Stuck Mid-Air: Aviation Industry’s Missed Marketing Strategy
Today, in a matter of mere hours, you can be transported to new worlds, from Hong Kong’s endless burning skyline to the breathtaking remains of Athens, from Canada’s snowed Rocky Mountains to the black sand beaches of Hawaii. The world is no longer such a big place, thanks to the aviation industry.
It gives us wings. It gives us freedom. It takes us above the clouds and shows us views unimaginable. Yet still, it lags behind by slim profit margins and grunting customers.
In 2014, the global airline industry reported $746 billion (USD) in revenue, compared to $369 billion (USD) in 2004, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). But while the industry seems to have doubled in the past decade, profit margins have been subtle, sitting at less than three per cent overall. So why are the big companies actually in the business of transportation struggling, when it seems that everyone else in the commercial sector, from jet engine makers and airplane manufacturers to travel agents seem to be turning a good profit?
The answer is missed marketing.
The general wisdom is consumers only care about price. Not only is that incorrect but in J.D. Power’s 2015 North American Airline Satisfaction Study, they actually found that air travellers who do shop on price alone are less satisfied than those customers that consider an airline’s reputation and service. So here’s what the aviation industry needs to consider: They must focus on reducing cost and revenue growth through customer interactions. They need, as travel data site skift.com puts it, “a lesson on how to become better retailers.”
Imagine the profits if airlines could learn to better market and sell their extras – extra baggage, extra legroom, WiFi, in-seat power, streaming TV, and other endless opportunities to create “personalized travel.” The small things make a big difference. Consider this: McDonald’s doubled its profits globally when it taught staff to add a simple sentence to their customer service, “Would you like fries with that?”
Now before you can market your product and small add-ons, you need to know who you’re selling to. The problem the aviation industry seems to make is selling it to one person: the flier. Rather, the industry must consider the journey of the trip (business or leisure), the length of the trip, the country/culture of the origin of the traveler (baggage allowance, meal options), etc. If they can segment the market appropriately and target head on, the opportunities for growth are endless.
Now that we know who to target head on, we must target. Is it men, who still do 80 per cent of business travel or women in matriarchal societies? Is it the leisure air travel market? If it’s a flight to Orlando, don’t underestimate the power of targeting children. And remember, everyone is a target.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons to take from this is that decisions cannot be made in isolation. Instead, all decisions must be linked, with the capacity to make substitutions between them in order to optimize the overall result for the firm.
The relationship between the aviation industry and the marketing industry is perhaps one of the most underestimated and understated. It isn’t just about getting from Point A to Point B but the journey and the experience. It’s about time people understood the art of aeronautics.