by Rob Preston
Kenya Airways knew that if it were ever to achieve its goal of becoming not only Africa’s leading airline but also a shining example of progress on the continent, it had to gain a more-complete, individualized understanding of its customers. “We didn’t know who our guests are,” recalls Chief Marketing Officer Chris Diaz, who also serves on the board of Brand Africa, an intergenerational movement to create a positive image of Africa and drive its competitiveness.
Kenya Airways, the country’s flagship carrier since 1977, ranks fourth among Africa’s airlines in terms of seat capacity, with a fleet of 45 aircraft covering 62 destinations. Its market opportunity is huge: Africa’s current population of about 1 billion is on pace to reach 1.5 billion within a decade, with a rapidly expanding middle class in many countries. But so are its challenges. Much of that population growth will be in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s least-developed regions. In addition, internet and mobile communications penetration is inconsistent across the continent, limiting the airline’s technology reach.
Nevertheless, as the only African airline in the SkyTeam alliance—whose 20 members include Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Korean Air—Kenya Airways knew it had to up its technology game because it had a “very high global standard” to live up to, Diaz says. Before embarking on a multiyear program to automate—as well as integrate the data collected from—its marketing, sales, and customer service activities, it had been operating in the dark.
The airline didn’t know who clicked its batch-and-blast Microsoft Outlook email campaigns. It had no clear view into what its sales representatives in different offices were doing. It was advertising mostly on billboards, in newspapers, and on flyers, with no way to measure the effectiveness of those campaigns. And because it had no single repository for customer data, it didn’t know the preferences, special needs, or other personal characteristics of its aforementioned “guests,” who range from commercial traders, business executives, and government officials to students, missionaries, and medical tourists.
All of the airline’s customer data, much of it duplicated, was sitting in spreadsheets and databases in various company and partner travel agent offices, so there was no coordinated way to analyze and report it. One example of the dysfunction: each May the airline would blast a Mother’s Day greeting to almost every customer in its scattered databases, to which many of the nonmothers inevitably responded, “Was this email really meant for me?”Marketing Facelift
Kenya Airways turned to Oracle for help. It first engaged with consultants in the Oracle Marketing Cloud Success Program to rationalize its marketing organization and define modern skills, roles, and business requirements—all while cutting costs and learning how to go to market faster, Diaz says.
That consultation laid the groundwork for the first technology phase of Kenya Airways’ automation journey: deployment of Oracle Marketing Cloud in late 2014. The airline ran its first automated marketing campaign a few weeks later, aiming emails, SMS texts, and social media posts at Kenyan emigrants in Dubai, offering them special holiday season fares to Kenya on the airline’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The ROI is dynamic. It isn’t just about money. It is also about the level of understanding you have of a campaign’s reach, and this is the first thing Oracle Marketing Cloud allowed us to do.”–Harriet Luyai, Marketing Automation Lead, Kenya Airways
In subsequent months, as it created campaigns to promote new and expanded routes—to Hanoi, Vietnam, and Zanzibar in East Africa, for example—the Kenya Airways marketing team got more adept at tracking revenue flows generated by those campaigns and identifying new sources of data to target the campaigns more effectively. “The ROI is dynamic,” says Harriet Luyai, marketing automation lead at Kenya Airways. “It isn’t just about money. It is also about the level of understanding you have of a campaign’s reach, and this is the first thing Oracle Marketing Cloud allowed us to do.”
During a presentation at an Oracle conference in London, England, in February, Luyai delved into some early success metrics. “Reachable contacts” have more than doubled, to 89 percent from 40 percent. Open rates on marketing emails are up to 65 percent from 40 percent. The airline’s “acquisition rate”—the percentage of respondents who opt in to its campaigns—is up to 20 percent. Its email unsubscribe rate is at an all-time low of 0.11 percent.Breaking Down Silos
Shortly after rolling out Oracle Marketing Cloud, Kenya Airways moved to automate its sales activities (using Oracle Sales Cloud) and its customer service activities (using Oracle RightNow Cloud Service) as well—and, perhaps most important, tie together the three clouds under one central data repository, breaking down the silos between those departments and cleaning up the data. One result: the airline’s marketing and sales teams worked together to set up a new conversion matrix to qualify leads, enhancing the “profile fit” for targeted customers.
“The benefits of this newfound alignment abound in so many ways that we both wonder how we could bear behaving in silos for so long,” Luyai says. “Clearly, gaining full control over data is the best thing that can happen to a marketer in this day and age. It is the only way to bring in personalization at the early stages of travel inspiration, search, and shopping influence to accelerate purchasing decisions.”
Kenya Airways started pulling together information to define guest personas (age, household income, role, education level, and other details), as well as parallel segmentation information (job function, job level, revenue generated for the airline, geography, status, income level, preferences, interest areas, service calls, email activity, form submissions, and purchase history), as the airline tried to read its customers’ “digital body language” to personalize offerings, Luyai says.
Now the airline is preparing to enter a fourth technology phase in its digital transformation: the rollout of Oracle Social Cloud. The goal is to help the Kenya Airways marketing team drive additional revenue by converting leads to ticket sales, increasing website traffic, and increasing social followers.
Additionally, Kenya Airways’ customer service team plans to follow social media posts and discussions about the airline’s services and respond to questions and problems within 30 minutes. Oracle Social Cloud will help agents prioritize their follow-up posts and manage workflows for the appropriate approvals and for troubleshooting.
Kenya Airways now knows a lot more about its guests based on data from multiple marketing, sales, and customer service channels, from booking to arrival: what brand of beer they like to drink, what their favorite meal is, and what time of day they like to fly, as well as their wedding anniversary date and birthday. Not only do personalized offers engender repeat business, but they also elicit more feedback on service levels, Diaz says.
More than anything else, guests remember how you made them feel, he emphasizes, reiterating the company mission of “turning moments into memories.”
Photography by Shutterstock