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JetBlue exec: Mobile is discovery piece for travelers

NEW YORK ? A JetBlue executive at Mobile Marketer's Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2013 conference last week said that while the current focus in mobile is on discovery, the number of consumers using the medium to book flights is increasing.

During the ?JetBlue Airways: Developing a Focused Mobile Strategy in an Era of Heightened Customer Expectations? closing keynote, the executive said that o n average, 10 to 12 percent of its customers are on mobile versus desktop. Furthermore, the executive discussed how JetBlue uses mobile to build its brand message and gets customers to use their devices to enhance their travel experience.

?The mobile device tends to be the discovery device ? more people are doing research on the devices than they are booking," said Jonathan Stephen, head of mobile at JetBlue Airways, New York.

?Customers are using mobile for discovery and as a utility,? he said. ?Not that they don?t book on mobile and that number is increasing.

?We are starting to see a shift to use mobile post-booking to enhance the travel experience.?

Mobile is common theme
During the session, Mr. Stephen reviewed some of JetBlue?s successes in mobile and took a look forward at what is coming down the road for mobile in the travel industry.

Last year, JetBlue refreshed its entire digital consumer-facing properties using feedback from customers.

The airline asked a panel of 2,000 frequent travelers what they wanted in Web site from JetBlue and the highest percentage said they wanted something that is smart, aware of where users are and to receive updates automatically. Customers also wanted to see fares that were specific to their location.

JetBlue also queried its crew members as to what they thought should be changed and they suggested making the site more personal and more relevant.

Mobile ended up being a common theme that could deliver on what both consumers and crew members were looking for.

To put these ideas into motion, JetBlue took a look at all of the stages of the travel process: pre-trip planning, pre-flight, in flight, destination management and rebooking. The goal was to see if there were opportunities to interact with customers beyond when they are on the plane.

?With mobile, we can actually reach out to customers through every part of the travel ribbon,? Mr. Stephen said. ?They can book a flight at home, use devices to find out more about a destination, use it to call a cab to bring them to the airport and to get more information about airport concessions .

?We realized we had a huge opportunity to enhance the experience not just onboard but off board as well,? he said.

With this in mind, the digital refresh included the mobile apps for the iPhone and Android. For users on other platforms, JetBlue also updated its mobile site.

To make the booking experience more pleasurable, JetBlue?s mobile assets were redesigned to make the buttons bigger.

Loyalty goes multiscreen
A large part of the focus was also put on the TrueBlue loyalty program.

With the company?s research showing that a lot of customers have the program but not many use it, JetBlue set out to create an experience around the loyalty program to enhance the travel experience across devices.

For example, when customers book using their loyalty account, it goes across all devices so that users can get the relevant content they need no matter what device they are on.

The experience also changes as users progress through the travel experience, with different content delivered two weeks before the user?s booked flight compared with two days before to create a more relevant experience.

Some of the content that is being provided to customers via mobile includes weather information for an intended destination, a list of things to do, a personalized Web page of where fliers can be picked up upon arrival and the ability to create postcards that can be sent to friends.

Since the relaunch last year, JetBlue has had over 2 million downloads across all the platforms and seen a 10 percent monthly increase in enrollments in the TrueBlue program from mobile.

Next steps
Going forward, JetBlue is working on offering mobile boarding passes. This could include its own mobile boarding pass program as well as an integration with Apple?s Passbook app.

?Passbook is a fantastic product,? Mr. Stephen said. ?It comes alive when you get close to the destination.

?For us, we are looking how we can leverage this technology so we can complement our strategy with Apple?s product ,? he said.

The airline industry more broadly is reviewing how it might use NFC technology as well as augmented reality.

?There will be a lot of NFC devices in the coming years ? airlines are looking at should they go after the early adopters or wait until it reaches critical mass,? ,? Mr. Stephen said.

In terms of augmented reality, Mr. Stephen pointed to its potential usefulness for fliers by enabling them to walk into an airport, hold up their phone and be able to see on the screen where the bathrooms are and which concessions have special offers.

Interactive voice commands is another area of interest for the airlines industry as well as enabling agents to come out from behind a counter to help fliers with their bags using an iPad.

?All of this is powered by the devices we have today,? Mr. Stephen said. ?More and more, mobile devices are playing a very key role in the airline space.?

Marketing linchpin
JetBlue is also leveraging mobile heavily for its marketing efforts.

For example, the JetBlue Getaways Get Away with It campaign centered around a real, live online game show with contestants streamed into the studio via Skype that ran for five days in June, 2012. Winners received JetBlue Getaways vacation packages.

The mobile components of the campaign included countdown banners, out of home banners featuring QR codes and the ability to check-in for the show.

?For this particular campaign, we wanted to look at all of the channels we could get our customers involved with,? Mr. Stephen said.

To drive use of its TrueBlue program, JetBlue launched the Go Places program, enabling members to check-in at the airport to receive 100 TrueBlue points.

To drive awareness with business travelers in key markets, the airlines created the JetBlue Breakroom, an online site featuring a variety of different games that could be played on mobile devices. The effort saw click-to-expand gaming banners generate a 22 percent higher average than mobile industry norms.

Mobile also played a key role in a campaign around the presidential election last year featuring an online site where users could vote for their presidential choice for a chance to win a free trip. Called Election Protection, the campaign tied into the sentiment that many Americans had around the time that they would leave the country if their candidate did not win.

The effort saw mobile placements drive clickthrough rates that were 70 percent to 75 percent higher than the industry benchmark with 38 percent of site engagements being driven from mobile. Additionally, 34 percent of all votes placed were driven by mobile and 46 percent of mobile votes were driven from social properties.

?Mobile is everywhere and it is so prevalent,? Mr. Stephen said. ?You have to look at what problem is mobile going to solve.

?How are you going to make the company money and how will it enhance the customer experience,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York