Ai Video: Counting on mobile as an ally for fostering loyalty

First Published on 3rd January, 2018

The role of mobile in the realm of loyalty should be seen as that of an ally. Loyalty is being a part of one’s lifestyle, which would mean a brand would end up building trust and a positive emotional connection. And since mobile is a personal device, it needs to counted upon as that key that would work for the loyalty program member – may be that perfect holiday recommendation or using a preferred payment wallet for shopping featuring airline co-brand card.

FFPs or airline loyalty programs, just like any app on mobile, have to make an impact with the first interaction. It is surprising, but yes, onboarding successfully when an app is opened first time is a huge challenge for brands even today! Similarly, the timing and utility of each push notification has to be spot on.  Also, there are certain markets featuring relatively cheaper or low-end mobile devices, where the usage of app can be an issue, so how should airlines go about mobile web development, and ensure any sort of log-in is capitalized upon to offer value to return, loyal visitors.

At the same time, mobile doesn’t mean that travellers are bombarded or presented with irrelevant messages, says David Feldman, Director - Loyalty & Reward Program Strategy, Catchit Loyalty. He also added that not many travel brands are capitalizing on the prowess of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Any piece of content, be it for an ad, offer or a message, needs to blend the profile of the traveller with contextual signals that a device like a smartphone offers. So a traveller, on a trip with his family, could be offered a ticket to an amusement park, depending upon the previous trips, location, time of the day, social context etc. via a loyalty app being used.

By Ritesh Gupta

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Ai Editorial: 5 ways in which data can help in reimagining loyalty in 2018

First Published on 1st January, 2018

Ai Editorial: The prowess of data in uplifting the performance of loyalty programs is increasingly coming to the fore, be it for fostering a positive emotional connection with members or working out a viable financial model, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

For airlines, any opportunity that can improve the performance of their FFPs needs to be grabbed since the lure of flying for free, an upgrade or making the most of loyalty currency means travellers tend to have high expectations from their FFPs. In order to meet these expectations, airlines need to count on data. We look at some of the critical areas, especially considering the fact travel marketers acknowledge the challenges associated with personalizing offers, content, and experiences based on data:

1.     Preparing for digital API economy: Airlines aren’t agile enough to embrace change. But sticking to this approach isn’t going to help, as digital API economy will not make an exception for airlines. Imagine, a loyal traveller interacting via a chabot on Facebook or WeChat, and the preferences of the same traveller along with all sorts of data – loyalty, merchandising, fare, schedule, availability etc. being combined to work out the best possible set of recommendations. The more data you will have and the more systems you will have in your digital ecosystem, the better proposition you will have for your customers. Also, other than 3rd party ecosystems, airlines also need to dig deeper into their own platform strategy, because such economy works through a platform economy model. In a recent interview with Ai, Evert de Boer, Partner at FFP Investment and Advisory, pointed out that akin to the characteristics of digital disruptors, such as Uber and Airbnb, FFPs, too, don’t own the physical assets and are in a position to capitalize on data analytics and predictive modelling based on rich datasets that such programs have worked out.  “Typically operating in a digital environment, (FFPs) it is a very agile business (and in comparison far more agile than a typical airlines business),” he said.

All of this is extreme importance as there will be no single customer journey. So in order to build affiliation, the loyalty programs need to be a part of the connected world.

 

Specialists also point out that organizational structure needs to be in place for various stages of the digital strategy – right from defining digital transformation mission to finalizing priorities to implementing them, and then also assessing the role of a digital business unit that eventually pave way for innovative offerings. So airlines need to evaluate areas such as structure, leadership, talent, operating model etc. to succeed as digital enterprises and in turn foster loyalty.  

2.     Reimagining loyalty with data: Data strategy is of no use if airlines can’t act on it to offer value to members or for competitive advantage. “We take specific learnings and then we act on it, and then observe (what happens). The problem is everyone sees data and don’t really take action. We try to experiment from what we are seeing, try to stimulate activity or some type of behavior,” says Hong Kong Express Airways’ reward-U program CEO Steven Greenway.

Here are few use cases:

·          Offering value: Hong Kong Express Airways is working on the concept of “Tribes”, based on overall activity, for instance, travel, retail, food etc. and a member can be in multiple tribes at any time base on a minimal level of activity. This is scheduled for Q1, 2018. Tribes is about recognizing your everyday spending and everyday activity patterns. So if a user prefers to go out, they could be a part of wining and dining tribe. When combined with some of the existing activities such as relevant and personalized loyalty communications, this can result in strong engagement.

·          Customer acquisition: Loyalty data can help in overcoming generalized assumptions. Blending data from CRM programs and other sources and integrating it with a loyalty solution can help in understanding customers. According to Merkle, organizations can dig deep to assess the profiles of their “best customers”, and then build on it further via data-driven look-alike modeling. So by partnering with 3rd party ecosystems or other companies, airlines can sharpen their customer acquisition based on real customer attributes.

3.     Capitalizing on prowess of mobile devices: Travel companies need to capitalize on contextual signals that a device like a smartphone offers, and blend it with attributes or data available about a loyalty program member for them to avail an offer or even enable them to plan or book a trip. For example, a traveller tends to book in specific months and going by previous trip details (social context, price, destination etc.), how about an offer or a reward with all loyalty status details or possibilities of using the currency? In fact, the option to be rewarded from everyday purchases has opened up the realms of the FFP even to the average or infrequent traveller, how about incorporating traits of one's lifestyle and even coming up with a relevant content and deal? So, for instance, a co-brand card is used for a specific event, such as tickets for a ballet concert. How about considering the same and offering a similar ticket in a new destination? Interacting with a known traveller and better even if one can predict their needs, it would be incredibly powerful when it comes to building loyalty. It is imperative to assess how and where travellers expect to be engaged on their own terms; as they are hardly disconnect from their personal device such as mobile. So airlines need to shift loyalty rewards and experiences to smartphones, digital channels and social platforms.

4.     Data and financial model: Behavorial and demographic segmentation, spend-level analysis etc. all have a role to play in working out the financial model of the program. And with better data, this can only sharpen the viability and profitability analysis. The model design depends upon various factors, and the sort of data available is one of them. As Merkle points out, airlines or loyalty team can feature passenger segmentation from custom data to study the impact that various customer segments have on four main summary metrics – enrollment, revenue, cost and profitability. Overall, a deeper study of member behavior can one to precisely assess how members’ accrual, redemption and engagement would change as the terms of the loyalty program get amended.

5.     Data and redemption:  Retailers are relying on data analytics techniques to evaluate rewards. Similarly, airlines can also study the efficacy of redemption options via a statistical experimentation technique (data scientists alert that a wrong group of travellers can also result in sampling bias). Plus, analyze the effectiveness of each reward and figure out the incremental revenue as well. Then also further study behavior before and after the redemption activity.

Other than working on simple earn and burn policies, paving way for fast and frictionless redemption experience and offer instant, relevant, contextual options for redemption, airlines need to gear up for latest developments in the arena of data, analytics, cloud, APIs etc. and how cognitive technologies can lend new dimensions to an organization’s ability to make sense of voluminous data to reimagine loyalty going forward.

 

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Ai Editorial: What is going to take web personalisation to the next level in 2018?

First Published on 18th December, 2017

Ai Editorial: Counting on computing power, algorithms, airline-specific IT offerings, front-end technology and customer profiling will lend a new dimension to personalisation, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Airlines are attempting ways to differentiate their offerings, and serve them to today’s always-connected travellers as per their preferences and the propensity to spend.

There are 5 factors that would contribute in taking web personalisation deeper from here on:

1.     Computing power: It includes both the personal device being used by travellers including mobile devices as well as the power underlying the server infrastructure readily available in the cloud, says Kenneth Purcell, CEO, iSeatz. These elements are become cheaper with the passage of time and the trend continues. The mobile phone is a highly personal device, and offers an opportunity to capitalise on certain innate features, such as location. So the blend of device plus user profiling can result in contextual recommendations. So information such as the time of the day, weather, location etc. can be used for personalisation. A mobile device has a massive computational power, plus it has camera, location-specific features.

As for moving infrastructure into the cloud, it is time to leverage today’s technology at a much lower cost, and avail the benefit of scaling it up. Airlines consider factors such as such as security (the role of technologies such as encryption and tokenisation comes into the picture) as well as connecting legacy applications to the cloud at enterprise scale. Travel searching is heavy, and organizations are moving swiftly in this direction. Among airlines, American Airlines has decided to migrate to cloud a quota of their crucial applications, including aa.com, mobile app and network of check-in kiosks. The plan is to enable developers to swiftly set up and modify application functionalities for American’s passengers. These customer-facing systems will be on cloud. The cloud business model that the airline has chosen is a hybrid one.

2.     Algorithms that run the sort order pertaining to the results that are being shown and how does that intersect with business rules, so that two of them in harmony as per the objective laid and outcome expected by an organisation are getting sophisticated in web personalisation. They can also be categorized – basic one such as showing what’s popular on the site to what’s new. Then there is collaborative filtering. Depending upon a user’s engagement with various products, say destinations chosen, bundles or ancillaries, they are clubbed into a group of users with similar likes and dislikes. Recommendations are crafted accordingly. Also, the sort of data that helps in personalising digital experience includes the source of traffic or acquisition data, anonymous visitor data, profile data as well as real-time interaction with the website. The process of serving anonymous passengers starts with some level of contextualisation – once a prospective traveller accesses a website or a mobile app, enters city-pair, dates, type of travel (family, with kids etc.), then algorithms can match them against pre-set customer segments and serve offers accordingly. At a deeper level, airlines can also focus on precise preferences, adding them for each user via deep behavioural tracking (a bunch of factors are considered - mouse movement, scrolling etc. + IP address, geo-location, device type etc. + other signals) to sharpen algorithms and make them even more relevant.   

 

3.     Sophistication of airline-specific engines: For any airline if their systems or engines get smarter over a period of time, then they are bound to come up with better recommendations or offers. And travel technology companies are looking at using data better, for instance, letting merchandising rules deliver better results. Similarly, the industry is looking at consistency in terms of what they have to offer, another engine - for shopping and pricing – would be the way to go forward, capitalising on all sorts of data – loyalty, merchandising, fare, schedule, availability etc.

4.     Front-end technology: it is making rapid advancement in the industry.  “This is significant in terms showing the different search results, how the entire page is rendered and paving way for segmentation all the way to user experience.  So looking at the APIs, all of this needs to support sorting of the inventory, that is being outsourced, is done in a way that it is relevant for the user and the front-end is a layer on top of it. This would include using 3rd party tools or working them in-house to set up front-end in a more personalised way,” says Purcell. 

E-commerce specialists point out that the efficacy of content management systems is coming to the fore when it comes to managing, personalizing, publishing, viewing and comparing different page versions. How to create create large web applications that use data which can change over time without the need to reload the full website? (Speed is an important element – a case study of how travel search engine Wego counted upon Google’s open source initiative called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). In case of Wego, page-load speeds came down from more than 11 seconds to less than one second. AMP pages are stored in Google’s cache servers and load in milliseconds).  

5.     Preparing for customer profiling and 1to1 personalisation: “For 1to1 personalisation, factors such as “too hard to do it” or “too much storage is required” need to be done away with. The truth of the matter is there are lots of tools out there that make it easier to do it (whether its analytics provider tailoring the user experience on an individual basis or an organisation decides to develop the infrastructure in-house, open source frameworks pave way for the same, and even storage isn’t an issue today),” Gillian Morris, CEO, Hitlist told Ai in a recent interview.

It is imperative to bank on 1st party data. “(Data strategy) It’s not about how much data you have (and big data is inherently a vague term - how big is big?), but rather the quality of the data you’ re using. Travel companies that focus on loose intent signals from many different providers are acting on weak cues that might be misleading. The ideal situation would be to generate enough data within your own user ecosystem to truly understand where and why people are planning to travel. Google, Facebook, and theoretically Apple have the biggest leg up here,” asserted Morris.  

As for the journey of personalisation, as explained in this article, start with segmentation and make steady progress to rules-driven personalisation. This means setting up and further reworking on business rules that are utilised against clusters of visitors, based on information one can garner about users. The second major component is progressing toward algorithmic personalisation, where one initiates with a relatively broad set of recommendations to ones that are specifically meant for an individual.    

Interplay of all 5 aspects

Eventually, the interplay of all these 5 aspects – computing power, algorithms, personalisation and front-end technology come into play to deliver a relevant, contextual, personalised experience. For instance, the benefits of knowing a customer – not only steps up the conversion rate, but it also means less time spent on browsing, taking a decision faster on an airline’ site, and this would also cut down on the server cost.

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Ai Video: Is 1to1 personalisation possible?

First Published on 12th December, 2017

1to1 personalisation is the only way to know your customers best, and factors such as “too hard to do it” or “too much storage is required” need to be done away with.

“The truth of the matter is there are lots of tools out there that make it easier to do it (whether its analytics provider tailoring the user experience on an individual basis or an organisation decides to develop the infrastructure in-house, open source frameworks pave way for the same, and even storage isn’t an issue today),” says Gillian Morris, CEO, Hitlist.

“The ideal situation would be to generate enough data within your own user ecosystem to truly understand where and why people are planning to travel,” says Morris. “Once you have a user-specific data, you can understand the purchase journey and also what to recommend. Once you work on a profile of a user, you can understand travel habits and accordingly recommend something relevant, contextual,” she says. So rather than just spotting one destination that a user is looking for and coming up with generic offers for that destination, one can also understand what a user is looking for “something warm over the weekend in Miami”. Morris says, “People dont opt for a destination, they go on a trip. In addition to destination and price, equally important are timing (say weekend vs. weekdays) and social context (family, individual, colleagues etc.).”

Some of Morris’ recommendations are as follows:

1.     Assess what travellers are looking for

2.     Collect data, ask for it

3.     Offer value

4.     Leverage social connections

5.     Create accounts   

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Ai Video: Counting on FFPs as platform-based, digital business

First Published on 4th December, 2017

It is time airlines count on the prowess of frequent flyer programs (FFP) for being an asset-light, platform-based, digital business, asserts Evert de Boer, Partner at FFP Investment and Advisory. He points out that akin to the characteristics of digital disruptors, such as Uber and Airbnb, FFPs, too, don’t own the physical assets and are in a position to capitalize on data analytics and predictive modelling based on rich datasets that such programs have worked out.  “Typically operating in a digital environment, (FFPs) it is a very agile business (and in comparison far more agile than a typical airlines business),” he said.

FFPs are in a unique position, and as de Boer says, the “theoretical access” to data is unmatched in this case. FFPs have become network players (paved way for an ecosystem of miles earning opportunities across a significant share of everyday spent), he says, with a deep insight into the activity of their members, their buying choices, the likelihood of what they are going to buy etc. “But airlines haven’t fully explored the possibility as yet,” he said. “There is a need to connect all the dots and work out a strong profile of the customers.” The drivers of two businesses - airlines and FFPs – are quite different. “It does raise questions around how to govern and optimize this (FFP) business, even though there is talk around the same shared customer,” highlighted de Boer. 

 

(Evert de Boer, Partner at FFP Investment and Advisory spoke to Ai's Ritesh Gupta during the recently held MegaEvent in Palm Springs, California). 

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Ai Video: Taking off as a digital travel enterprise?

First Published on 11th October, 2017

How can airlines make the most of data and focus on retailing?

A section of the industry asserts that it is time for airlines to split digital commerce from operations. Of course, areas of concerns include business continuity or the current organizational structure as embracing change in this industry isn’t straightforward. But, if airlines hope to be in control, they need to find ways to identify passengers.

For instance, the game isn’t about identifying and members of a loyalty program. Rather the focus has shifted towards infrequent travellers or even anonymous travellers. Personalisation and contextualisation are increasingly becoming a norm as airlines strive to become digital enterprises. As Binay Warrier, Head of Business Development, Loyalty & CRM, IBS Software Services says, it is time for airlines to take risk.  

 

Hear from experts about how airlines are gearing up for optimizing of data and retailing  at the upcoming 8th Mega Event Worldwide, to be held in Palm Springs, CA, USA (29 November – 1 December, 2017).

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Ai Video: How data is shaping loyalty 2.0?

First Published on 10th October, 2017

Are members of a loyalty program associated with a low-cost carrier also relatively low spenders? How to engage infrequent flyers and make the most of their everyday spending?

Finding answers to such questions and in fact, even overcoming traditional ways of engaging and operating loyalty programs, isn’t an erroneous belief. Hong Kong Express Airways’ reward-U program is one such example. From no member, no 1st party data to 1 million members in 16 months to gearing up for loyalty 2.0, the journey has been quite an eventful one for this loyalty program.

“Starting a loyalty program is always difficult considering that there is no data. But we are 16 months old now, we have been accumulating data, spending patterns etc. We are getting a picture of what people are doing. The association with a low-cost airline doesn’t mean that our members are low spenders. They are high spenders,” says Hong Kong-based CEO Steven Greenway. He spoke to Ai’s Ritesh Gupta about loyalty 2.0.

 

Hear from experts about the futurel of loyalty at the upcoming 8th Mega Event Worldwide, to be held in Palm Springs, CA, USA (29 November – 1 December, 2017).

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Ai Editorial: Can airlines be an ally as a loyalty program operator?

First Published on 24th May, 2017

Ai Editorial: Airlines can improve on 5 counts when it comes to making their loyalty currency more valuable, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Are airline loyalty programs “trustworthy”? Are airlines content with lesser active program members? Do airlines only allocate the “lowest awards to seats they feel would otherwise go unsold”?

Such questions gain credence going by the criticism of FFPs when one tries to assess the trust quotient. According to a study by Brandigo, around 60% of travellers do not feel loyal to any particular airline. The figure shows only marginal increment in loyalty among passengers who fly more than 7 times per year.

If one tries to assess the level of trust via Google (search for “trust in airlines’ frequent flyer programs”), as per the first few links on Google, even without clicking on them, it is apparent that as an industry, airlines aren’t being trusted. A headline reads: Are airline frequent flier miles programs just rip-offs? Another link (from a piece posted by BoardingArea regarding Wyndham Rewards cancelling a promotion) explained the meaning of “trust”.

Airlines acknowledge the problem

“The legacy of being rewarded for distance travelled has set an expectation amongst customers which is difficult to reset,” an airline executive from Asia told me.

Of course, certain markets witness more criticism of the way FFPs function. For instance, certain standalone loyalty programs in the U.S. may be touching a saturation point and the viability of accruing points/ miles in one currency with a particular airline is being questioned. Also, loyalty programs have been gradually evolving – take the case of transitioning to revenue-based model.

“High yield customers will praise you for rewarding them equitably, whereas low yield customers will feel deprived – sometimes through no fault of their own, but rather due to competitive pricing amongst airlines on selected long haul routes. “Taking away” from loyal customers, even if relatively minor, can ignite a firestorm of opinions on social media platforms,” this is what a senior airline executive acknowledged as the airline chose to shift to a revenue-based FFP.

Time to take action

So airlines need to take initiatives on several counts in order to come across as an ally, adviser keen on letting travellers make the most of what they have accrued. As per one of the studies last year, Collinson found that over 50% of survey participants didn’t expect that they would “ever be able to earn enough points to redeem anything of value”. According to 500friends, airlines need to identify gaps that exist in rewards structure. Some of the areas that can be improved upon:

1.     Offering a reward flight for non-travel purchases: Airlines are targeting infrequent passengers, and even introducing coalition loyalty programs. One way that is being attempted is everyday purchases points earning. So even as the lure of a free flight remains intact, the airline ends up remaining in touch, offers more ways to use or redeem a loyalty program’s currency. How do both passengers and airlines benefit? The major appeal of a coalition model is – the overall share of wallet. A person will spend a small proportion of their disposable income on air travel in a year. Adding credit card, supermarket, department store, petrol and other retailers expands the share of disposable income going through the program.  With higher total spend within the program ecosystem more points are earned and so even the most infrequent traveller can attain those reward flights. Of course, the concept for rewards for everyday purchases isn’t for all. Some programs are devised for only frequent fliers. In this model there is less need for more partners as the vast majority of points will come from flying.

2.     Making calculation simple and facilitating rewards: Can airlines understand the spending pattern and simplify calculation for a loyalty program member? If a start-up or a 3rd party FFP review site can explain airlines have a wide range of values even within one redemption category like flights, then why airlines can't do the same? Start-ups today are analyzing credit card spending pattern, sharing details of missed rewards and even offering personalised average reward value based on the rewards preferred by a spender! So, for example, if a user is part of an airline co-brand initiative and tends to use this card on certain categories and is eyeing a free flight, how can airlines assess the spending and come up with an apt recommendation? Can airlines highlight how values earned are calculated for each transaction and the value for what was missed by the member? As Connexions Loyalty recommends, airlines can experiment with varied offerings within various customer segments in order to comprehend who “values your brand, increase redemptions and reward your lost loyal customers”.

3.     Avoid silo approach in a coalition loyalty program: Airlines, as program operators, need to consider the real-time quotient in passenger experience, and for this, all partners needs to deftly manage accrual and redemption of points/ miles in real-time (focus on their value, location, yield etc.) “(As an airline) Try to understand your partner’s (core offering and capabilities) and enable them to build their own loyalty accrual within your loyalty program, using your currency, says Piotr Kozlowski, VP Consulting, Services Sector, Airline/ Travel Loyalty at Comarch. He also asserted that every aspect of the program needs to be relevant, contextual – for instance, targeted promotions from a relevant partner, efficient use of APIs for quick integration to various systems, such as enrolment API, point – status check API etc.

4.     Counting on mobile’s prowess: FFPs or loyalty initiatives should be crafted considering the prowess of mobile devices, and not merely be adapted for the same. For instance, how can loyalty program capitalize on mobile for real-time offers, personalised messaging etc.? How to make the most of Apple Pay and Android Pay, and interweave loyalty-related moves with them – say, the ability to earn and redeem rewards, and pay with a single tap? Can the currency of a loyalty program be used to pay for a transaction via a mobile wallet?

5.     Overcoming loss of interest: Acknowledging that distant rewards can be discouraging and alienating to the program members, Comarch chose to combat such negativity and eventual loss of interest in the program. The company came up with their “Point Loans” option earlier this year, offering members a chance to avail a reward earlier than expected by “loaning them the fixed amount of points that are necessary to complete a specific redemption”. Comarch explained that this service can be “connected with a special fee that can be compensated in a form of money or points and needs to be repaid by the restricted deadline, otherwise either the member’s card will be charged or their account will be blocked”.

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Ai Video: Binding partners via data in coalition loyalty

First Published on 14th April, 2017

Buying a book, paying for utility bills or car fuel etc via an airline loyalty card and getting rewarded isn’t new for customers. But partners in such coalition loyalty program need to move away from operating with the “silo” approach to making the most of emanating data in a collaborative and cohesive manner.

Airlines, as program operators, need to consider the real-time quotient in passenger experience, and for this, all partners needs to deftly manage accrual and redemption of points/ miles in real-time (focus on their value, location, yield etc.) “(As an airline) Try to understand your partner’s (core offering and capabilities) and enable them to build their own loyalty accrual within your loyalty program, using your currency, says Piotr Kozlowski, VP Consulting, Services Sector, Airline/ Travel Loyalty at Comarch.

Every aspect of the program needs to be relevant, contextual – for instance,  targeted promotions from a relevant partner, efficient use of APIs for quick integration to various systems, such as enrolment API, point – status check API etc. “Data is a key enabler in taking the program forward,” agreed Kozlowski. A key aspect of data relates to crafting the profile of the customer, incorporating information about key traits like their shopping preferences. Be it for pushing the right ancillary product to a traveller or getting stock keeping unit data from the partner in the program, the benefits are immense and enables to build analytics, reports etc.  This all can pave way for being a part of travellers’ lifestyle.

“If you look at the travel-related coalition loyalty program, they are encompassing certain lifestyle (elements). By nature, travel brands tend to be premium brands. It is, of course, a kind of magic to match the high-street brands or online brands with the brand positioning of the program operator. The customer definitely wants to consolidate their commercial activity, especially pertaining to brands that inspire (or they aspire to have with them). Travel brands with premium or less premium brands on high-street is something that can drive the program forward (based on monetary-driven accrual levels).   

 

Gain an insight into the latest trends at the 3rd Co-Brand Conference, to be held in Atlanta, US (22-24 May, 2017) 

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Ai Editorial: Managing a loyalty program calls for unremitting finesse

First Published on 28th February, 2017

Ai Editorial: If driving loyalty is about crafting experiential moments, then airlines need to dwell upon apt blend of content, design/ functionality of the interface, timing and technology right from data collection to acting on it, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Managing a loyalty program, right from enrolment to sustaining a bond, calls for unremitting finesse.

The circumstance or the outcome from a member’s perspective needs to offer some value – for instance, if you are collecting data for an unfinished profile, how about letting one indulge via apt mix of luring video, interface/ user experience that makes them participate, context that makes them feel “at-home”…so right from collecting data to analyzing it to coming up with a smart, targeted communication, what can sustain the efficacy of CRM is evolving.

So what can make the journey, including data collection, an experiential one for members?

Airlines need to look at how an interface, a piece of content or persona-based loyalty messaging can deliver.

Incomplete profiles can halt progress. So clearly airlines need to maximize 1st party data collection. Considering that airlines need to gain intelligence from both homogenous and heterogeneous data sources, the significance of 1st party data acquisition can’t be undermined.

In a recent webinar, Geoffrey Smalling, CTO, 500friends, a Merkle Company, mentioned that data needs to be collected “accurately, cleanly and at the right time”. He underlined the significance of garnering data from various sources – sales data, online, offline, CRM and social. “Collect as much data as you can – cheapest, since one doesn’t need to pay for it,” said Smalling. Airlines need to work on an enhanced customer view by linking multiple data capture methods. Identify high-value customers through attributes such as product purchases, preferences and demographics.  

Being creative, tech savvy 

Data collection can’t be mundane. The content, design/ functionality of the interface, timing, technology…can all of this captivate a user to take action? If we just talk of today’s smart devices, then one has to think of “glanceable” experiences, conversational interface, context of use etc. And how all of this can be used to improve profile of the member. So if a customer has enrolled, but not completed their details, how about looking at ways to reinforce  the perks throughout a traveller’s first few experiences. If a customer has enrolled outside the shopping cart funnel, incentivise them for completing the profile. For example, invite them to do a secondary action. Using APIs and data tools to present a questionnaire that’s not checkbox and typical Q&A, and find compelling ways to collect more data.

Smalling recommends that organizations can focus on channels easily accessible to members. This can pave way for pushing offers and act on persona-based messaging. This way one can connect at different times, and with limited friction for the member. Other than delivering real-time offers, this channel can be used for garnering engagement information on members. Retailers, airlines can make the most of queues, putting a spin around a mundane routine of shoppers/ passengers. A simple message to the shortcode, and chatbot comes into action. It could be about new enrolment or engaging a loyalty program member into an activity. “There are tools available for chatbots – not only work around the SMS channel, but also Facebook messenger, WeChat etc. This is a very low friction interaction, and apt way to drive the known customer rate as well as satisfaction,” shared Smalling, who highlighted that built-in artificial intelligence can understand data, parse user inputs etc. “It is about spending more personal time with them. It is about having a highly focused interaction.” Smalling also referred to the potential of mobile wallets – activating via email featuring a link or text message with a click button – as another option for low friction interaction. This platform can be used for personalisation – status update, a specific reward etc.

Airlines can also look at social activity, and work on profiles of socially connected loyalty members. For airlines, the opportunity here is to count on an environment that isn’t a brand’s store, digital property or a hotel’s lobby.  In order to make participants feel valued, companies can scrutinize social media posts using pre-defined criteria, and accordingly reward an individual. One can assess a person’s past interaction (for instance, activity on Twitter say hashtags, sharing of photo, joining of Instagram etc.), and accordingly work out customized message or even (via integration with CRM/ loyalty database) pave way for points or engagement rewards depending upon the status/ tier today. A brand of Marriott’s stature is looking at combination of “automation, moderation, and surprise and delight” when it comes to social content.

From avoiding to participating

With robust data collection and analysis, one can focus on persona-based loyalty messaging (with details such as income, average order size, lifetime value, motivation - what triggers loyalty, drives choice etc.). “One can target a profile differently. This would mean highly-targeted, persona-driven loyalty,” said Smalling. Organizations need to be capable of managing robust data sets and knowing how to effectively segment and personalize for customers, work on actionable customer segments based on both transactional and behavioral attributes and events, personalise communications and experiences across channels to drive improved in-program participation and engagement.

With highly-targeted, persona-driven loyalty, one can move on from being ignored or being marked as spam to being receptive to messages and notifications.

Airlines need to excel on one or many counts - being an ally, being part of the lifestyle of travellers, holding high aspirational value, offering opportunities to a loyal passenger to maximize their loyalty rewards…and in order to accomplish this, one has to get closer to making every experience an experiential moment.

 

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