With 80 percent of airports and airlines investing in business intelligence (BI) solutions in the next three years, the success or failure of carriers’ BI initiatives will largely be driven by digital marketing. The travel marketing landscape today is about far more than search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and social media – it’s about leveraging big data.

More specifically, it’s about cultivating high-quality data on airlines’ traveler-customers. Gaining greater “stickiness” with consumers requires learning what resonates – namely by continually investing in customer acquisition efforts that churn out measurable information (and attributable results). From there, the business intelligence team can monitor, analyze, and apply customer data for revenue improvement over time.

But airlines’ traditional marketing efforts aren’t serving them well when it comes to acquiring high-value customer intel. By embracing the new data-driven marketing best practices outlined below, airlines can set themselves up for stronger BI success without an over-reliance on new IT infrastructure.

Focus on Direct-Channel Conversions

By relying so heavily on third parties for distribution of their inventory, airlines have lowered consumers’ perceived value of booking through their own branded websites. The third party aggregators – online travel agencies (OTAs) and metasearch engines (MSEs) – are able to collect and analyze more integral data by interacting with travelers from the beginning of the customer lifecycle and staying engaged with them long-term.

Investing in dynamic performance content technologies, optimizing their sites for mobile device use, and boosting the digital visibility of their inventory are all ways in which airlines can attract and convert travelers through their own direct channels – rather than wait for aggregators to deliver costly third-party referrals.

Embrace an Always-On Infrastructure

OTAs and MSEs perform well in online search results for many different reasons –one being that they continually invest in improving their (already strong) online marketing infrastructures in response to ever-changing search algorithms and evolving consumer expectations. They are able to do this because, unlike airlines, OTAs’ and MSEs’ focus centers around IT infrastructure and solution deployment.  Hamstrung by so many other priorities, airlines rarely allocate the same level of resources as third party aggregators to digital marketing.

By implementing a performance-focused marketing infrastructure, airlines can ensure their customer acquisition strategies are automatically up-to-date with SEO best practices, and that their flights are digitally visible as possible and productized for their target consumers. The key for airlines will be to add this value to their direct channel without relying on heavy investment in their existing IT infrastructure.

Merge Loyalty With Long-Term Value

The loyalty program membership has long been airlines’ most trusted marketing tool, and it’s not going anywhere. When supported with the right technologies, loyalty programs can gather highly insightful customer data to help airlines build communities around their brands, boost customer engagement, and increase revenue over time.

But the key for keeping consumers’ interest is providing them with value. Even on the best loyalty apps, earning points to redeem rewards can no longer be the only point: 61 percent of passengers want more personalization before engaging more with airline brands in mobile commerce. Earning brand loyal travelers will increasingly require airlines to share relevant, targeted, timely offers with consumers throughout the customer lifecycle – driving lifetime by using better data to more efficiently deliver value.

To learn more about boosting online marketing performance and take back your direct channel, contact EveryMundo now.