Natalie Lyall
Digital Transformation
How data keeps airline brands flying high

How do you get your brand to soar, when all the customer really wants is the absolute lowest price? In an Aviation Festival Asia panel moderated by Ogilvy Consulting’s Managing Partner Lucy McCabe, airline marketers talked about how they are taking digital transformation to the skies.

Airlines are becoming service-oriented lifestyle companies

Something which comes up multiple times is the idea that low cost carriers (LLC) need to become about more than just price; continually pricing down fares is a race to the bottom where nobody wins. Instead, aviation marketers are interested in the different way LLC airlines can bring customers the kind of experience that makes their purchase feel more special, and worth paying a bit more.

The panel agree that the world of aviation could learn from lifestyle brands, and benefit from adopting more of a retail mentality. Airlines are in a unique position to capitalise on consumer touchpoints at every stage of their journey; the customer’s initial focus is simply on getting tickets for the best price, but there is an opportunity to broaden that goal, and show the customer all of the ways they can get the most out of their experience. Take, for example, the window between buying tickets and travelling. The average flyer is a bargain hunter when it comes to shopping around for flights, but the closer they get to flying, the more they leave that parsimonious mindset behind, and the more likely they are to “treat themselves” to an upgrade.

“We’re looking at value outside of what the whole business is,” says Heather Goh, CMO of Air Asia’s Big Loyalty, which has spent the last two years building an ecosystem around travel and creating a strong proposition for customers, with over 200 partners in the lifestyle segment.

Data literacy and compliance are more important than ever

Airlines sit on a mountain of data, but so much of it still sits in siloes. In order to make the most of all this raw information, it needs to be brought together in a way that helps them know their customers better. Another major hurdle that airlines need to overcome is how to work with a variety of partners while remaining compliant in data privacy. “We’re having deep conversations on a daily basis with our partners about this,” says Goh.

Ultimately, it’s all about experience

In a world when the customer knows that every company can talk to them directly, how do brands ensure that what they’re delivering is distinctive?

“Data isn’t the holy grail, it’s the enabler,” says Akira Mitsumasa, VP of Products & Services at Japan Airlines. “The real goal is customer experience. We need to think not just of the digital side, but also the human touch, and the hybrid of using data and technology with that. We have all these capabilities, but when a passenger boards the plane, the human service needs to be there.”

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