Loyalty is a core end goal for marketers world-wide. A stable customer base can provide a much-needed starting point for a growing business, as well as buoyancy in rough times for established companies weathering a storm. But the airline industry has been slow to recognise this.
Somehow marketers in this sector have veered wildly off course, setting up shop firmly in the no-frills, rock-bottom prices camp, often to the detriment of customer service.
Travel operators are now beginning to see how this may be affecting their profits. With these stealthy price add-ons, customers are now questioning the worth of budget flights, and airlines need to address this. So what should be done to combat this decline and reinstate some of the trust that has been lost in air travel?
1. Understand how people travel
Always start with the person, not the programme. Think about the stages people go through in the travel cycle (I dream, I plan, I buy, I travel and I share). Each stage will be different depending on the type of person and the type of travel. This travel cycle will look different when looking at young leisure travellers compared to business execs to families. By understanding the travel cycles, you are in a better position to influence booking behaviour and retention.
2. Be useful
The recession has impacted the way people travel. People have become more money conscious. Airlines are under pressure to uncover revenue opportunities beyond putting people in the air. They need to find ancillary revenue which maybe in the form of bundling or de-bundling benefits, or providing value added services. It's in the services which has the most interesting potential for marketing and loyalty.
Brands need to create tools and services which make them more useful, and ultimately more indispensable. For airlines this may mean looking at the current airport experience for opportunities to improve their customer's experience. Most likely, it's beyond the airport experience, but in the pre and post-purchase / travel experience, that travel brands will find new services that will serve unmet needs. It's here that marketers will engage their most valuable customers.
3. People haven't changed really, but the way they consume information has
To be truly relevant and connect with customers on an ongoing basis, all your communications need to consider two things. Content and context. As mobile and social become increasingly influential platforms in the decision making process, think about the context in which people are interacting with with your content. Does it make it more relevant or is it a distraction? Is it helpful or is it annoying?
The future of loyalty will embrace these new platforms but those that do it successfully will does it not to create meaning or drive sales, but be meaningful to people's lives.
4. Make decisions easier not harder
Take a note from the Amazon book. Although they have a vast array of products that could quite easily make them feel like a cold mass retailer, they have been able to foster relationships with their customers by making decisions easier by making recommendations based on previous behaviour and providing user reviews and rating to help validate their decisions.
Through advance in dynamic content and perspective media, start to help customers tackle choice fatigue. Help them navigate the plethora of noise in the market and direct them to something that's not just in our interest, but theirs as well.
5. Single Customer View
A single customer view is often talked about like the holy grail of loyalty. And although the way people interact with brands have become more trackable, the plethora of platforms and the speed in which they are adopted has made creating a single customer view as difficult as ever. However the rise of perspective media and the role of social and mobile in the customer journey, it will be those that utilise data from all these sources and build a truly one to one, lifelong relationship with their customers that will find success
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