Airlines have access to a wealth of customer data, and now customers are expecting that it be put to good use. According to a recent report from Phocuswright, 57% of travelers feel that brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviors. So how can airlines translate their existing customer data into personalized offers for their customers? Ahead of the IATA Airline Industry Retailing Symposium (AIRS) in Bangkok, we sat down with Rob Siegel, VP of Global Growth, to learn what truly makes an offer relevant.
Question: Do airlines make full use of customer data to better personalize travel offers? What are the main obstacles to personalization?
Rob Siegel: “Personalization is the future of airline industry retailing, but many airlines still struggle to implement it to full effect. Airlines first need to solve their data challenges before they can learn anything actionable to translate into personalized offers for consumers.
At the very outset, airlines need to consolidate their data in a single database before they can truly own their customer and the data! Many companies struggle just to get access to the data they need to even consider personalization. Airlines are large organizations with many customer touch-points across devices, channels, and use cases. Many different tools are deployed to solve specific problems, creating multiple data silos. As a result, airlines still cannot access the data in a holistic way to paint a complete portrait of the customer and their engagement with the airline. After all, personalization is only as good as your data, so airlines have to ensure their customer data is available, accessible and organized.”
Question: Creating relevant offers relies heavily on contextualized customer data – how should loyalty program managers collaborate with the IT department to achieve this?
Rob Siegel: “Data is the lifeblood of any brand. Airlines need to use the customer data they already have from their websites and loyalty databases to better personalize travel offers. Likewise, airline IT departments and loyalty program managers must have a comprehensive data strategy to identify and optimize value for their best and most loyal customers.
Loyalty programs are a rich source of customer insights, but only if the data is analyzed in conjunction with other sources. Relying on a limited view of the customer based on your own data makes it practically impossible to speculate what type of experience might resonate with them for their next trip. For instance a given customer might travel to Green Bay for a football game, Cancun for a wedding, Las Vegas for a birthday, and Singapore for business. This is why it’s paramount to increase your data visibility as much as possible through loyalty programs, broadening your product offering, capturing and consolidating data into a single customer view, looking at travel trends, credit card transaction data, partner data, and explicit customer-provided data. Focus on the customers you care most about and create a compelling experience to transform them into evangelists for your brand. After all, personalization is the key to fostering long-term customer loyalty.
Question: How can airlines add the ‘human touch’ that’s so essential to make personalized offers more relevant?
Rob Siegel: “Today’s digital customers have ‘analysis paralysis’ caused by too many offers, too many choices. As a result, they have a clear preference for brands whose offers speak directly to them as individuals. The majority of consumers want travel companies to provide personalized communications, as noted in a recent Accenture travel report. Now think about the basic human ways we experience personalization and how it makes us feel. That means recognition, acknowledgment, and exclusivity.
- Recognition is when you recognize the customer and greet them by name. If you don’t recognize them, then make sure to welcome and thank them for engaging with you.
- Acknowledgment is when you acknowledge what you know about your customers and let them know you’re there to help. Show them you care by cutting through the static on the day of travel (baggage, boarding and even delays) and help them find what they need.
- Exclusivity is when you offer each customer something special just for them. The key is to base personalization on customer data and products. Match the two together to create and offer curated products, relevant content, and customer-specific promotions.
Airlines can create relevant, personalized offers to grow revenue, but only after harnessing and structuring their untapped resource of rich customer data. Once airlines use this data to truly understand their customers, they can then appeal to them as individuals with attractive offers, ultimately converting them, retaining them and evangelizing them.
Schedule a meeting with Switchfly at IATA AIRS to discuss how your airline can create relevant offers for your customers.