Low pricing isn't a barrier to competition in any marketplace, especially travel.
So, JetBlue Airways has built its entire brand differentiation around what we call (for lack of a better term) "warm-fuzzies." For example:
o Its entire fleet is "environmentally friendly"
o All seats are leather
o Each passenger gets a personal TV screen with 36 live satellite feed channels to choose from
Consumers loved it. In fact, they loved it so much that .6% of JetBlue home page visitors proactively clicked over to an email opt-in form for the company's TrueBlue loyalty program. (That's awfully high considering the opt-in form itself wasn't on the home page.)
Success itself bred a marketing challenge. How could the team make their email programs warm-fuzzy enough to live up to expectations? After all, if you've seen one fare-saver email from any airline in the world, you've pretty much seen them all.
Plopping a JetBlue logo at the top wouldn't be enough to make a difference.CAMPAIGN
Marc Koif, Manager Web Analytics, described three of the tactics and tests the team has used in the past 12 months -- beyond the warm-fuzzie copywriting you'd expect -- to keep their email program thoroughly "Blue".
#1. Mini-booker added to email templates
Koif had been testing various landing page tweaks for search marketing as well as routine site visitors. He discovered a large segment of incoming visitors immediately starting plugging their ticket search info into the reservation engine.
They didn't care about exploring cool destinations, or clicking on tantalizing low fares lists, or any other content whatsoever beyond looking up "Can I fly to X from Z when I want to and how much will it cost me?"
Naturally, Koif's team began to wonder how email campaigns better serve this population of cut-to-the-chase consumers? So, they created a simplified "mini-booker" tool to test adding in email creative. (Link to sample below.)
"All it does is take the information you submit, puts it in a little parser, and then sends it on to our booking engine. Then voila -- on the landing page there's the flight you were looking for!" Koif added a text link next to the booker as well just in case some recipients' email clients "chewed it up."
The team measure conversions past the initial clickthrough, so they can see over a period of weeks how the "look" influences the "book."
This "look to book ratio" and timing calcualtions help determine offerings. For example, if an unexpectedly high number of email recipients use the mini-booker to surf March flights from New York to a particular destination, then JetBlue can add more planes to that route so the seats are available when the lookers return to the site to become bookers.
#2. Non-routine email frequency plus heavy segmentation
"There's certain airlines I get maybe two emails a day from -- 'we have an offer of flowers and this and that.' It's just outrageous," says Koif.
"So, we do not send on a regular time schedule. Don't look for a regular Tuesday JetBlue email because it's not going to happen. The next email you're going to get -- it's hard to say -- probably not within at least two weeks."
Very, very few emails are broadcast to the entire list en masse anyway.
JetBlue generally only sends offers to members based on their home airport. The list can also then be sub-segmented by favorite destination. In addition, when they suspect a particular offer will sell out, the team only sends it to a slice of the list. That way, fewer consumers will be disappointed if they try to respond but there are no seats left. "We might just randomly segment out 30,000 TrueBlue members in New York and send a good deal to Las Vegas to them."
#3. Mini-TrueBlue sign-up tested on home page
When we told him how we liked JetBlue's site with unusually large typeface and super-simple navigation, Koif laughed, "That's really good to hear because looking at it every day, I'm sick of it."
Turns out, the team has been testing newer versions of the home page design with plans to implement winners later this spring. One key test -- adding a mini-TrueBlue sign-up form on the home page so people who want to opt-in don't have to click around looking for that form. (Link to samples below.)
"The mini-booker generates at least 50% of the total clicks and purchases from emails," says Koif. "The first time we did it, we were just like 'Holy crap, look at that!' We had no idea."
Plus, email recipients who respond via the mini-booker convert to bookings at a higher rate than other clicks do. "It's because we're throwing them further into the booking process."
Interestingly, having taken control of the email into their own hands, the mini-booker users are not very influenced by the rest of the content in the email. It could be advertising a Las Vegas special, but they are interested in Ft. Lauderdale and that's that. It's as though the email campaign is a reminder for them to look up a flight they'd been meaning to check on, rather than a special offer.
This lesson may have significance for any marketer or online publisher with a great deal of content or SKUs on their site. Although you may be promoting one particular headlined item, a certain number of otherwise disinterested openers might be persuaded to visit your site via a big, well-placed search box.
The team's segmentation and low, semi-random frequency have helped keep response rates higher than industry standard. JetBlue email campaigns to its house file get on average 30% measured open rate. Fare sales average a 10% clickthough and service messages (such as new route announcements) average a 3%-4% clickthrough.
Koif has also tracked fascinating data on the interrelationship of search and email marketing. Turns out about 30% of search-driven traffic to JetBlue are consumers who already have cookies for the site. In other words, they are already TrueBlue members or frequent visitors. They just prefer to visit via search click than typing in the URL directly.
Koif says, "When we launch a large full-scale sale email, the percentage of search actually goes down because people are using a different channel to get to the site." So you should take saved PPC clicks into account when thoroughly calculating email ROI.
The team's tested home pages proved two things:
#1. A mini-TrueBlue opt-in form more than doubled visitor-to-opt-in rates. 1.49% of home page visitors who saw that form opted in, versus the .6% who opted in normally from just a link on the home page.
#2. Many of the surveyed visitors who saw the test versions of the home page said, "I like the site the way it is. Please don't touch it." So although the team is rolling out some site updates, they are doing it carefully and gingerly.
Lesson learned: just because you're sick of your site, it doesn't mean your visitors are.Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples from JetBlue: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/cs/jetblue/study.html
MarketingSherpa past article "JetBlue Airways' VP Marketing Reveals Her Five Budget Marketing Lessons" http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.php?ident=23750
Omniture - the Web analytics firm JetBlue uses to track email and search-driven conversions, as well as site tests http://www.omniture.com