No one size fits all – airlines benefit from diverse digital tactics


Data released this month illustrates the success of a wide array of initiatives being used by airlines to attract prospective passengers to their websites.

SimilarWeb examined traffic to the five major airlines in the US for the 12 months from March 2016 and found a variety of methods are being used to lure eyeballs away from online travel agencies.

For each of the five (Delta, American Airlines, Jetblue, Southwest and United), Kayak is unsurprisingly – given its leading metsearch role in the US – the leading source of third party traffic to each of the airline websites.

The rest of the referral sites are a mixture of deal sites, content providers, web-based intranets (Sharepoint, for example) and marketing microsites.

American Airlines is the only carrier that gets a significant level of referrals from another airline – and that is just a visitor redirect from the old US Airways site.

The length of time of the study has allowed for some analysis on the various tactics being deployed by the airlines in the last year.

For example, Delta is said to have made a considerable investment in PPC marketing compared to previous efforts.

Twelve months ago, PPC-generated traffic accounted for less than 0.5% of all traffic to its website – but this has soared to 5.68% by February this year, double what is believed to be the industry average.

On the other hand, Southwest uses fare promotions twice a year to capture the attention of passengers.

These take place in June and October and see traffic increase massively to almost three million visits per day over the course of the 72-hour promotions.

JetBlue is supposedly the master of email marketing, with it receiving a higher share of traffic from email campaigns than any other airlines.

This traffic, according to SimilarWeb, is also “higher quality”, meaning it has better engagement levels and has low bounce rates.

The data shows that less than 16% of traffic to the airline’s site from email left after viewing a single page.

Such engagement levels mean that the airline also has the longest average time for visitors on the site – nearly eight minutes for desktop and 5.5 minutes for mobile.

Two final charts from the research show the differences between traffic to mobile and desktop website:

airlines similarweb 1

…and the conversion rates across the five:

airlines similarweb 2

NB: Full report here.

NB2: Website airlines image via BigStock.



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