If you still need proof of whether social media matters or not, you only have to look at the turnout for this year’s votes for the 2nd SimpliFlying Awards for Social Media Excellence. By the time voting closed after 2 weeks of stiff competition, more than 30,000 votes had been submitted from over 4500 cities. And this was after having shortlisted the Top Nominees from close to 60 nominations. The finalists for each category have been announced and they’ll face off in Amsterdam on October 10.
The innovations begin
When airlines initially began their adventure on the socialscape, it was all about about feeling their way about on the social platforms of their choice. The primary focus at the outset was first, discovering how to drive traffic and building a fan-base, followed by the more important aim of utilizing the platform for customer engagement and provide them a real-time medium of information-dissemination and customer service. Slowly, however, they realized that social platforms could also aid them in driving revenue. Flash sales, deals and contests became popular to attract more customers. However, the real innovations were still some time away.
A changing landscape
That time, it seems, has finally come. Airlines, more than ever before have realised that the social web can be utilized to change and influence the booking behaviour of patrons by incorporating their preferences, habits and social circles into the booking cycle. Slowly, we’re beginning to see the true emergence of the New Traveler Life Cycle which can be split into 5 parts: dreaming, validating, booking, travelling and sharing. Airlines have begun to recognize that the booking portion of the cycle alone might not be sufficient to draw customers to themselves. Hence, they’ve begun to incorporate the other portions, in various combinations, to their travel cycle. Our latest case-pack illustrates how airlines are effectively doing this.
Some key points about Travel Distribution emerging from this case-pack are:
- Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are slowly losing ground as airlines increasingly attract customers to book through their own portals. eg. Delta’s Facebook booking engine is a neat “push strategy” to get customers to book without moving away from their favourite social network.
- Immersive apps that aid in the dreaming, planning and booking process will not only be addictive travel planning tools but also great brand-builders by wowing patrons. eg. Virgin America’s chrome app.
- Mobile (and tablet) apps are set to go huge. Whether it is managing bookings or redeeming frequent flyer miles or even checking in without a paper boarding pass, mobile apps will rule the next wave of social airline strategies. eg. British Airways’ cool iPhone app and Lufthansa’s iPad app.
- Incorporating customers’ social graphs into the booking cycle could pay rich dividends by unleashing a “social multiplier effect”. Knowing which friends are in cities you could fly to (Alaska Air) and choosing seats alongside friends (Malaysia Airlines) are just some of the ways in which booking behaviour of customers can be influenced.
- Flyers will always be deal hunters looking for the best (in other words, cheapest) fares. LAN Airlines’ Fall Sale, JetBlue Cheeps and Melbourne Airport’s cheap Twitter fares are prime examples. Also, even though the jury is still out on this one, Groupon type sales will continue to be effective in the short-term at least (ie, until they can be sustained).
Without further ado, here’s our case-pack on the Top 10 Travel Distribution Initiatives by Airlines. Enjoy!