It’s been a month since the holidays have come to a close. The special rates airlines typically use to attract customers during the heavy travel season are over. So it’s ‘business as usual.’ With the accumulation of holiday shopping bills, new work schedules and weather disruptions many people will not travel for pleasure for a long time.
The multi-week holiday hangover affects all airlines one way or another. Customers are more reluctant to take trips due to weariness of travel, adjustments in fare prices, or the fierce competition from major airlines to gain the customer’s loyalty.
In order to attract travelers that aren’t feeling the immediate desire to travel, here are a few tips for airlines to keep the holiday momentum steady in the New Year.
- Convince customers that holidays never really end. Valentine’s Day (February 14th)? Mother’s Day (May 11th)? Talk Like Shakespeare Day (April 23rd)? If the major holidays are when people travel out of necessity, why not turn the minor holidays into recreational travel opportunities? Are there events travelers might be interested in? What about holidays in other countries? This is where analytics for loyalty programs and social media can create customer profiles that break data out of the industry box and get to heart of what the consumer desires during a recreational holiday.
- Renew emphasis on loyalty incentives. The holidays bring short-term fares and offers as travelers look for the best deals. To offset the return to normalcy after the holidays, airlines can reconnect with passengers and communicate the value of long-term brand investment. Why leave fare price to occasional deals? The New Year is a time of resolutions, and consumers may be more open to the commitment and reward that loyalty makes possible. Of course, like any loyalty program, incentives have to be worth the commitment. Airlines should address the value of their rewards before anything else.
- Get more out of Millennials. According to Expedia’s “Future of Travel” report, Millennials are more likely to extend a business trip into a personal vacation than older employees are (62% of 18-30 year olds vs. 51% of 31-45 year olds vs. 37% of 46-65 year olds). The same study also found that Millennials are more likely to embrace loyalty programs while en route to their destination. Airlines should be targeting Millennials in real-time during their trips to cross-sell and up-sell.
- Feature more customers in social media and content marketing. The best salespeople are customers themselves. Feature more customer stories to reinforce the impression that, yes, consumers are still traveling after the holidays, and having a great time. This doesn’t have to be in a blatant promotional voice. It may be a great time to invite more bloggers and influencers to experience the brand. Creative campaigns can also stimulate the desire to travel: “Where Would You Travel? The Best Cold and Warm Destinations” is a hypothetical social media campaign. Even if this doesn’t lead directly to loyalty gains, it can be an excellent way to add social media followers, incentivize app downloads, and gather data.
- Put customer service front and center. How can airlines make travel better? What were (if any) the problems customers had during the holiday season? What is the airline doing to address these issues? Openness and consideration go a long way toward loyalty. Don’t just try to outdo competitors in fares or incentives, but outdo them in customer service outreach. And find ways to incentivize this process of openness through the loyalty program.
These are just a few practical suggestions to make the loyalty experience more effective and engaging as the airline industry serves a lot of consumers and has many interests to balance.
The period following the holidays is the ideal time to reassess the customer experience from the previous year, increase creative opportunities for new and existing travelers, and strengthen digital strategies that engage consumers. Do all this and sell them on an airline brand they want to be loyal to and a whole new group will be inspired to travel past the holiday season!