Thomas Cook Airlines claims to have increased its UK long-haul share by 19% after a large-scale project to “unlock the potential of its affiliate network”.
The year-long project was part of the airline’s “long-term aim to step out of the shadow of the larger Thomas Cook brand”, and differentiate itself as a competitive programme for affiliates to work with.
Working with affiliate marketing network Affilinet, the airline specifically wanted to mitigate revenue losses due to unsold seats.
The objective was to establish and utilise the value of each affiliate and interpret the findings to minimise the average cost per sale (CPS), increase the number of long haul bookings and increase the profitability of “distressed routes”.
Distress routes could be those affected by new competition, uncertainty over certain destinations or last-minute changes to the plans of a large group, for example.
Helen Atkinson, group marketing manager, online partnerships, Thomas Cook Airlines, said on one occasion it became clear that an aircraft was two days away from departing and return virtually empty.
“You can be very reactive and nimble with affiliates and both journeys ended up being filled,” she said, adding that the seat tickets were discounted.
Thomas Cook Airlines’ strategy for unlocking its affiliates’ value was in two parts – evaluating the role each plays in the customer journey so the right type of bookings can be pushed and using performance marketing excellence to sell seats on distressed routes.
Affilinet defined the criteria that show the value of the affiliates, beyond the revenue they generate, as being those which drive more long haul bookings, regularly deliver high passenger numbers and those which are often involved higher up the purchase funnel.
Routes, passenger numbers, booking classes and booking dates were analysed, all bookings made in 2014 had their path to conversion analysed – focusing on the final six clicks before sale completion – and the best-performing campaigns were identified.
The knowledge gained from mapping out the value of affiliates was used to develop a strategy that would allow partners to unlock the full potential of the programme according to their strengths and affiliates were granted higher commissions on particular routes, dates and booking classes.
The results were a 19% increase in long haul share, an average CPS below 2% of revenue and a reduction in cost per click costs of 73%, an increase in the affiliate effective cost per click of 11% and thousands of seats sold on underperforming routes.
Victoria Bruce, international account director at Affilinet, said: “Everyone knows this data is available but no one does anything with it.
“We delved into what individual affiliates’ strengths were.”