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Taking to the Digital Skies: Are we nearly there yet

Published: Friday, 14 November 2014 12:50 by Katharine Hulls, VP Marketing
Digital Intelligence

Our Appropriate Marketing blog series looks at the difference between various sectors’ approach to digital marketing agility to enhance customer engagement and how the three Cs – Customers, Complexity and Culture – are affecting the routes taken by different industries and organizations. In this installment we look at the Airline industry.

The world of travel and airlines is a competitive one, with new brands, holiday and flight offers emerging on a regular basis. What was once a simple transaction between company and consumer, purchasing flights or holidays, has now become a complex buying process that goes well beyond the initial purchase experience into the post-purchase service experience.  This includes the cross-selling of complementary services such as hotels and car hire, as well as, for example, pre-flight and check-in live updates.

The internet has opened up the industry; making it more competitive now than ever and in the race to stay one step ahead there are three important factors to consider within the three Cs of appropriate marketing: digital first culture, complex shopping experience and mobile technology and channels utilized by the customer.
The ‘digital first’ culture is gaining ground in the airline industry. Digital was once a separate entity to the marketing team but is now being embraced and placed firmly front of mind when creating a marketing strategy.

What is clear from reviewing the airline industry is that those brands with a strong focus on digital are engaging most appropriately with customers.  By ensuring there is a focus on digital marketing and giving customers an engaging, personal and positive digital customer experience, these organizations are able to provide higher levels of personalization and increased brand recognition for customers.

Younger, smaller and low-cost airlines seem to be able to adapt the quickest to this ‘digital first’ mentality and are taking innovative approaches to digital marketing compared to some more established and larger brands, for example a fast-growing low-cost UK airline can have the ability to provide an enhanced personalized experience for a consumer – which far outweighs its larger, global competitors

The very speed and nature of digital enabling within the airline industry is demanding a more agile approach to marketing from marketers. Those who are able to adapt quickly are better prepared in taking advantage of market opportunities.

The phrase ‘time is money’ is now more important than ever for marketers. Airlines need to actively engage with increasingly time poor consumers embarking upon what has become a complicated shopping experience to maximize the sales opportunity.

With the dramatic rise of online browsing and the continued growth of eCommerce, the way consumers interact with airlines has changed radically and consumers are now browsing and purchasing across multi-devices and multiple channels, enabling hundreds of flight prices to be scanned in a matter of seconds. Connecting customers in an omnichannel environment has proved to be a stumbling block with brands working hard to push consumers through the sales funnel due to the intense competition in the marketplace.

Transforming a digital environment, no matter what the industry, goes beyond just data. With companies joining the race to adopt the latest marketing trend or technology this can lead to a complex situation with the short-term push for agility leading to a long-term issues of coherence. In the fierce airline industry it is easy to understand why some marketers have selected the “guerrilla” approach to marketing technology, however, taking a step back to create a more considered and long-term strategy will provide increased benefits for an airline.

Travel is, by its very nature, is all about mobility. Mobile marketing is therefore no longer the future for marketers, particularly in the airline industry: it is now fully ingrained into the marketing mix. Airline companies are currently grappling to catch-up and get the service ingredients right. With new mobile tools, such as apps offering mobile boarding passes, increasingly important for the customer, marketers will need to continuously review their mobile strategy to ensure they are providing the same personalized experience no matter what device the customer is using.

For airline brands, no matter what size, there is a great opportunity to increase customer sales, improve retention and engage with consumers not just during the sales process but onwards into the travel experience lifecycle. By instilling a ‘digital first’ approach, providing a personalized experience across all touch-points in the customer journey and creating an optimized mobile strategy, any airline can overcome the challenges currently being faced in the industry.

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