What becoming data-driven really means for airline sales and marketing

By Hélène Dubos | Personalization

May 15
data driven airline sales and marketing

The proliferation of sales and marketing automation software in the past few years has affected companies in practically every industry - and offers airlines new ways of growing their business. The new generation of sales and marketing tech draws heavily on collected data to help companies boost profit margins. However, it’s not enough to simply plug the software in and expect a radical change immediately.

These digital tools give airlines new powers to promote their products, capture leads and then sell to them by stitching together data points. However, while there are certainly benefits for airlines in utilizing this new generation of sales and marketing technology, simply ‘adding’ new tech to their systems doesn’t make them data-driven businesses.

Change management and data driven airline sales and marketing

In this series of blogs, we see how airlines need to do more than ‘just’ introduce data analytics and automation technology to become ‘data-driven’. Of course, this is a key step, but just as important are the changes that need to be made in the way the business works. This is about changing processes in the sales and marketing funnel to ensure airlines can get the most out of the data and the technology they use to process it.

In some cases, it will be about ending the tendency to divide contact channels responsibility between departments. Sales, marketing, analytics, and customer relationship teams will need to work much more closely together and share data to really access the benefits data management can bring.

Let’s look at three areas where airlines can change their processes to really get the most out of new sales and marketing tech and become truly data-driven.

Improving ancillary sales through better data management

Ancillary sales are one of the major drivers of airline profits, especially in an increasingly cut-throat, low-cost market. Whether it’s in-flight sales of refreshments and luxury goods, seat upgrades or additional services, improving the marketing and sales process here is imperative for airlines wishing to boost their bottom line.

At present, many airlines follow relatively standard sales and marketing processes to boost their ancillary sales. All customers are offered identical products and services and are marketed these products in exactly the same way (emails, in-flight brochures, website offers). All too often, customers see many of the products they are being offered as irrelevant to them - meaning they’re rarely tempted.

Through a combination of new data tools and changes to how teams work, airlines can discover new and improved sales and marketing opportunities:

  • The marketing team and data analytics team could share resources, and use profiling technology to build profiles of particular customer segments who are more likely to be interested in specific goods or upgrades. The airline could then send them more personalized emails about these offers. Group A may be interested in perfumes, Group D may be interested in your hotel offers. By marketing relevant offers, each group is far more likely to be interested.
  • Introducing those modern methods of selling based on segments and conditions require your team to switch their mindset to agile thinking and appetite for permanent adjustments. The following will be part of their daily job: monitor customers habits, adjust segments, test marketing actions, rethink the web/mobile customer journey or mailing strategy upon the results of previous campaigns and implement frequent changes in the digital channels.
  • To reach the correct level of agility, you may ask yourself if you need to integrate new skills in your teams such as - a UX designer and ergonomist to create the user-friendly screen sequences corresponding to the desired personalization scenarios

Use personalization to build long-lasting customer relationships

Becoming data-driven is about introducing new processes for offering a truly personalized marketing and sales effort. Data can offer airlines an enormous potential for personalizing offers and improving the relationship they have with their customers.

In many cases, airlines already hold a huge amount of data about their existing customers and have the ability to do this. The challenge is in changing mindsets about what is possible.

For example, many airlines have some kind of customer loyalty program, offering points and occasional perks for regular customers. But they could do so much more to build out this kind of relationship by changing their processes and using data more effectively.

A team of data analysts could be tasked with discovering patterns in common customer routes. Data analysis tools could scan your passengers’ flying history to find repeat journeys, for instance. This might reveal, for instance, that one passenger flies with you every December from Munich to Madrid for Christmas. This kind of data could be used to send him an automated marketing email to let him know when flights are cheapest - a powerful way of increasing customer loyalty.

Roles such as ‘experience manager’ should be created to work in conjunction with your sales and marketing teams to begin figuring out how to use data to improve relationships with customers.

Using data to build more complex multi touchpoint sales and marketing

With the rise of the internet, the consumer journey to buying flight tickets is so much more complex. They will typically browse multiple sites for finding the best flights, read content about different destinations and interact with different intermediaries. Airlines, therefore, need to adapt to this change - and data is one of the best places to start.

  • Airlines must create a greater range of consumer touchpoints - and use data to assess which ones are really working for them. Analyze how customers come into your website, where from and how they navigate your site. Data analysis will play a key part in this, yet the information will come from multiple sources, including websites, social media, and third-party ticketing sites. Above all, it will be key to stitch all this data together in order to understand the complexity of your marketing funnel and find ways of tweaking it. It will also be essential to hire analysts (or train existing website managers) to do this and arm them with the tools to help.
  • From a sales perspective, airlines will need to draw on their data to adapt to more complex ticket sales. This will be about dynamic pricing, transparency, and building relationships with third party sites and travel agencies. Once again, it’s about using the data to figure out how customers are really buying your tickets and therefore maximizing what works and minimizing unnecessary steps. Success here will involve your sales and marketing teams working hand-in-hand with data teams to share ideas and trial hypotheses to improve the existing funnel.

Change your processes to achieve the benefits of data-driven sales and marketing

Data analytics offers airline sales and marketing tremendous potential to build relationships with customers and boost their spend with you. However, data analytics alone is not enough - airlines will also need a change in mindset and strategy to really benefit from these opportunities.

Thinking about becoming more data driven? Learn more about the ConztanzONE platform for airlines