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Omni-Channel Marketing

Omni-Channel Marketing
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♪ [music] ♪ - [Cathal] You’re all very welcome. So I’m joined today by Derek Liddy. He’s the head of digital marketing at Aer Lingus, which is Ireland’s favorite airline. And today, we’re going to be talking about e-commerce growth, with fueling e-commerce growth, jet fueling e-commerce growth, I like to say, but I couldn’t get it into the headline. So, Derek, you’re very welcome. Thanks for joining us. - [Derek] Thanks, Cal. Thanks for asking me in, to let us be here. - Okay. So airlines, super exciting. Airlines are, like, the most digital of many verticals. You know, you can’t buy a plane ticket unless you go online. So it’s a fascinating zone.
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You must have a really deep digital understanding of channels, and engagement, and all of that stuff. So, if I were to think, what would be the top challenge you might use to engage an audience and indeed sell online? - Yeah. So yeah, you’re absolutely right. Eighty percent of our business comes via online channels, more so on this side of the Atlantic, probably in the states, interesting enough, there is a higher percentage that’s still through the travel trade. So it’s a little bit different over there. But overall, 80%. So yeah, I think all the main channels that you would imagine bookings would come through, we utilize them all. There’s no channel that we don’t use.
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I suppose the big ones that do the heavy lifting for us would be on the paid search site, very good for brand awareness at the kind of upper-funnel side, but also it’s a great direct response driver of cost-effective bookings for us. We have a lot coming in through the organic channel, important again for the upper funnel side. People are not sure what they want, they come across Aer Lingus… - Kind of discovering it, yeah. - Exactly. And then, there’s that lower funnel, they’ve made their decision. They’re looking for either us, or they’re looking for a certain kind of destination. We do pick up bookings through the Philip marketing site. Tends to be outside of Ireland.
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It’s not a very developed kind of channel in Ireland. We’re probably a little bit small for it. So the volume isn’t really good there, but we get very good ROIs, very acceptable kind of cost per acquisitions there. And then we have kind of the display and the social that kind of has a hybrid function both in terms of… For travel, it’s very important that inspiration side. We have very big sales. We want to get the news out that there’s something big and to raise awareness. But then, we also have the more tailored remarketing focus lower-funnel activity that display and social can be really kind of good for as well.
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And then, probably one area that’s unique maybe to the travel industry is the whole online travel agents and the meta-search partners. - Meta-search. Actually, let me, I’m going to just pause you for a moment there. - So meta-search is something that is very specific to online. So, actually, if you can tell our viewers a little bit more about what meta-search is that’d be great. - Yeah. Sure. And it’s one actually, suppose, one I joined myself. I was trying to understand what is the difference between OTAs or online travel agency and the meta. So the metas tend to be what we would call price comparison sites. They’re like the money supermarket type thing but for flights and for travel-related things.
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So what they’re doing is they are listing a large number of airlines, and then when somebody clicks on the flight that they’re interested in, they can sometimes fill in a certain part of the information, but at an early stage of the booking, they are then sent to the airline for the rest of the booking. Online travel agents will take all the information, and then actually pass the finished booking over to the airline. So it’s a little bit of a difference. - And good things like Google flight search would that be meta? - Yes. That would fit into the meta-search.
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So that’s a kind of a fledgling meta really, certainly from our perspective, but one that we see growing in a big way just because of who’s obviously behind it. - Exactly. And it’s like you’re looking for something, you’re full of search intent, and then you have the option to look at, I suppose, a number of different airlines within that same environment, whatever, jump into a website or whatever. So, I mean, I’ve always found, for my own comparisons, Google flight search quite useful just to kind of compare and then… But actually, I would more than likely go to the airline itself afterwards rather than going directly through… - Well, that’s an interesting one.
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It’s one where we’re really kind of watching that space very carefully. Ideally, we want people coming direct to the website. We don’t want to train them to book through other entities. And a lot of these metas have big focus on, they hold UX, and certainly Google really kind of protect the customer experience. So they’re doing a really good job there. So we’re good for the customer. It’s making sure everybody is upping their game, and we just need to make sure that the customer experience in Aer Lingus is as good. I think the one thing that maybe Google flight search has that the other metas wouldn’t have is that homepage location.
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So what we’re finding now is that Google flight search now is just pushing everything down the page especially in the mobile environment. So where we used to get organic listings for Aer Lingus, if somebody is searching on a brand, appearing above the fold, that’s no longer happening. They’re seeing Google flight search before, and they have to scroll down to see the airline. So that’s going to be interesting to see how that develops. - A lot of investment, a lot of different innovations. It’s fascinating. But actually, that’s like a million channels you’re operating, if it’s like PBC, SEO, affiliates, email, social, display, and variations around metas, and different things like that. I’ve just listed a bunch of them off there.
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Are there any channels I’ve left out? - Well, probably, and I think you mentioned one that I left out which is email which is a really important channel for us. Certainly from a prospecting point of view, even though our email database is primarily made up of people who actually booked with us before, but we would have kind of a weekly newsletter that goes out, really important way for us to kind of connect, and we see direct spikes in bookings related to when that email goes. But probably more importantly for an airline is we use all our first-party data to cause trigger emails. So trigger emails are emails that happen at the right stage of a life cycle.
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And we know after somebody has made a booking, the different times we should be engaging with. We could be on a confirmation email. It could be a preflight email. It could be a check-in email. And what we’re doing is we are communicating the right things to the right customer at the right time. So if we know if it’s a business, we know it’s leisure. If we know it’s a couple, family away, we’re kind of giving them different types of email, talking to them differently with different types of products. - So it’s kind of workflows in terms of you’re mapping the journey essentially and then just like email, they’ve given you their details.
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You have a bit of history on them, and then send them out the right thing at the right time. - Absolutely. And so we’re doing with email what we would like to do with every single channel, but we can do it because we have that first-party data. So really, there’s no reason in time digital marketing shouldn’t be doing or aspiring to do that exact same thing with prospects and people that they don’t know, but using in a GDPR-friendly way. All of the signals that they can get to maximize the chance that we’re intersecting at the right time with the right product, and being as relevant as possible.
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And, you know, if we do that as an industry, I think we’re doing ourselves a favor, and we’re kind of counteracting that whole ad blocking and negative pushback on advertising. It’s kind of up to us to kind of make life easier for ourselves really. - And it’s all done through digital which is like… It’s really fascinating which brings me onto my next topic of traditional. So you guys also, as an airline, do a lot of TV and radio, print, outdoor. When you’re doing traditional channels, do you see any kind of knock-on effect to digital any spikes, or clusters, or anything? - Yeah. Absolutely.
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So the marketing textbook would talk about the effects of an integrated campaign always being better than a kind of a single digital only. So for a given amount, a pot of money, if we put it all into digital or if we actually took some of that money away and put it into above the line, it’s actually that integrated campaign that has multiple touchpoints, off-line and online, that will always perform better. And I think that’s just something to do with human nature that if they’re actually seeing us in multiple parts of their life and their journey to and from work and over the weekend the more places they see us, that message syncs in better.
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I think that’s just kind of the basis of marketing, but we certainly see that, we know it happening and we see spikes, search, for example, we see spikes in search around the times that our TV ads are played. We go to find out, we have partnerships with the likes of Tourism Ireland, and we can see where we know that they’re advertising overseas, we make sure that we’re advertising around that same time in a similar dovetail fashion, and we get the uplift from the other kind of activity off-line coming onto online. - Yeah. I always find that it’s the glory of things like paid search coming in and tapping the ball into the net after traditional does all the heavy lifting.
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But actually, those customer spikes and that awareness impact activity of traditional marketing is amazing. The other engagement areas that we’re always interested in is things like social media. So when you’re doing, like, say your social and display stuff are you using different kind of triggers to inform your creative choices, to inform your media buying? Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that world. - Yeah. No, social is becoming more and more important for us, and I’d say particularly calling out video within social is a huge growth area for us. We’re seeing huge engagement through video. So I’d say that kind of exponentially increasing.
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I think we’re using social in the same way that I kind of mentioned from this upper funnel point of view, kind of stats would say that over 40% of shared stories on social would be around travel, and 60% of people say they only hear about their friends holidays from what they kind of see in social. So it’s hugely… - It’s a perfect marriage. Yeah. - Yeah. So certainly from an inspirational point of view, plays a huge role. We’re seeing a lot of engagement through the likes of instant experiences in Facebook which is the new term for the canvas format. So we kind of use that for our big sales to drive. It’s almost like your homepage takeover.
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And then we’re using Facebook dynamic travel ads then as kind of a lower funnel and picking up a lot of actually bookings, direct bookings from people who have kind of engaged with the kind of the more immersive kind of formats. And those travel ads, products, allows us to kind of pull in data that we know, so we know somebody is in market. We know they want to go. We can kind of pull in feeds from our site. So it’s a very tailored specific ad. - So again, it’s integrating your data from your site, all of your intelligence into one zone just to give someone less an ad but more an experience is that, that’s the ultimate goal really.
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That’s it in a nutshell. And, you know, that’s what we’re trying to do across every channel. And it involves extra work, but the dividends in personalization is absolutely huge, and we’re trying to move towards personalization of everything. The fewer standard batch splash… - One-size-fits-all ads, yeah. - One-size-fits-all ad the better. Better for everyone. Better for us. Better for the customer. - So a lot of this couldn’t be achieved unless you had all these integrated systems digitally. It would be just impossible with direct mail or something like that not to go down that road, but, I mean, I think it’s really capitalizing on the opportunity that digital brings and gives you to drive things forward. It’s really most fascinating.
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One hundred percent. - We’ve talked, again, about effective channels, loads of different channels, integrating channels. Let’s talk about new channels. Are there any new channels you’re planning on testing this year, for example? - Yes. Well, in Aer Lingus, we’re always looking to kind of innovate, and we’re always looking to test any new channels. We test in a kind of considered minor way. Let’s see how it works, and if it doesn’t work, we back off or we kind of keep our investment kind of low. So a recent one we would’ve used would’ve been, we would’ve invested in digital audio [crosstalk] which is quite an exciting new format.
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It’s relatively new, but basically, that allows you to programmatically target customers listening to audio online in the same way you would’ve done with display, for example. So the benefits of that is instead of having a radio ad that would be kind of broadcast right across Ireland to all different types of audiences, while it does take a little bit of extra time in the recording of ads, we can have, if our product is 25% of Europe, we can have five different versions of that each targeting the different types of target audiences we’re at. - So different personas. Yeah. Okay. - Absolutely. Yeah.
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Use different languages, you know, talking about possibly the cities maybe for couples, talking about families, but also we can actually start talking about different airports. So we can kind of talk about what we have specifically out of Cork, and that only somebody in that region kind of hears. So it’s a very efficient kind of way. The only extra work is in just creating different versions of those ads in the beginning, but economies are scale, are there. So it’s early stages, but I think that’s going to be a real big growth area. I think there’s a lot of other platforms out there that we’re starting to look at again.
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So we’re looking at maybe, you know, we haven’t fully walked away from Twitter, but we’ve probably invested a lot more in Facebook as we’ve seen the return there being a lot better. So we’re going back to kind of the likes of LinkedIn, and Twitter, and also Pinterest to kind of see, you know, as they develop their offerings, and we’re going back in to see is it worthwhile testing it again to see is there kind of shifts there. - Those channels certainly emerged with an offering many years ago that wasn’t as developed as what big investments, obviously in Facebook, and Google, and stuff like that.
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They really have good offerings, so it is interesting that it’s not only new channels you’re going, but actually, look at some of the older stuff that may have been less effective in the past, and give it a whirl again. And finally, I want to talk about attribution actually because we have, again, talked about so many different channels, and we are in an omnichannel world, in a consumer 360 world, and all that stuff. Measuring the effectiveness of the likes of a Twitter or other channels in the journey because, as you said, with email, you’re able to broadcast it out at different stages.
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How do you deal with attribution in terms of understanding the contribution of all of those different channels that can influence a sale? - Yeah. It’s a huge challenge. It’s one we are kind of grappling with, and having a certain degree of success with, I think we can do a lot better. So like in Aer Lingus we would recognize that certainly, you know, for the likes of people traveling from the states to Europe, or the other way around, there’s a lot of high ticket value purchases, holidays that require a lot of research, and there’s a lot of early touchpoints in that research journey.
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And it’s really important for us to know, you know, the value of those because they don’t give a sale from a last click. - They don’t give ROI [crosstalk]. - Exactly. So it’s really important to understand just the value of those. So we’re all about using data as much as we can. We’re currently working with a kind of a U-shaped model where we would give waging to early-stage touchpoints and the last-stage touchpoints, and that’s kind of how we’re investing at the moment. Where we are looking at a more robust attribution model currently. It’s something that we have in plan for later this year because we want to go a lot deeper than that.
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We want to understand how the different devices impact our investments. We want to understand how different formats work for different types of personas. We want to understand things like how cinema is directly affecting the sales that we get in from paid search. And all of those things requires a really kind of granular level of ingesting data, and understanding the full customer journey from start to end, and that’s something that we’re working on this year, and I think we’re going to make big advances in that. - No, it’s really fascinating. And if I can summarize our conversation before we finish up, it’s managing as many different touchpoints for a customer journey.
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So let’s not even think about channels here, it’s actually a customer journey. They go through their journey. They’ll do their search, and they’ll see it on social, whatever, and it’s you inserting the brand, the key points, and then knowing the value of each touchpoint along the way, and then obviously making the right decisions around how to optimize this. - That’s it. Yeah, I think you summarize that really well. And I think there’s another aspect to it because there’s multiple teams in Aer Lingus. So we also have the brand, and we have the sponsorship, and we have the campaigns team. All of those teams are producing content and are involved in online activities.
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So it’s really kind of important that we all, suppose, take a customer view of those touchpoints, and we just all understand how we’re all intersecting with the customers at those so that we’re all pointing the same direction. So that they’re not getting one message from campaign that conflicts with something from the digital marketing team, and they’re seeing something else from sponsorship. So that’s just about coordination and kind of a singular direction understanding of what we all want to achieve. - It’s a lot of juggling. So that is, in essence, our first point view of omnichannel e-commerce fueling commercial growth across an airline, across all of the digital channels. And I hope you’ve enjoyed this one.

Which Channel is best for your brand? In this video interview, Derek Liddy of Aer Lingus stresses that you need to take an omni-channel approach. And that means deploying digital and traditional marketing strategies.

Derek Liddy
Derek is Head of Digital Marketing at Aer Lingus with responsibility for the international online acquisition strategy and sales. Previous roles included Head of Digital Strategy for Digital Agency Continuum, Head of Online for Anglo Irish Bank and communications roles Windmill Lane and Animo Television.

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