British Airways

Getting the edge in marketing ROI

The Challenge

In the highly-competitive airline world, margins matter. For British Airways, this means getting the edge in marketing ROI without compromising brand integrity. 

Flight retargeting based on site searches was working well, but it wasn’t unique — and reach was limited. To get the edge, they needed to take it to the next level — targeting potential customers on other people’s sites, with data that’s already out there. Suddenly your reach goes up exponentially, and you’re still selling the right routes to the right people.

Like other travel advertisers, British Airways had been doing display-based flight retargeting driven by user 

intent for some time. By tracking who’s searching for what on their site, they can serve personalised ads elsewhere reflecting the exact destinations and dates people are interested in.

We thought we could go one better: target completely new prospects, using second and third party data to drive click through. Effectively serving personalised BA ads to people even if they’d never visited the BA site. Technically and strategically, this would be a challenge. But working with British airways and a range of partners, including our sister agency Carat, creative partners Ogilvy and 12th Floor, various data providers and adserving platform Flashtalking, that’s what we set out to do.

The Strategy

Although the technology wasn’t new, we hadn’t seen a data-driven project of this complexity and size before. No single data source had everything we needed — we’d need to choose the right pieces, and find the best way to put them together. Then we’d have to roll everything out on a massive pan-European scale, matching British Airways’ offers to different customer profiles and tracking effectiveness route-by-route.

We also had to know who not to target. People do travel searches for all kinds of reasons, so we had to hone in on prospects with a genuine intent to purchase. As well as reducing wastage, being selective was a great strategy for British Airways, who could potentially hurt their brand if they were seen to be using route marketing as a blunt instrument. If the data wasn’t right, we wouldn’t serve an ad at all.

As this was a major new step for British Airways, it was essential to make sure we were delivering the right route to the right customer at the right time, driving ROI at every step.

First, we had to make sure the data was up to scratch. We chose Kayak, Skyscanner and Tripadvisor for quality intent-to-travel data, Adara for second party consumer profiling and Quantcast as a trading desk. We chose Flashtalking as the partner-platform to bring it all together.

By monitoring responses through Flashtalking, we tracked sales performance on a route-by-route basis, reporting weekly to British Airways — as well as our partners Carat, Ogilvy and 12th Floor — and finding insights we could use to hone our targeting and drive performance even further.

By combining partner data, we were able to build detailed profiles on travel search intent. We then served the right ad to the right person across platforms and sites, pulling in feed-based information dynamically from the British Airways site serving dynamic ads in ever more targeted ways.

The Results

  • 25%

    Increase in YoY ROI performance

  • 17%

    Decrease in cost per acquisition YoY

  • 10%

    Increase in click through rate

  • £350

    Average order value increase from £300

Overall year on year ROI performance across Europe is up 25%, a stunning result by any standards. CPA is down 17% year-on-year, the average order value rose from £300 to £350, and the click through rate increased by nearly 10% with CPA of £17 vs target of £25.

With Route Marketing working so well across European markets, BA have since given us budget to do the same for the UK and US in 2015. At the same time, we’ll continue to fine-tune existing activity, focusing on routes that are either undersold or that present a real opportunity to BA. No doubt this will uncover even more opportunities and sell more tickets to more customers in British Airways’ most important markets.

Result: a gateway to thousands of new leads for our client, pre-vetted and qualified by strategic combinations of fresh data. 

These findings made me cry with joy. A really great performance. We saw some dramatic increases that are really worth shouting about. Content relevance and usage of consumer data is key to increasing lead conversions in price competitive markets. Combining the propensity to convert with a dynamic content approach whilst balancing performance across eight EU countries has enabled us to achieve strong revenue performance at a low CPA. Well done to the teams.
Marc Guiomar Head of Marketing - Europe, British Airways