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Airtran Keeps Customers Engaged Thru’ Partner Offers

AirTran Airways (AirTran) is a low-fare airline targeting value-oriented leisure and business travelers. AirTran’s mix of economical fares, excellent customer service, and one of the world’s youngest all-Boeing fleets, has struck a chord with the public. In 2007, 23.8 million revenue passengers flew AirTran, an 18.6% increase over 2006.AT 1

Millions of AirTran passengers participate in its A+ Rewards frequent flyer program, earning free travel and rewards by both flying and using partner products. Previously, when AirTran e-mailed account updates to A+ members, its existing template was text heavy with personalization limited to name and account number. With membership growing rapidly at about 25% per year, AirTran wanted to create a fresher look and more relevant content for these loyal customers.

“The goal of this program was to keep customers engaged through partner offers to earn credits,” explains Andrew Chang, AirTran’s manager of marketing strategy. In addition, “We needed an e-mail solution with the latest technology that would automate a lot of the things we did manually. We were looking for segmentation and a robust reporting system, and wanted a company that could get deeper into the numbers. e-Dialog was that company.”

Test and Learn for a Smooth Departure

Using best practices and AirTran’s marketing goals as guidelines, the e-Dialog creative team designed two new e-mail templates to test against AirTran’s original creative treatment. The templates were versioned by member status (standard and Elite), each using the colors and brand elements of the A+ program.AT 2

Strong calls to action and a more graphical treatment encouraged customers to both explore the partner offers and to interact on AirTran.com. In parallel, e-Dialog’s engineering team worked closely with AirTran’s IT group to sort out the data requirements. The resulting templates and refined database are able to incorporate up to 42 pieces of personalized member information including: A+ credits available, number of trips to date, home airport, and favorite destination.

Over a two-month period, e-Dialog continually tested the two new templates against the original control version using a strict testing model, and made recommendations to improve the overall contact strategy. Andy and his team had a hunch about which version would perform the best. But would they be right?

Non-Stop Success for A+ Rewards E-Mails

Two months of rigorous testing confirmed that it was time to “bump” the old e-mail template. Both e-Dialog templates outperformed the original control version with almost double the click-through rate.

And to Andy’s surprise, “The creative that we all thought would do better did not. This shows the importance of statistically valid testing.” And so far, the positive results seem to be non-stop with click rates up more than 70% and unsubscribes down by as much as 50%.

Testing members’ behavior over time has consistently yielded improved results, showing that with more relevant content, customers are staying engaged. Furthermore, while increased ticket sales were not the primary goal of the project, the incremental revenue has been a welcome bonus for AirTran.

In this fast-paced industry where information needs to be distributed quickly, the timeline for this project was tight. According to Andy, “e-Dialog was impressive in their ability to execute several rounds of creative revisions and deal with the big ordeal of a data sync, which was not an easy feat. They were very patient, responsive, and accommodating.”

Moving forward, AirTran plans to leverage the learnings from this program across its other e-mail campaigns.

Designed by e-Dialog Creative Services, the new AirTran A+ Rewards e-mail template features prominent calls to action, promotes partner offers, and encourages customers to interact on AirTran.com.

The flexible design allows AirTran to leverage as many as 42 pieces of personalized member information, including A+ credits available, number of trips to date, home airport, and favorite destination.AT 3

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