Budget Airline VivaAerobus’ Omnichannel Strategy Readies For Takeoff

Airlines are not known for their great customer service. But while they can’t control the weather, they can do something about their data silos.

“We have a lot of data, but the problem is it’s mainly unstructured data sitting in different databases,” said Aurelius Noell, director of ecommerce and commercial IT at VivaAerobus, a low-cost airline in Mexico owned by the country’s largest bus company, IAMSA.

Airlines like VivaAerobus are often hamstrung by legacy technology, such as Navitaire, a back-end booking system used by many carriers, similar to how many agencies use Mediaocean.

Transactional information within Navitaire is often siloed from marketing platforms, like email, which doesn’t bode well for customer experience or personalized outreach.

But connecting the offline component is particularly important to VivaAerobus. In Mexico, around 30% of customers order online but pay in cash later at stalls and kiosks located around the country.

If VivaAerobus wants to make life easier for its customers – while getting paid – it’s incumbent on the airline to send relevant messages at specific points in the process, such as emails with information on where customers can pick up their tickets and accepted forms of payment.

Since mid-August, VivaAerobus has been working with Boxever to help bridge its back-end systems, including its website, mobile site, reservation system and call center.

Boxever, an Ireland-based marketing cloud for airlines and travel companies whose clients include Air New Zealand, Emirates and Singapore’s Tigerair, collects and combines data across platforms.

“But it’s not just historical transactional data,” said Boxever VP John Callan. “It’s also real-time behavioral information and offline data that we use to build profiles to create a customer-centric viewpoint instead of a channel-focused approach.”

VivaAerobus is starting to reap the benefits of omnichannel data management.

Customers who opt to pay with cash now automatically receive email reminders to help them stay organized. VivaAerobus is also tailoring its email to do better and more personalized upselling of ancillary products, such as extra checked bags and insurance offers.

If customers have a booking issue or abandon their cart in the midst of checking out, Boxever saves their reservation so they don’t have to re-enter their info if they want to resume the process down the line. And if they contact a call center, the operator is familiar with the trouble they had on the website.

“There’s no magic data bullet,” Noell said. “The key ingredient here is piecing everything we have – web, search and behavioral – together for a more aggregated view. That sounds easy and straightforward, but it’s an enormous technical challenge if there isn’t communication between the channels.”

VivaAerobus also is starting to personalize and streamline the often chaotic airport check-in experience.

“We have infrastructure problems in Mexico,” Noell said. “Basically, there are more people than the infrastructure can handle, so it’s very important to communicate with people to help steer the flow.”

Now, when people who aren’t checking bags arrive at the airport, they receive a notification to say it’s OK to go directly to security rather than the check-in desk. Messages like that have cut down traffic at the check-in counter by 30%.

Since getting a handle on its data dilemma, VivaAerobus estimates it’s seen a revenue bump of around $1 million over the past eight months.

“We’re moving from mass marketing to customization,” Noell said. “And in order to do that, we needed to make information available in all of the different touchpoints to centralize the communications. That’s helped from a marketing perspective, but it’s also helped from a customer service perspective and a revenue perspective.”

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