By Florent Coudyser, Client Director Airlines, Relay42
‘It’s a small world’, sure, but it’s actually pretty damn big, too. Travel marketing in our age of big customer data is bursting with paradoxes:
‘Tell a story to address each individual customer journey – but automate its delivery’
‘Personalise messages across dozens of databases’
‘Make marketing-to-millions into one-to-one conversation’
However you want to approach the problem, deep down we already know the answer. It’s the customer and their decisions, not the channel and its performance, which is the central point of selling a journey – and the centre of the stories marketers need to tell to guide the customer along their way.
What airlines and OTAs typically miss, is…
a) The technology to centralise customers, whilst channels are simply used as paving stones for their journey
b) Avoiding confusing consumer narratives, and unwanted commercial clashes, among affiliated partners and brands
Taking off with the right technology
Syncing up various channels to create multiple coherent, and consistent stories might make the mind boggle. But by unifying, and never intersecting all databases and data sources, with a smart solution marketers can start orchestrating actions in real-time (well, milliseconds). Look out for:
• No system, or channel preferences – if you use the newest display platform, and the most ancient CRM system, that’s your business. Your Martech vendor should be able to integrate these systems, server-to-server, regardless of legacy and the logo on the box
• Speedy implementation timelines – and they should be able to do it quickly, and properly, delivering on promises. With a perishable product like travel, you can’t make the whole world wait ten months, whilst your vendor works out how best to send a next-best-offer email
• Sequential messages in real-time – analytics tools don’t perform actions as and when you choose them – so you need technology which does. This way, you can analyse on Google analytics, and send a push message through a mobile app, to a specific segment of customers, like it’s a real life conversation.
• The agility to test and learn – agility doesn’t just mean during setup, it means being able to try something based on customer segment behaviour, see results, and tweak your journey continuously to optimise effectiveness; whether that’s sending an email trigger at a different time, or changing the creative on your web banner.
A constant test and learn approach is integral to scaling up your stories as a marketer.
Optimising and increasing storytelling relevancy, across affiliates and partners
The fear of many travel giants – whether you’re a group of transnational airlines or an OTA with a packed product inventory across multiple partners – lies in telling stories across multiple websites and sub-brands, and clashing on consistency of message. Or even competing over the same customer, at the same time.
Scaling up the same principles: with the right technology in place, marketers can treat multiple brands and partners in much the same way as they can treat ‘cross-channel’ marketing: by focusing on the customer, not the channel
Choose adaptable technology to comply with your data-sharing: the crucial bit here is making sure you can control the data exchange; which data are you sharing, and with who, when? Whilst you might want to communicate frequency and content of messaging, you might want to hold on tight to sensitive commercial information – such as transactional and margin data – in order to make your story effective without compromising on confidentials
Thinking in journeys, not in silos: here, we have another paradox: to make sure conflicting messages don’t combine across separate activities – your activities across partnerships need to combine. This means working more collaboratively with a cross-channel, multi-disciplinary team across companies, and establishing review points to avoid unwanted competition along your data management roadmap.
How to make the journey add up
The best travel experiences are bound to be those where we not only follow a path mapped out for us, but explore – and in doing so learn something new about the world, and ourselves.
Consumers are the same; and marketers, too: after all we’re all human, and mutually interchangeable. As people book holidays, we need to learn their habits – their preferences; and be able to automate the actions which shape their journey to book, along with the journey to their destination.
Connectivity isn’t just a passing trend, or a fleeting trip, though, it’s a plan for the long haul; a way of working life.