There are a few important distinctions between the ad network world and the airline business though – not the least of which is that airline seats of Orbitz, Expedia and the rest are a futures market, ad networks/DSPs/etc. are today in the business of the spot or just-in-time market.
Airlines may not even be conscious of it, but they are sniffing around the data pile and figuring that they stand to gain more with the consumer directly. Thinking of it from a simple retargeting perspective: they can make the same deals with hotels, car rental companies, local restaurants and retarget consumers as Orbitz can -let alone upsell their own services. I would guess they will initially not to be able to do it with the same efficiency of an Orbitz and its brethren can do today. But, solutions are either already in-market or will come along to help them go it alone –sans aggregator- as commoditization takes a step back.
Ironically, some of those solutions could end up being today’s ad networks and demand-side platforms. I smell an exit! Go direct, young DSP (or ad network). Hey, it could be sell-side platform, too, as they increasingly build their buy-side capabilities to siphon spend into their supply.
Leverage My Data, Please
And though I can hear some airline CMOs and others involved in highly transactional e-Commerce businesses choking on their caesar’s salad when listening to the following, they could get in a whole bunch of businesses by having an e-marketing technology company in-house.
Data generated from the purchase of tickets – or even visiting a website with registration hooks – will inform beyond travel intent. And, with first-party data appended, things get very interesting.
As always, the key for these companies who truly want to knock it out of the park and leverage the power of their data will be finding a way to partner with consumers and provide them significant value. Continued success depends on shiny, gold-plated brands that stand for trust. Airlines need consumers coming back to buy tickets.
With leaner and meaner airlines, selling direct could decrease the number of travelers for a carrier as reach is impacted negatively, but the bottom line could go up as revenue per traveler increases and data’s potential is fully realized.
For transactional brands, it’s time to put up walls, but stay connected.
By John Ebbert