overcome some of their most pertinent marketing challenges.
The event was a mix bag of suppliers to the Aviation industry, as well as the airlines themselves, all discussing the challenges and opportunities that surround aviation. From legacy and low-cost carriers to seat manufacturers and software companies, it was a great opportunity for industry incumbents to get together, network and share ideas.
In the case of airlines, the marginal revenue accrued from each individual ticket is just that: marginal. Worse still, it is then further eroded by online travel agencies and industry aggregators, who manage much of the booking and transaction processes before the airlines even get a look-in.
All that said, the marketing challenge that airlines face is by no means unique – in that their best shot of increasing revenue margins is to focus on, and optimise, the customer experience, across every channel.
So how can an airline achieve this, and where does it start?
Here are five campaign ideas we are currently helping a number of airlines to implement…
Ancillary revenue… it’s not just a ticket, it’s a journey
Regardless of where the booking has come from, the airline will hold a certain amount of data about the customer, such as name, email, mobile number, etc. as well as their booking (such as destination, number of passengers, return date). Timely messages sent via email or SMS can be the difference between a transaction and an experience.
For instance, at the confirmation stage, offers can be sent that relate to the journey or persona. If the customer is travelling alone for a short overnight stay to a city they frequent, they are likely to be travelling for work. They may therefore appreciate business class upgrades or suitable hotel recommendations, more so than tourist attraction tickets.
Conversely, a group of two adults and two children going to Orlando for two weeks in July may respond more readily to a promotion for Walt Disney World.
And it’s not just revenue generating offers and promotions – helpful resources such as itineraries, restaurant recommendations and local destination information are great ways to build engagement. This can all be done as part of the seat reservation and check-in process. Even a weather forecast a few days prior to departure shows an attentiveness that can set one airline’s approach apart from the rest.
Then there’s the device and channel through which this information is delivered. Mobile apps are a useful and convenient way for the customer to manage their own booking, and provide a great opportunity for brands to deliver their experience in an uninterrupted environment. That said, most bookings will start from email, and SMS messages may be more useful on the day of travel.
Abandon cart email
Customers may try booking directly on the airline’s website or app, but abandon the process part-way through. In this case, a reminder email can be sent inviting the visitor to complete the transaction, either asking if they need help, adding a discount to encourage the transaction, or creating urgency by showing the limited availability of seats remaining.
Increase email opt-in rates
Although online bookings require an email address for the transaction receipt to be sent, airlines typically have low opt-in rates across their customer base for future email communications. Email can be a vital channel of communication if used properly, so it is worth encouraging customers to opt-in or re-subscribe.
This can be done using website pop-ups that give compelling reasons to do so, perhaps even using personalised messaging relevant to the destination on the most recent booking.
Personalise the website
Even before visitors become customers, it is worth trying to engage them as early as possible. If a visitor has browsed the website looking for the same destination three times in a week, personalise the next visit to that destination, or even personalise the next page viewed within that session.
Connect CRM to behaviour
Despite the digital evolution, not all flights are booked online. However, customers who book by phone may still have browsed the website or mobile app before calling. By connecting CRM data to web and call centre behaviour, airlines can:
  • avoid sending mixed messages across different channels, such as display ads for the flight they just booked
  • empower the call centre operative with browsing history to enhance the on-phone experience
As with many industries, customer experience represents an opportunity to differentiate your brand. And it starts with data.