American Airlines; How Zero-Party Data + Personalized Email Offers = Increased Revenue
Tim Glomb: Hello there. You caught me checking my Instagram. Today, I'm at American Airlines and I'm meeting Erin Lomers. We're going to talk about an awesome pilot marketing program we did here at Cheetah Digital. We created a great engagement strategy using email as a channel and collecting zero- party data. That's psychographic information to give customers better. personalized offers. Erin Lomers is going to tell us the challenge she put to the Cheetah Digital strategic services team, how they build a strategic vision and even helped execute. She's even going to tell us how we landed on the results.( silence) So get ready to be inspired about how one of the largest brands on the globe are using zero- party data to personalize communications and drive real revenue. Buckle up. We're getting ready to take off.( silence) Erin, thank you for having me down here at the Skyview campus. This is an amazing campus, by the way.
Erin Lomers: Yeah. Yeah.
Tim Glomb: Brand new right?
Erin Lomers: Brand new.
Tim Glomb: Like probably a multi- billion dollar facility.
Erin Lomers: Something like that.
Tim Glomb: It's super cool. I love the artwork. It's a great place. So thanks for taking the time to talk to me, to talk to our viewers. I want to dig right in. You are here at American Airlines. You are now in the marketing department. However, you came from the promotions department, correct?
Erin Lomers: Yes. Yes. I was in Advantage Promotions.
Tim Glomb: Advantage Promotion. So that's the American Airlines reward system, so to speak. The reward-
Erin Lomers: Loyalty program.
Tim Glomb: Loyalty program. Promotions has to be fun though, because you're coming up with really cool things that people actually want, right?
Erin Lomers: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. It's really neat. It's fun to get to engage with our customers in a little bit different way than just go fly. We're asking them to go fly and we'll give them something special for that.
Tim Glomb: Yeah cool. So you're creating that value change. But now in the marketing department, you can actually activate. So not just come up with the big ideas of, hey, we should give away this or that or et cetera. But now you can put it into practice. You can execute it, see the data, see the results and learn from those, right?
Erin Lomers: Yes exactly. We get to be the execution engine behind the promotion strategy team. So we really are working really tightly in collaboration with that team. But we help them execute on their strategy that they put together.
Tim Glomb: Great. So now you're on two sides of the fence. Well, let's dig in. Because the reason we're here is we want to talk about a pilot program that American Airlines executed with Cheetah Digital. You basically put us to task. And I'm must summarize quickly. You essentially wanted to engage your customers in a new way that was more human. It actually got more psychographic, zero- party data from your customers. So you could create a better journey for them.
Erin Lomers: That's right. That's right.
Tim Glomb: What was the challenge in your eyes? Like why was this something of interest?
Erin Lomers: Yeah, I think the challenge was that we were meeting our customers with something that we thought that they would value. And we felt like we were actually doing a pretty good job with that. But then when we sent that to them, we really needed to continue to engage them throughout the promotion that they were on. So three month promotion, four month promotion. We really wanted to make sure that that journey through that was a continuation of the initial engagement, hey, we've got something for you.
Tim Glomb: Got it. So essentially what you were doing was good, good stuff. You were creating promotions, making an offer and then people would going, you know, a journey, a basic journey. And then maybe they drop off. Maybe they engage but... Okay. So you wanted to go to the next level. So let's talk about what did we do here. First off, you came to our strategic team at Cheetah Digital. We're not just software. We have people with amazing minds, with industry and vertical expertise. And you basically challenged them. What did you-
Erin Lomers: Yeah. Yeah. I came to the team and I said, look, we're a little resource constrained right now. We've had this idea for a long time about personalizing the journey once somebody decides to activate with us and spend time with us on a promotion. How do we personalize their journey from there moving forward? So I came to the team and I said, what can we do? You've got a great new platform, this customer engagement suite and the EDP and everything that you have to offer. And... But we don't have time to execute it. So we need you guys to put together this full journey for us and come up with ways that we can engage the customer in a different way. And so it was all on them. We really, we put it to the strategic services team and they came back and gave us a plan, with some input from us as we went along. But it was great.
Tim Glomb: Well, I'm sure many watching right now have empathy for you. Because look, COVID, disruption. The workforce is all over the place. Things have changed. And especially in the airline industry. I mean, COVID, that was a big blow. So can understand that you were under- resourced just trying to get your teams back together, other initiatives and putting it on us. It's great to hear our strategic services team took this thing from top to tail in full execution.
Erin Lomers: They were fantastic. They were fantastic to work with.
Tim Glomb: That's great to hear. So let's dig into the actual program. What were the channels that you were focused on for this particular execution?
Erin Lomers: Yeah. And so that was another piece. The team came back to us and they had some really good ideas for some different channels we could go and engage with our customers throughout their journey. But it was going to be really challenging in this environment. So we really honed in on email and said, let's focus on email. Let's focus on that space and see what we can build from there. Build some of the beginnings, the pipelines to where we would like to go in the personalization space and we can expand to other channels from there.
Tim Glomb: Makes sense. So again, pilot program. Let's start small. Let's get really focused. Can you tell us, just a high level overview, what was the offer you were making to these people via email to even kickstart the journey?
Erin Lomers: Yeah. So we were engaging our customers in a promotion where we gave them status for a certain timeframe. And during that timeframe if they continued to fly at the expected levels that we thought they could meet, they would earn status for the rest of the year.
Tim Glomb: Oh wow. So an instant upgrade, so to speak into your loyalty program.
Erin Lomers: Yeah.
Tim Glomb: Okay, great. Was there... And you need a value exchange, right? Because you really wanted to get some psychographic data. Look, like most companies, you have tons of third- party data. You have tons of first- party data. But the zero- party data layer that you were trying to get to, the psychographics in their head, was really the catalyst in between and that value exchange. So offering the reward and the status upgrade. What happened next? Did you email everybody an offer?
Erin Lomers: So this was kind of BA. We email everybody an offer. We say, hey, we've got this great opportunity for you. Do you want to engage with this? And they opt- in and say, yes, we'd like to register. And that's where that starts. But then we continued the journey. And this was really the key to this pilot program was, how do we continue that journey? So once they registered, we then made another offer that said, hey, tell us a little bit more about who you are and we'll give you 500 miles. And so really asking them, like you were saying earlier, about that psychographic data. Like who are you? Where do you want to travel? And so that was kind of the next step where we continued that engagement beyond just register for the promotion.
Tim Glomb: Got it. Okay. So initial offer. Cool. If they click, great. But now... Yeah, you've got even another offer, not a surprise and delight, but another opportunity for them to share more. And I understand we had a Cheetah experience behind that. So the questions you were asking I believe... Well tell us, what questions did you ask? What did you want to know from these consumers?
Erin Lomers: Yeah, so we were really trying to get at, where do you want to travel? And so travel is obviously materially changed. And I think that comes as no surprise to anybody through this COVID journey that we've all been on. And so, most of the time when we engage with this group of customers they tend to be more of our business focused travelers. But business travel is down. So they were doing different kinds of travel. So we really wanted to understand kind of where do you want to go that has nothing to do with business? Or are you still traveling for business? Because some of our customers obviously are. So our first question was really about what do you pack when you travel? And it was kind of the fun, like Buzzfeed type of survey, where you click a picture and you tell us what it is. So the first question was, what do you pack? And we had a laptop and we had scuba gear and we had hiking boots. And the customer could select within that, which of those is most appealing to you when you're traveling right now.
Tim Glomb: Got it. So it feels like a little bit of a gamification. And even your emails were compelling. And I believe our team build out some emails with like some animations in it. Clouds passing through a window. And it was very visual. It felt fun to actually take. So you're collecting their destination. You're trying to learn if they're business or leisure and where they want to go. At that point, you have this new data. Where does that get plugged into where the journeys continuing?
Erin Lomers: Yeah. So from there, immediately after they answered the first question, they got a second question about what view do you want to see out your window when you wake up in the morning? And it was a beach or a mountain. And again, really fun engagement. But from that, they immediately got a destination recommendation based on the answers that they gave us. And so that was a big thing for us. That sort of instant gratification. Where do you want to go? What's a place that we go to? And that was kind of fun too. Because we talked to the Cheetah team and said, here's all the destinations that we have. And they did the backend coding and the algorithm behind creating that destination recommender and spitting out that recommendation for the customer. But then it continued. So we had the first destination right away. But then we sent a second destination recommendation. I think it was 30 days later. So 30 days later we sent them a second destination and said, here's another place that you might be interested in. So it was really about getting customers to think about maybe something different than they would have thought of within the same kind of area or realm of possibility based on what they answered. But also getting them to think about some new destinations that they may not have thought about before.
Tim Glomb: Yeah. So take that psychographic information per individual. Not in aggregate, not in lumps. Not, oh, the male said this, the female said that. Take as an individual person. You're collecting their individual opt- in. Their individual identifier, email, et cetera. That's great. And I understand you had some amazing results. Like, 84% success rate when someone started the survey, they actually finished it. And got that instant gratification unique destination based on their answer.
Erin Lomers: Yeah. It was great. We saw that... This is a pretty engaged group of customers. We knew that already. So in terms of email open rates, we were still getting them to open the email, which is great.
Tim Glomb: But you were above 50% open rates on these emails.
Erin Lomers: But above 50%, which is great.
Tim Glomb: Emails a great channel.
Erin Lomers: Yeah, yeah. Which is more than like our average open rate. So that's fantastic. But I think it was the key of, once we get you in there, do you continue your journey through that survey? And 84% completion was big. We got a lot of information from a lot of customers. Important customers to us. Ones that we've identified should be on a promotion. So it was great to get just a little bit more of their own information about who they are.
Tim Glomb: Yeah and I think that's really a great lesson for people out there watching right now. Because everybody says, yeah, I'd love to get that information, but it's hard and this and that. You have to start somewhere. And not only was your promotion successful, 84% survey completion rate. You increased revenue. You saw a lift in revenue, not giant, but you saw a lift in revenue based on your control group. So business- wise, this made sense as a pilot. But also the information you're gathering from these high value customers can be shared across an entire organization. If you have that setup. So obviously there's a pilot, first time we're kind of executing. But I think your eyes were like, okay, this works. This is what we need to do. Is this the future of marketing, so to speak for marketers out there.
Erin Lomers: Yeah. And like you said, it wasn't like we saw this huge material jump in revenue. But that's okay. We felt like we were doing the right thing for our customers. We were asking them, what do you want from us? Like where do you want to go? And I feel like that's where we need to go. As all marketers need to go. We need to be talking to our customers. We need to be learning from them. What do you want to do with us as a company? And then we need to be engaging with them with that information. And providing them experiences that show, hey, we listen to you. When you told us this, we're going to listen and we're going to take that and we're going to feed that back in a way that is meaningful to you with what we can offer.
Tim Glomb: That is a huge change in mentality from, I'm sure many marketers watching right now. They... The brand has an ask. It has a need. It has to drive revenue. So it goes and does what it thinks it needs to get from you the customer base. Your attitude is changing and saying, let's get into a conversation. We joked, if I said, hey, do you love spaghetti? And you said, no. And I said, well, great, come on over for a spaghetti dinner this weekend, you'll be like, what, did you listen? Brands really need to take that. You put it into practice through this pilot. It was great. What's your overall experience with Cheetah, knowing that we do more than just license you some software?
Erin Lomers: Yeah. Yeah. No, I think it's great. We have a great relationship with Cheetah and we've been on the messaging platform for a while. So this was a good opportunity for us to see what else is out there in the customer engagement suite from Cheetah. And so really appreciated that opportunity to get to learn a little bit more about what we might be able to use and how we might take some of that and incorporate it into what we do day to day. And so I think the Cheetah team did an amazing job of just giving us a little bit more information about what those resources were. And helping us figure out where can we go. Like what's next?
Tim Glomb: Yeah. And your team, I know the people working on your team, Roger, Steve, et cetera. They are even great at helping you craft the story and package up these results to take upstairs to get senior executive by it.
Erin Lomers: Yeah. Yeah. It's great. I think that's another big thing, is we talked about earlier, it's we have... We're resource constrained. So building out these really beautiful decks, the team does a great job of helping us get there. And helping us build out things that show our leadership, the work we're doing is making a difference and driving some real change. So.
Tim Glomb: Well, this is great. I appreciate you taking the time. I appreciate you sharing the results of your pilot. I know people watching right now are going, huh, maybe we can do this too. So I empower you to put Cheetah to task. Give us a call like Erin did. Let us come up with something that is going to change your world. Get you more data that you don't have and then share it across your system. Any final thoughts here?
Erin Lomers: Everything you just said. Reach out to Cheetah, put them to task. Yeah. Make them come up with something great for you too. They did something great for us and we appreciated it and I think it's going to give us the opportunity to continue to do more. So put them to task.
Tim Glomb: I know we have some other things in place, so we hope to come back to you soon. We hope to see you in early 2022. Everybody go book a flight, take a destination, get in on an American Airlines jet. You serve over 200 million consumers. So be one of them. Get out there, have some fun. Get into the advantage loyalty program. And we'll come back with Erin in 2022 and we'll talk more about our work together?
Erin Lomers: Sounds good. Let's do it.
Tim Glomb: Great. Thanks again for having us. We'll see you next time.
American Airlines is one of the world's largest airline carriers moving nearly 200 million passengers annually. Email is a huge driver of revenue for the brand and they looked to increase revenue per customer while adding a deeper level of personalization based on individual customer preferences.
The Cheetah Digital Strategic Services Team developed a strategy that utilized the Customer Engagement Suite to reach that goal. First, Cheetah Experiences was deployed to collect the ever important zero-party data, including psychographic information about how, when and where customers would plan to fly. Those insights fed into Cheetah’s Journey Designer which put each customer on a unique email path that included hyper-personalized content and offers matching their needs.
They essentially moved from the typical ‘batch and blast’ email with a one-size-fits-all offer and delivered personalized, real-time offers based on known psychographic data declared directly from the customer. This led to increased opn rates, a lift in engagement scores and ultimately a lift in revenue per member.
In this session we’ll discuss this strategy, the mechanics and the results with Erin Lomers, Senior Manager in the Marketing Comms Planning & Owned Channels at American Airlines. This is a must-attend event for anyone looking to unlock the power of zero-party data and lift revenue using personalization in any marketing channel.