The world’s top international airlines may rule the skies, but they definitely don’t reign over the digital realm. Despite enduring brand recognition, even the largest global carriers still struggle to grow their direct channel acquisition– and therefore new customers – in comparison to online travel agencies (OTAs) and metasearch engines (MSEs). This comes from the airlines’ lack of focus on building their digital power to align with their brand power.
Airlines know that to grow their profit margins they need to focus on growing their direct booking channels. But by continuing to focus their acquisition strategy on SEO and SEM, airlines have been neglecting the real key to sustainable and incremental revenue growth: converting their existing brand power into a more impactful online presence.
To boost direct bookings, airlines need to invest in building the digital power of their branded websites to effectively compete with aggregator booking platforms in organic search. Four key components of digital power that airlines need to address in order to help them own their customers and maximize lifetime value (LTV) are: Reach, User Experience, Technical Capacity, and Data Mastery.
Customers don’t go out of their way to find a specific airline’s flights – they click search results out of convenience. To attract bookings from around the globe, airlines need to make their inventory easily reachable and accessible in every market they serve. This translates into airlines need to merchandise their product by creating a dynamic landing page for every origin, destination, and route in in their network and a localized site edition in each language served. (For Etihad Airways, we’ve executed paid search campaigns in more than 20 languages and 50 countries.)
Exceptional User Experience
Driving acquisition isn’t just about putting yourself in the right markets – it’s also about putting yourself on the right devices. 42% of travelers worldwide now use smartphones to plan or book their trips, but airlines haven’t met their demand: Only 53% offer a full mobile booking option. Airlines need to respond to this trend by providing the experience their customers have come to expect by creating a fully mobile-optimized and device-responsive booking process.
Proactive Technical Capacity
OTAs and MSEs outperform airlines in search partially due to the vast amount of resources they can devote to developing and maintaining complex IT infrastructures. With search engine algorithms and consumer behavior patterns changing so often, airlines simply can’t compete without an always-on, high-performance digital marketing infrastructure.
Masters of Data
“Big data” is touted by many as the key to unlocking more effective marketing strategies for airlines, but first airlines need to focus on data acquisition and management. To master their data, airlines need to first define a way in which to aggregate and normalize the information, before leveraging it for higher marketing value through personalized offers and more timely communications. These types of data-driven insights lead to a healthier understanding of an airline’s booking funnel and, ultimately, to both revenue and conversion increases.
In order for airlines to increase their digital presence and own their customers, they will need to focus their digital marketing practices on the four elements of digital power. Through this approach airlines will be able to effectively combat the continued dominance of OTAs and MSEs by driving greater brand visibility leading to higher conversion rates and sustainable incremental revenue.
To learn more about EveryMundo’s solutions that help drive digital power for your brand, contact us now.