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Alaska Airlines Uses Oracle To Optimize Email Campaigns

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Alaska Airlines Uses Oracle To Optimize Email Campaigns
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Oracle is increasingly active in the Loyalty Marketing industry and has reported success in providing technology support for some of the largest frequent flyer programs in the US.

I recently ran across an Oracle blog that recounted how Alaska Airlines upped its email game, adding a greater degree of personalization by replacing a legacy mainframe loyalty system with Siebel Loyalty and Siebel Marketing. Going beyond the sales driven copy in the post, I was interested to hear Steve Jarvis, Vice President Market Sales & Customer Experience – Alaska Airlines speak about the airline’s commitment to provide “proactive customer service” and “superior customer service and innovations” to the over 22 Million passengers they fly annually.

Apparently, Alaska could only reach the 2 Million flyers enrolled in its frequent flyer program and was suffering from the same problem encountered by many retailers – how to identify the customer and create customer engagement. The Siebel installation apparently changed all that as Steve Jarvis relates in this video.

Alaska’s new-found ability to reach its customer base with targeted emails and promotions made me think – which pattern will they follow? Will it be a judicious email policy adopted by the legacy airlines or the firehose approach adopted by the newer “discount” airlines, in particular Spirit?

Hanifin Loyalty recently completed a survey of the use of email as a communications vehicle across the loyalty programs of 22 companies in the Airline, Retail, and Hospitality industries. Full results of the survey will be published in the very near future.

As a preview of the findings, the airlines had the highest rate of email issuance at 5.4 per month. 35% of the emails were related to program membership (meaning statements and newsletters) while 56% were purely promotional and 6.75% were pitching cobrand credit cards.

Sadly, less than 1% of all emails had evidence of a behavioral trigger (i.e. the customer did something that triggered a promotion or offer) and surveys were rare indeed.

The biggest contrast stood out between legacy and discount air carriers with legacy (American, Delta, US Airways) issuing 3.5 emails per month & discount carriers 7.3 per month. Spirit stood out among all airlines surveyed with a whopping 14.8 emails per month.

The results of our email survey pointed out the importance of cadence and relevancy in managing email campaigns. Spirit certainly displays a consistent cadence with an email almost every other day. Trouble is, how many “Red Light Specials” can the recipient endure before she reaches for the delete button every time Spirit shows in the Send field?

For loyalty program sponsors, in this case airlines, two huge areas of opportunity exist.

  1. Use the data they possess to send fewer emails with higher relevancy. This is the antidote for customer attrition.
  2. Make it bleeding obvious (as my UK friends would say) that something the customer did triggered the email.

I want to know that because I visited the Delta Crown Room in LaGuardia that I later received a discounted offer for annual membership. Better yet, I’d like to see that my survey response indicating St. Croix as a favorite destination with American Airlines resulted in a packaged offer of hotel and discounted airfare.

It seems Alaska Airlines has successfully migrated to a great platform from which it can deliver more targeted, relevant offers on their website and via email. The airline also stated that it plans to use the new platform to proactively address customer service issues.

I’m going to track their progress and see how they execute. Nothing more I’d like to see than Alaska to pick off some of that low hanging email fruit.

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