23 July 2013 - 8:00am | posted by | 0 comments

Switch mobile to flight mode: Air New Zealand's online channel manager Chris Allison shares insights into the airline’s strategy

As Air New Zealand invests NZ$5m in mobile, the brand is realising the importance of a mobile-optimised experience for its customers. Online channel manager Chris Allison shares more insights into the airline’s strategy.

Chris Allison states RTB, data and mobile are the ones to watchChris Allison states RTB, data and mobile are the ones to watch

Real-time bidding (RTB), big data and mobile are the three most prominent trends for marketers to get their heads round over the next twelve months, according to Air New Zealand online channel manager Chris Allison.

Speaking at The Drum Live, Allison announced that Air New Zealand was closely monitoring all three trends, revealing that the airline had set aside NZ$5m to invest in mobile alone this financial year. In fact, the next six months mark a crucial turning point in Air New Zealand’s mobile strategy as the airline currently is “unfortunately one of the 45 per cent of businesses that do not have a mobile optimised experience”.

Of the “significant chunk” of Air New Zealand’s budget allocated to mobile this financial year Allison explained that it was “an indication of how seriously the business is taking mobile and serious recognition of the fact that if we chose not to be in this space we’ll lose customers to our competitors. We’re at a stage now where competitors take any advantage they can; it’s critical we evolve.”

Like most businesses Air New Zealand is eyeing the creation of a single customer view across its “five or six significant data sets”. Harking back to the 1960s with almost two decades of history before that as TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited), Allison identified “legacy” as one of the biggest stumbling blocks the airline faces in creating this single customer view.

“Big data is a key point in the industry at the moment and that’s something we’re really trying to get right on top of so we can properly understand our customers. Through our loyalty programme we have that single customer view of around a third, or just about half of our customers. But then there’s that larger area of our customers we don’t have a single view of.

“It is a really big exercise for us to try and raise the legacy of systems we have in the business and I’m sure many established businesses are the same. We have a lot of systems that don’t talk to one another and a lot of black boxes, and then you also have where customers are interacting – for example social – to take into account. We also need to look at encompassing that to gain a single view of the customer.”

Air New Zealand favours in-house customer data management and is currently in the process of gathering its external customer data and bringing that into a central pool. Though Allison says he would not recommend this for all businesses he explained that Air New Zealand’s reasoning behind in-house management was twofold as “it’s easier to manage” and it also “provides a sense of security around the data”.

On top of mobile and data, Air New Zealand cited Sky’s Ad Smart as an evolving area the brand will be “keeping a close eye on over the next 12 months”. With Ad Smart enabling RTB to move from online to TV, Allison confirmed that though it was “too early at this stage” for the airline to make the move it was “excited about the potential opportunities evolving RTB from online into the TV world and fusing them together would bring”.

“For a brand like us, products like Ad Smart will open up that traditional TV space that isn’t particularly accessible to us in this market because of the budget it would take up in order to introduce us to that space…the real opportunity comes in the potential targeting you would get in that mass market space and we could justify entering into TV advertising if it was in a much more targeted way. The barriers of getting into TV are about to become lower, and that’s one thing we’re very excited about and even though RTB for TV is a very new space we would like to do something like that in the future.”

The glue holding these three key trends together, according to Allison, is the brand’s desire for personalisation. “The drive towards personalisation really marries with our brand ethos to place customers at the core of our business,” he said.

In summation Allison moved on to discuss the airline’s popular in-flight safety videos which have gained prominence for the brand over the last few years, describing the content as the “hook to get engagement from the customer”.

“The benefit to rich, engaging content is to unlock the various parts of the purchase funnel, all the tracking and tagging and reporting we get as a result of the content is just as powerful to us in terms of leveraging that engagement.”

Chris was interviewed by Jessica Davies at The Drum Live. The Drum Live issue, published on 19 July, is available for purchase at The Drum store.

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