- Online Branding
Online branding is a critical success factor especially for legacy carriers, who compete on differentiation.
Building consumer influence through branding is a key component for the marketing success of airlines – especially in a competitive price environment where a traveller may be tempted to choose a low cost carrier.
The rising costs of operating an airline and increasingly lower price expectations on the part of travellers make the market extremely competitive.
Airlines need to build their brands to maintain and shape their position in the market, thereby helping customers to value loyalty over price.
- Have a USP.
The transparency of quality information on the internet will make travellers more loyal to the companies that are able to create unique selling propositions.
The most successful USPs are developed when airlines:
- Put themselves in their customer’s shoes.
- Know what motivates their customers’ behaviour and buying decisions.
- Uncover the real reasons travellers fly with them instead of a competitor.
Examples of some airlines’ USPs are (they should be instantly recognizable):
- The largest domestic airline with a very large network providing connectivity across various destinations with best-in-class service quality.
- Finest in-flight catering services, highly trained personnel.
- No-frills, low-cost carrier.
- Your bags fly free!
- Friendly service.
- Integration of CRM and Online Booking.
Airlines should focus on giving customers the possibility to set up a personal account. Once a personal account has been set up, all subsequent visits to the website can be customized to the customer’s profile and the purchase process can be streamlined to produce lower cognitive costs relative to alternative methods, which creates a lock-in effect.
By having passengers book online, airlines benefit from reduced administrative costs and at the same time can optimise their CRM strategy by integrating it into the overall online marketing strategy.
This will allow the airline to target its customer base through behavioural target modelling, by tracking website visitors with cookies and personalizing offerings according to their behaviour.
Membership of an airline Frequent Flyer Program (FFP) provides another opportunity to provide bespoke services via the Web to their best customers, by connecting the customer’s online account to their FFP account.
This way the customer only receives relevant email marketing messages based on previous purchase behaviour and the traveller’s personal and business profiles.
- Focus on non-price attributes
Some marketers believe that due to the almost universal use of internet to buy tickets, airlines can only compete on price.
However travellers’ choice of airlines is not only affected by price.
Schedules are of vital importance to travellers but almost all also take into account:
- In-flight comfort
- Reputation for punctuality
- Become a One Stop Travel Shop with the whole transaction ending up with a single charge.
A key factor for the success of any airline online marketing strategy is to become a one-stop-shop for travellers, and focus on the entire travel experience for a single price.
Many airlines, including both legacy carriers and low cost carriers, already offer additional services on their websites, designed to optimise the overall travel experience of their customers.
By providing convenience and a user friendly experience, airlines are able to shift the traveller’s attention from price only aspects of the transaction and enhance the loyalty of the customer to their brands.