Air Transport World

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Airlines seek to make customers feel special via automation

Once upon a time, other industries consulted airlines about the latest in high-tech marketing. Times change. For a recent information-management seminar, IATA invited Alun Roberts, retail systems director of ICL, to explain how other businesses, including commodity-driven grocery stores, for years have used automation to collect data for targeted marketing to individuals.

The name for the technique only now being developed at Major airlines is customer-focused marketing, or customer relationship management. By the way, we don't use CRM as shorthand; that has been an abbreviation for crew or cockpit resource management for years, but software integrators in other industries didn't have to worry about that when creating it for their marketing.

Carriers are hardly beginners at collecting customer data. They have huge computers filled with data, the major byproduct of frequent-flier programs that the high-fare airlines started in 1981--and copied from grocery store stamp programs--to stop defections to low-fare carriers. …

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