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Unleashing the Full Potential of Marketing in Aviation

February 20, 2024
Laura GambellLaura GambellMarketing Director, Omnevo

In today's ever-evolving landscape of travel, opportunities for marketing to passengers are plentiful, but they often remain untapped. As a marketing professional and a millennial traveler, I've been fortunate to experience a range of travel experiences flying, from economy to business class, and observed the dynamics between airlines, airports, and passengers. Here, I want to share my thoughts on the current state of marketing in aviation and how airlines and airports could be elevating the passenger experience.

The Passenger Journey: A Canvas for Marketing

Choosing an airline is a decision influenced by several factors. Beyond the practicalities of ticket price & convenience, the length of the flight plays a pivotal role in determining one's preference. For long-haul journeys, I personally also consider how the cabin crew will treat me, the amount of personal space available on the aircraft, and the quality and inclusivity of in-flight services, especially food and beverage options. I want to feel valued as a person, not just a seat number. Airlines must prioritize respect and customer service across all classes, cultivating a sense of belonging in passengers. Treat people like individuals, and they'll reciprocate by treating your business with the same regard. 

The National Touch: Differentiating Airlines

In recent months, I've flown with several national carriers such as Finnair, Iceland Air, Swiss, and British Airways. What sets these airlines apart is their unique national touches that create lasting impressions. Finnair, for instance, proudly offers its famous blueberry juice, giving passengers a taste of Finland's essence. Iceland Air embraces the "spirit of Iceland" by offering a selection of Icelandic ‘viking’ treats, aligning their branding with sustainability. Swiss Air is renowned for the small but meaningful gesture of gifting Swiss chocolate at the end of each flight. These experiences exemplify the power of tapping into a nation's identity to enrich the passenger experience.

Airport Shopping Experience: Embracing Local Authenticity

As a traveler who values light packing, I often find the airport shopping experience lacking. Many European airports follow a generic 'IKEA' approach, offering identical branded goods. My desire, if I do shop, is to discover authentic, locally sourced products that capture the essence of the destination, not global brands. For example, when in Spain, passengers don't want to buy Swiss chocolate that they can find cheaper at home; they want products that encapsulate the essence of the destination. I believe the price becomes a secondary concern when the experience is exclusive and truly represents the place. Therefore, airports should curate their retail spaces to showcase the diversity and authenticity of their region's offerings, providing travellers with a reason to remember their location and experience not just a copy of another countries airport they’ve visited before. 

Aviation Retail Reimagined: Going Beyond Conventional Duty-Free

The evolution of aviation retail is not limited to the ground. In-flight duty-free services should also embrace a transformation. Iceland Air, for instance, beautifully embodies this evolution. On a recent flight, they captivated passengers by elegantly advertising their in-flight products through the In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system.

Their selection highlighted local Icelandic products, including Icelandic gin, volcanic salt, the Blue Lagoon spa experience, and more. This approach goes beyond the conventional duty-free offerings of alcohol and cigarettes, providing a marketing journey that genuinely connects travelers with the essence of the destination.

Marketing should reach passengers across their entire journey

When we delve into the realm of marketing in aviation, there are several missed opportunities and gaps that have the potential to be game changers. These gaps can be primarily filled with digitalization solutions and need to be coupled with a sound marketing strategy and various campaigns. 

Harnessing Data for Real-time Personalization

Airlines have access to a treasure trove of data about their passengers, including travel history, preferences, purchase behavior, and even birthdays. However, the full potential of this data often goes untapped. Advanced data analytics and AI-driven solutions can help airlines leverage this information to create highly personalized experiences.

Imagine an airline recognizing that Mr. Smith has flown with them multiple times and always enjoys a glass of red wine on his return flight. Gifting him that bottle on his birthday can transform an ordinary flight into a memorable one and ensure he returns to the airline over and over again.

Going beyond historical data, real-time personalization is the future of passenger experience marketing. AI algorithms can analyze passenger behavior and preferences on the spot, enabling airlines to cater to their needs in real-time. For example, if a passenger frequently orders vegetarian meals, an AI system can ensure that the digital in-flight menu offers them relevant options.

This level of real-time personalization not only enhances the passenger's experience but also boosts ancillary revenue as passengers are more likely to make additional purchases when they feel their needs are understood and catered to. The combination of harnessing data for personalization can lead to stronger customer loyalty and satisfaction while driving revenue growth for airlines.

Power of Social Commerce

Social commerce is another marketing opportunity the aviation industry needs to embody. By integrating social commerce into the passenger journey, airlines and airports can tap into the immense potential of user-generated content (UGC) and social media marketing. Imagine a scenario where passengers share their experiences, reviews, and product recommendations on a connected platform. This can help travelers make more informed decisions about their in-flight or duty-free purchases. If airlines and airports can collaborate to share passenger data securely and ethically, they can offer highly targeted promotions and offers to passengers as they move through the airport or board the flight. For instance, a passenger could receive a personalized offer on her mobile for a coffee at a specific cafe if their flight is delayed, creating a win-win situation for both passengers and businesses.

In conclusion, these gaps in passenger experience marketing within the aviation industry represent untapped opportunities for airlines and airports to enhance customer satisfaction, increase revenue, and differentiate themselves from competitors. 
Leveraging data, adopting AI-driven solutions, and harnessing the power of social commerce can revolutionize the way passengers perceive and engage with the aviation industry. As the travel landscape continues to evolve, staying ahead of these trends and innovations will be critical for industry success.

What do you cherish about the destinations you've visited, and how can airports & and airlines enhance the passenger experience for you?