The afternoon sessions of day 1 may have been well received, such as the presentation by Iain Pringle of The Mileage Company (British Airways Miles), but in this post I’m going to focus exclusively on the morning sessions from the first day of the Customer Centric Strategies in Travel conference.

Angela Schwartz of Travelport  got the ball rolling this morning with a heavy emphasis on using adaptive business rules analysis and business analytic services to pull various sources of data into something meaningful that can be used to personalize the customer experience. A lot of the general themes she was giving are similar to what I will be presenting tomorrow, but the biggest difference was where she simplified the importance of the presentation layer with a single arrow on a diagram titled Tailored experiences and offers across multiple touchpoints such as mobile: my main focus will be on the increasing importance of the presentation layer in a world of points of presence proliferation.

Kristen Manion Taylor from Delta gave a good presentation, but it was in the questions following her presentation where the discussion really got interesting, and she gave some great answers. One delegate who had flown Delta from LAX to ATL asked about signups for the Amex Skymiles co-branded credit card and how whilst at the airport and then on the plane there was a more concerted effort to get signups than she had ever seen before. I spoke to the woman asking the question later in the afternoon about her experience and it was impressive to hear one sales professional really praising the flight attendant for getting 20 credit card applications completed on the four hour flight, even standing over people and helping people as they completed the application forms. It turns out flight attendants are paid $50 for each application (I assume sucessful application) and Delta even gets the more sucessful flight attendants to share their secrets with other employees. EasyJet might be finding ancillary revenue harder to come by these days, but Delta appear to be doing something right.

In the past I’ve been critical of companies making research driven claims based upon dubious foundatations, and praised others producing great market research offering real insight, so it was refreshing to see Edward Nevraumont from Expedia presenting as he was backing up most of his claims with real evidence on what has and hasn’t worked with what he claimed is the biggest non spam email program in the world – Expedia has around 15 million email addresses they can market to. I’m the first person to give credit to Expedia and their email marketing credentials, so I was impressed with the iconoclastic attitude of Edward when it came to dismissing CRM at a CRM conference – kind of like my proposed approach to the slavish embracing of everything social if I ever get invited to present at a social media conference!

Edward Nevraumont gave some great data on one control group compared to another group where email marketing was used employing heavy use of CRM, and then comparing both to the profitability of no CRM and just sending special offers. There is no doubt he was a big fan of Groupon (I’m less enamoured with the sustainability of that business model) but discounts and offers clearly work, as even after adjusting for the cost of the offer, that method was 10% more profitable than the control group with no email marketing, and the CRM approach to email marketing only produced a 7% increase in profitablity when compared to the no emails control group. His most memorable quote was about the merits of moving from a transaction model to a subscription model – I suspect this is where the Groupon admiration was coming from. At least it was a break from many earlier speakers overusing the Best Buy analogy and claiming all sorts of various insight into why Best Buy won over Circut City.

One day to to go, and tomorrow I’m most looking forward to hearing from Renato Ramos of Brazilian airline TAM, and Jessica Myers Rodbell from Google.

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