The future of airline marketing in 2011: key takeaways from IATA Commercial Strategy Symposium

As many of you are aware, I spent the last week in Istanbul at the IATA Commercial Strategy Symposium, being the Chairman of the eMarketing track as well as delivering a keynote on why CRM = Cult Relationship Management (view presentation).

The last session at the conference turned out to be an intimate round-table sharing session, where all those present shared their key takeaways from the conference. It was unique because unlike most sessions where someone speaks and others listen, everyone loosened their ties and got up-close-and-personal.

I’ve compiled here some of those sharings, which essentially gives us a to-d0 list of senior airline executives from a commercial perspective in 2011.

What does the future of airline marketing look like?

  1. “Gotta get off the fence on social media. Time to act is now, otherwise it’s too late” – a major west-European hybrid airline
  2. “The expansion of the traveler lifecycle is a key development to be acted upon, as travel begins much before the passengers board the aircraft.” – Stuart Barwood, Brolin Consulting
  3. “It’s time to accelerate data personalization for travelers, both online and offline” – Datalex VP
  4. “Turkish Airlines should become a lifestyle brand – selling all top brands that are co-related to the THY brand, eg women’s apparel, co-branded credit cards etc.” – senior Turkish Airlines executive
  5. “Stuff you’re selling on the web should also be sold on the phone” – a senior airline executive from an Asian carrier
  6. “We’ve got to revenue optimize the whole travel process, not just the passenger seat” – senior Navitaire executive
  7. “We’ve got to start listening more – better feedback, quicker” – Frank Kardonski, Director of eCommerce, COPA
  8. “Use content to add value to specific customer segments you’d like to market to” – major regional European airline
  9. “We’ve got to learn from retailers like eBay and Amazon, not just airline websites for marketing” – Ethiopian Airlines CIO Sushil Bagaunt
  10. “That travelers search 21 sites over 9 sessions before booking shows sheer indulgence in the travel process – and that’s a missed opportunity. How do you know you’ve got enough information?” Sarah Kotlova, VP, Geary Interactive
  11. “Customers are willing to give us data, and we should be able to use it. Usability is critical for online sites. Why not have Facebook connect for Check-in? Why need a PNR number? People are not logging on to airline websites >> no incentive! Why should they?” – Karlis Smiltens, airBaltic
  12. “Is your airline cheaper cheaper or better? It’s both! Unique value that you offer to your customers.” – senior VP, Sabre
  13. Trend is toward merchandising and personalization.
  14. If you see something you like, do it.

Well, I hope with these top 14 takeaways, you’ve got a good idea of what the IATA CSS was about and what senior executives took away from there. If you weren’t able to join this year, do join us next year in Singapore during the IATA Passenger Week in October, where the CSS will be held.

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