More Strategic Than Ever Before

Oct 16, 2020

“Designing a winning strategy is the art of asking questions, experimenting and then constantly renewing the thinking process by questioning the answers. No matter how good today’s strategy is, you must always keep reinventing it.”
Constantinos Markides 

Not to single out the air travel industry in terms of “these are unprecedented critical times” because that is currently and circumstantially true of many industries. But the air travel industry serves as an excellent example of one that must be more strategic than ever before to survive the current circumstances.  Survive, not in the hysterical sense, but really and truly, the literal survival of some airlines is at stake.

For example, American Airlines, the world’s largest airline when 2020 began, remains airborne and has by and large maintained its staff with the support of emergency federal aid. Without the aid, which may run its course this month, American Airlines must become more strategic than ever before to stay in business and survive through the current circumstances. The strategy is not without its fallout, but nonetheless is a critical step towards business survival entailing workforce furloughs, and the shuttering  of service to many cities. Unfortunately, American Airlines is not the only airline in this predicament.

Being “more strategic than ever” doesn’t always equate to a business making drastic reductions and cuts, but typically includes risk/reward paradigm forecasting. And that process is often research-led, and insights driven, mitigating missteps when survival and rebound lays in the balance of decisions.

Continuing with the air travel industry example, it is crucially important for airline executives to explore and gauge air travelers’ perceptions, attitudes, and intentions. The learning that comes from researching this provides valuable inputs to guide strategy development for everything relative to the air traveler experience, such as the reservation process, check-in procedures, seating and onboard accommodations and amenities, and reward programs. And, beyond the offerings and experiences, strategies for messaging and marketing effectively are guided, shaped, and refined with the learnings from research.

For instance, let’s take the issue of wearing masks, a highly charged topic for some. Yet with the emergence of new policies, the implementation, and even enforcement, require careful strategies. Airline customers are adapting and adopting for the most part, and some… not so much.

For the airlines or for any business, an important consideration is that the customers they had yesterday, and the customers they have today, will be the customers they need tomorrow. So whatever these businesses do now affecting their relationship with their existing customers must be well thought out and strategically managed.

A demonstration of this is how many airlines are showing kindly understanding by waiving change fees to ease travel booking fears.

Loyalty programs are also becoming the center of strategy for many businesses, the Airlines and others, who realize that holding the hill on their current base of customers is paramount, and steadily attracting new customers is crucial for both backfilling against attrition, and for realizing growth.

So, being more strategic than ever before may mean instituting or rethinking a customer loyalty program. And the merits of this are realized when you consider that it costs five times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain current customers. And, existing customers are 50% more likely to try your new products, as well as spend 31% more than new customers, as reported in a HubSpot post on the topic.

Among effective customer loyalty programs, notables include: Sephora Beauty INSIDER, Virgin Atlanta Flying Club, Amazon Prime, TOMS Passport Rewards, Hyatt Loyalty Program, Swarm Perks, REI Co-op, Starbucks Rewards, PetSmart Treats, United Milage Plus, Sweet Green Sweet Rewards, and Corepower Yoga Black Tag Program.

These companies are being more strategic that ever before. Developing effective loyalty programs like these starts with understanding who the target customer is, and what is important to them, what will be compelling to them, and how to best communicate advantages. The investment in informative research guides development focus, and assists developers to prioritize against opportunities for greatest impact.   

~ Marketing Workshop