Australia-headquartered Flight Centre was established in 1995 in Sydney as a pre-internet era travel agency. Today it has 1,300 stores worldwide, including in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States and the UK, where it operates 80 stores.
The online travel business model and vision
David Owen, head of leisure marketing for the brand, acknowledges that the online travel space is rife with challenges and that carving out and maintaining an identity is crucial.
With that in mind, Flight Centre has been keen to nudge the customer proposition away from price. Earlier this year, the company dropped its “Lowest Airfare Guarante”, a slogan that used to appear prominently across its customer touchpoints.
“I think people really thought [travel ecommerce] was going to be price driven, but a lot of companies are showing that it doesn’t have to be that way online, that you can get a brand message across, reasons to book with a particular company,” he says.
For Flight Centre, that message is about trust, brand loyalty, and not necessarily just being the cheapest on the market.
The company’s marketing strategy spans an array of media, platforms, and channels. From search, digital display, and social (it has more than 100,000 Facebook followers), to manifestations of the brand in the physical world, whether that’s press and out-of-home advertising or the networked digital screens in its stores carrying timed promotions.
Collaborative interactions across the organization
The very nature of Flight Centre’s business, however, means that its products, offers, and consequently its marketing are in a constant state of flux.
The result is a marketing department where a regular collaboration between different parts of the business means that “everybody knows exactly what’s going on. The key part of this is to make sure that alignment is there,” Owen says.
The need for seamless connection is paramount, and to ignore it is commercial folly.
For Owen, an airline’s value is having a business that has highly trained staff and people that really understand what customers need. Indeed, there are more than 2,200 organizations working with the Flight Centre Travel Group, making it one of the largest and most successful independent travel retailers in the world.
Tech innovation in the online travel space
The company has been working on voice-activation technology with digital agency, Versa, while it has also introduced virtual reality into some of its stores to allow customers to ‘visit’ destinations.
But innovation relies on intuition and foresight, a combination of factors that comes with no small degree of risk.
“Customers probably don’t really know what they need until it’s actually happened,” Owen says. “I think technically at the moment anything is possible. [Successful tech innovation] is about bringing it into your business and making sure that customers need it and your business can operationalize it.”
To find out more, watch our sponsored video series to understand Flight Centre’s keys to success in the online travel space.
This post is part of a Criteo-sponsored video thought leadership series with Hot Topics.ht. Featured content highlights retail marketing, digital, and ecommerce executives as they explore the emerging tools and techniques used by both luxury and high street brands to drive growth in the form of retention and acquisition of customers.