Airlines have come to innately understand the value of an existing customer–versus the cost of obtaining a new one–and that it makes good financial sense to reward loyal customers. After all, the lifetime value of a loyal customer outweighs the investment in tracking and rewarding desired behavior. This formula of rewarding loyal flyers has worked quite well for the airline industry since the early ‘80s when frequent flyer programs were introduced.
While it’s blindingly obvious that customer loyalty is table stakes for continued business growth, a new solution area is helping airlines evolve their traditional loyalty programs to increase customer engagement, participation, loyalty and spend. As consumer expectations have evolved, so too must customer relationships and with them the customer loyalty program. The introduction of engagement loyalty helps frequent flyer programs evolve to meet changing customer needs and expectations. Let’s walk through how:
Make it Easy to Do Business
Increasingly the customer experience drives more and more of a customer’s brand devotion. Yet, the customer experience does not end when they get off the plane and collect their bag. Engagement loyalty recognizes that customers have more touchpoints than ever with their airline of choice, most notably a host of social media networks, their mobile device and now messaging apps as well. Engagement loyalty allows carriers to seamlessly connect consumers’ mobile interface with meaningful experiences, back end business processes, and consumer programs like the frequent flyer program that already exist within the organization.
Today’s consumers have a remote control in their pocket that allows them to interact with the airline how, when and where they like. Those that are able to infuse the customer experience with the utility consumers demand, making it easy to do business with and interact with the brand, will not only maintain the customer relationship, but have the opportunity to grow their loyalty and customer lifetime value.
Reward for Time
In an age where airlines are moving to a model where customers are rewarded for a unique combination of dollars spent, segments and miles flown, rewarding for engagement is refreshing and a competitive differentiator. Customers increasingly understand that their time and networks are valuable to brands (in and out of the travel industry) and want to be rewarded for their advocacy efforts.
As Thom Kozik, Vice President of Loyalty at Marriott (a Chirpify customer), noted…
“Consumer expectations around being rewarded for dollars spent has shifted. Today’s consumers recognize there is greater value in their time, attention, and their social media footprint, and expect to be rewarded accordingly for that.”
As such, engagement loyalty platforms like Chirpify allow airlines to reward customers in social media for their advocacy, engagement and other desired behaviors. This fuels positive earned media for the airline, while making the customer feel recognized and appreciated, fueling a positive customer experience that helps create a virtuous snowball of customer loyalty.
Platforms like Chirpify allow marketers to reward customers at scale, while also providing the capability to surprise and delight individual members, personally recognizing and interacting with them in real-time.
Gather New Customer Data Inputs
For years now the airline industry has heavily invested in data analytics, tracking everything from products and services to city pairs, which can then be used for everything from refining which offers are presented to customers as they book online, all the way up to strategic planning. Engagement loyalty provides a new, critical data input into customer behavior and expectations that airlines should not overlook.
Specifically, engagement loyalty allows marketers to acquire the social identity of frequent flyer program members which can then be tied to customer records. With this data in hand, marketers can measure the reach, impressions, conversion rates and more of their campaigns. In addition, with engagement loyalty, they can activate offline marketing activities — like TV ads, billboards or in-airport signage — via social media, tracking the success of each activity to different social channels, demographics and more.
For example, an airline who is trying to promote a new segment from a hub might try to encourage awareness and sales with in-airport marketing that prompts engagement with a social trigger. When a known frequent flyer, “Stan” engages with that trigger, Chirpify allows the airline to listen for that social action and piece it together with his consumer data that has been stored. Chirpify recognizes that it was Stan who used the social trigger and automatically sends him a personalized mobile email, thanking him for looking into the new destination and rewarding him, for example with a free baggage check when he books a flight to the new destination.
Chirpify enables this social participation on behalf of leading travel organizations such as Marriott, IHG and La Quinta, listening in the background for consumers that activate social triggers – both net new customers and existing loyalty program members. Chirpify applies rules from its rules engine and automatically responds to the consumer accordingly, effectively engaging and converting consumers online.
The airline industry has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to customer loyalty programs, serving as a template for others to follow. With engagement loyalty, airline marketers are able to increase customer engagement, loyalty efforts and customer lifetime value as they make it easier for customers to do business with them, rewarding them for desired activities. All of these benefits serve to create a virtual snowball of positive earned media, greater customer loyalty, additional customer insights and greater topline growth.