Airline marketing strategies: Giving customers perks they didn't know they wanted

Technical Writer

Virtual reality, luxury full-flat beds and personal assistants on airplanes? Yes, all of these innovative and expensive travel perks are being offered on various carriers as part of outside-the-box airline marketing strategies. But the big question is whether these perks and amenities are truly what customers want and, more importantly, are willing to pay for. Even the most innovative features won't have the impact you're looking for unless they meet the needs of your airline's target market.

Gone are the days of guessing customer needs or holding countless focus groups. Today, airlines can create specific customer profiles and make decisions based on facts instead of anecdotes. Many airlines are turning to data analytics to understand their customers, which, in turn, can help them stand out from the crowd and increase revenue. The results speak for themselves: Airlines that create a data-driven customer experience could see a $227 per-passenger increase in total customer worth, recent research from Sabre found.

Personalizing the experience

Travel customers are not all alike, but airlines often approach marketing as if each passenger has the same needs. By building customer profiles and segments, you can determine the needs of specific customer segments and personalize your marketing materials and services to meet their needs.

For example, airlines may want to arrange taxis for travelers, provide electrical converters after international flights, offer country-specific SIM cards for mobile phones or enable expedited immigration clearance. This concept of personalized service can be taken even further by reminding travelers of their spouse's birthday or helping them connect to loved ones on holidays. These highly customized strategies, enabled by analytics, are what's going to pay off in increased business and loyalty.

Please don't power down your mobile devices

According to the Pew Research Center, almost 29 percent of cellphone users say they can't live without their mobile device. Additionally, 67 percent of users check their phone even when it doesn't ring or vibrate. Given these statistics, it should come as no surprise that in SITA's 2015 Passenger IT Trends Survey, summarized by Skift, mobile was the fastest growing flight check-in method. The survey also revealed that 67 percent of passengers want to be able to use their own device for in-flight entertainment.

This reliance on mobile devices opens up many doors for airline marketing strategies, even further than the obvious check-in tactics. For example, airlines may consider allowing passengers to order drinks, snacks and duty-free items from their mobile devices, as Netherland-based Arke does, according to Airline Trends. Passengers on this carrier can also access airline-sponsored content, including videos, newspapers and games. Because the airline found that up to 40 percent of passengers were reading De Telegraaf (the largest newspaper in the Netherlands) through the service, the airline no longer carries the paper edition. Arke plans to expand these offerings to include magazines and ebooks in the near future.

Effective airline marketing strategies are the ones that make customers feel like they are important to your airline. People want to do business with travel companies that understand them, and when you use data analytics to meet needs customers didn't know they had, you create a level of loyalty that simply can't be achieved through traditional advertising.

Personalize your marketing strategy by optimizing your data. Visit IBM's Travel and Transportation Industry Solutions Page to learn more.