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Who Do You Think You Are?

Customization only works if you know the customer. But travelers rarely take the time to fill in their frequent flyer details when conducting searches. Overcoming such hurdles poses both technical and commercial challenges.

Information can be obtained without a passenger’s active participation. According to Ornagh Hoban, Vice President Marketing & Strategy, Datalex, an airline must be able to characterize a customer’s intent, concerns and needs in the course of a customer interaction, and to use this to customize product offers. “Through their website, airlines can learn about their passenger even if they remain anonymous, by seeing what types of products they browse and the searches they do,” she says. New information and technology structures make identifying unknown potential clients possible. “Of course, the more an airline knows about the passenger, the more relevance they can bring to the online conversation,” she adds.

But knowing about a customer then brings a fresh challenge. How much should the airlines feed back to a particular point of sale? A travel agent, online or otherwise, knowing every detail about your best customers is enough to give most CEOs pause for thought.

But Hoban insists the single biggest commercial issue is the competition to win or retain the customer. “By better understanding customer behavior throughout the lifecycle, airlines can better target and generate demand,” she suggests. “An offer can be optimized in a true learning environment.”

Online travel agencies and tech-savvy airlines are experimenting with the development of customized projects based not only on a customer’s purchase history but also her behavior and needs. Customers should not be bombarded with electronic offers and messages, most of which tend to be irrelevant and poorly timed. Loyalty can be built with fewer offers that are truly relevant not just for a particular customer but at a particular time and from a particular point of sale.

Some of the more sophisticated frequent flyer programs already understand this.

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