The travel industry traditionally works on a seasonal basis. Bookings peak at the start of the year when customers are planning a summer break. However, the autonomy afforded by the Internet has created a more disparate booking pattern, with flights, hotels and car hire often bought at different times in the run-up to a trip. Research from Google shows that while travellers often book flights well in advance, they commonly leave other aspects until nearer the time.
Notably for airport marketers, flights still retain a pronounced peak season. In 2017 this lasted for just one week at the start of January before dropping steeply. When it comes to search behaviour, there’s a mid-year spike for hotel and car hire booking, but no corresponding increase in searches for flights.
This peak activity generally makes for an increase in conversions. For example, North American travel company Priceline Group, parent to names including Booking.com, KAYAK and rentalcars.com and therefore covering all aspects of travel booking, saw significant increases in revenue in both the first and third quarters of 2016 and 2017.
It is, of course, key to any airport marketing strategy to make the most of the peak booking period. But for airports wanting to drive engagement and build customer loyalty, there is plenty to do in the off-season months too.
When your airport is focused on marketing to drive direct bookings for that crucial peak selling season it can be easy to lose momentum once the seasonal campaigns have run their course.
However, while seasonal ‘downtime’ may seem like a low point, it can actually become a valuable asset.
Let’s look at five marketing strategies to keep existing customers engaged, and to grow your airport business out of season…
It might be tempting to slow down content creation once sales drop, but this is actually one of the most critical times to share exciting, memorable and useful content.
This is important when it comes to keeping your audience engaged. And for those who do book holidays outside of the January peak, it helps to keep your airport brand front and centre of their awareness.
It is also important to keep customers and prospects informed about exciting developments such as new concessions within the terminal, new partnerships, and new routes and destinations. This indicates that your airport is moving forward and embracing customer needs and expectations, and that adds to credibility and builds a ‘buzz’ around your brand.
For example, your marketing in early winter could focus on special last minute Christmas market deals as well as new summer destinations. In the run-up to the summer getaway, you could share life hacks about travelling with young children, or dynamic content such as city guides and ideas for experiences, personalised to feature the destination booked by each customer.
This content can be useful as a social push. Offering information about sunny, relaxing holidays can create a positive vibe at a time when people long for better weather.
And resource-wise, campaigns like this can be easily automated as part of a customer engagement workflow using a system like Rezcomm’s integrated airport ecommerce platform. You can simply update them each year to promote new flights and destinations.
In your busiest booking months, when you’re in the middle of running campaigns to convert existing prospects and reengage customers, it can be almost impossible to think about acquiring new customers. The off-season gives you time to target new contacts and attract new audiences.
Using the automated email marketing tools in Rezcomm’s platform you can then develop a streamlined, engaging ‘nurture workflow’ to develop relationships with new contacts before your next busy season. This is your chance to build brand awareness, to let people know what it is that you do well, and to listen to feedback so you can improve the customer experience.
It may seem logical to reduce the focus on email and social media campaigns and to cut advertising budgets once the peak booking season is over, but this is likely to have a knock-on effect, limiting your success during the next busy period. Keep your campaigns running at full capacity, tailoring your messaging to address seasonal needs and concerns.
You can share content throughout the autumn and winter to help your customers plan their summer getaway. This could be information about attractions and experiences, updates about your airport’s facilities and customer service efforts, or a countdown to flight day with helpful practical information about security or even a chance to upgrade boarding, parking or lounge access.
Paid search is fundamental and should never completely stop. While you wouldn’t spend the same during quiet times as you would during peak season, people continue to search for flights at a relatively high level throughout the year. Paid search will help you to maintain the share you have already worked to create.
Instead of resigning yourself to the traditional peak booking period, create offers that will entice your customers even during the off-season. Consider promoting special discounts on winter sun getaways, or two-for-one romantic city breaks, which can, but don’t have to be exclusively timed around Valentine’s day.
Encourage passengers to see the airport as a destination too. Perhaps you could build excitement about onsite brands, whether these are big names or local specialities, or consider offering luxury touches such as a free glass of sparkling wine with every lounge booking.
Every marketing department will have some jobs that there just isn’t time to do during the peak season. The slower selling months are the perfect time to tackle those things. You might want to revamp your website, clean up your database, research new airport partners or carry out split testing on a certain aspect of your newsletter.
According to the Forbes Finance Council, “While you don’t necessarily need to advertise your behind-the-scenes efforts, it’s a good idea to start thinking about the inventory, capital and labor force you’ll need to get you through your busiest time of the year.”
So instead of relaxing during slow months, use the time to optimise your marketing strategy, get to know your customers and boost audience engagement. This will leave your airport better placed for a profitable peak season both in terms of bookings, and when it comes to providing an excellent customer experience at the airport.
Rezcomm is the technology partner of choice for airports worldwide. Contact us for a chat to find out how our in-depth industry knowledge and world-first integrated airport ecommerce platform will give you the tools to build a strong marketing strategy year-round, leading to greater sales, revenue and customer engagement.