Airlines and automation: A marketing love story Pt. 1

September 9, 2019

It’s official: airline passenger numbers are at an all-time high. Good news for the aviation industry, but naturally this means competition to score customer numbers is fiercer than ever.

With so many market challengers, airlines are struggling to secure their share of these rising travellers. When there’s so much choice for today’s passengers, how can a tech-savvy brand guarantee customers pick their airline? How can the modern airline capture a spend-per-head that soars higher than its competitors? And whilst traditionally brand-loyal Millennials and Gen-Xers still dominate, how can airlines ensure retention as brand-agnostic Gen-Zs enter the market?

Marketing automation: An unlikely love potion

You probably won’t be surprised to hear the words ‘marketing automation’ touted as the answer to the above questions.

But what may surprise you is that most companies are using automation ineffectively. And it’s because they aren’t taking advantage of the sheer opportunities it provides.

Airlines can use marketing automation to form stronger relationships with their customers, woo passengers with a seamless experience, and boost profits in the process. It’s a love story waiting to happen – but it requires an understanding of your customers’ emotional and behavioural drivers.

And because we do love a romance at Proctors, we’re going to share a breakdown of the opportunities you might be missing in this three-part blog series.

Looking for romance: The dreaming and inspiration phase

We’ve all been there: dreaming of warmer climates, a sandy beach or just a change of scenery. It’s that “Oh my God, I need a break!” feeling.

Behaviourally, this is often where your prospective customers are when they begin researching trips abroad; they’re looking for inspiration.

Research shows most people begin by exploring destinations. At this stage, 78% of leisure travellers won’t have decided which airline to travel with, yet. But, just because it’s all about the destination right now, doesn’t mean airlines should hit snooze on their marketing efforts.

This is the perfect time to establish brand awareness and educate your prospective passengers. You want to be present and purposeful. 67% of travellers are more likely to book with a travel brand that provides useful, relevant information for the destinations they’re interested in.

While using a strategy which attracts travellers to your website is key, once they’re there, it’s up to your on-page marketing to make the most of the opportunity. New-generation pop-ups can be used to deliver relevant, personalised information in different ways, to increase engagement and collect information from potential customers. 

It’s not just leisure travellers you should be inspiring. Business travellers will often already have a destination in mind, but might be looking for say, an airport with an arrivals lounge so they can freshen up. Similarly, people attending a destination wedding will have different desires to those wanting a child-friendly family holiday. 

This ‘dreaming’ stage is ideal for capturing the imagination and forming a real emotional connection with your customer.

Falling in love: The research and comparison phase

Once your passenger has a rough idea of where they want to go or the experience they’d like to have, it’s time for them to start planning.

This is your next opportunity to inspire. Passengers will now take a more methodical approach to their searches. Passenger types might be defined by motivation, such as whether they’re looking for cheap, comfortable or direct flights, and you’ll want to apply a different approach when marketing to each.

It’s worth noting that leisure travellers are as likely to shop around for flights on their smartphones as they are to shop for music, and phrases such as ‘flights to [destination]’ are key. Presenting ads in a mobile-friendly way is one method of ensuring you’re providing useful info to your passengers. Turbo-charge this by using targeted and tracked ads across social and digital channels.

For time-pressured customers, ads with up-to-date flight information – such as pricing – could prove an even stronger motivator, seeing passengers snatch a deal with you over the competition.

Timely reminders of exclusive offers and top-recommended activities at a destination are great pieces of intel, arming travellers with the right information so they can move into the booking phase – with your brand in mind. 

It’s time to commit.

Just because things are getting serious, doesn’t mean there isn’t still time to influence your customers’ decisions. In the next part of our series, we’ll explore how you can use powerful, timely marketing to upsell, engage and delight your passengers from booking to boarding.

In the meantime, check out our airline services showcase here, to see the full range of what we can offer. Alternatively, drop us a line on marketing@proctors.co.uk.