Build Sky-High Product Demand with Direct-to-Consumer Digital Experiences

How Airbus Is Building Product Loyalty with iflyA380.com

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Build Sky-High Product Demand with Direct-to-Consumer Digital Experiences

The aircraft business is tough — competitors are large and capable — and the people experiencing the products aren’t their direct customers. However, Airbus took a new route to marketing success by going straight to the source when it came to building consumer demand. Using the power of digital experiences, the aircraft manufacturing company created a direct-to-consumer campaign by building a website dubbed iflyA380.com — the world’s first aircraft-specific booking assistant.

It’s a brilliant use of indirect influence as part of a branding strategy. Commercial passengers can enter their departure and destination locations at iflyA380.com to find flights on an A380 aircraft. Airbus shows how versatile and powerful digital experiences can be in competitive differentiation — and its efforts are paying off because travelers love the A380 and now they have a way to express their loyalty. More than 190 million travelers have flown on the plane since its market debut, and more than 98 percent would recommend the experience.

Airbus builds its brand with digital experiences

Airbus makes much more than passenger jets. It is a manufacturer of military aircraft, helicopters, corporate jets, travel-related consumer products, and is working on a supersonic private jet. However, strengthening its commercial brand helps all product lines while also enhancing the company’s standing with global investors.

An important part of Airbus’ branding effort is transforming its approach to its digital presence. The intent is to become more efficient and productive, create greater collaboration, and expand how it delivers digital experiences to partners and customers.

But with the advent of the A380, Airbus realized how important the voice of the consumer was to its brand as well. Travelers voted the A380 their favorite aircraft in 2015 and 2016. Social media saw 1,200 mentions a day — which is amazing considering that the A380 is a product targeted at airlines, not passengers. And 60 percent of passengers were willing to make an extra effort to fly the A380.

Airbus noticed the dearth of content and services that catered to individuals interested in booking flights on an A380.  The manufacturer made a bold move as it pounced on an important opportunity to build a relationship directly with its commercial passenger — a relationship usually reserved for airlines.

Direct-to-consumer experiences are critical, but tricky

Airbus massively expanded its digital presence when it launched its flagship consumer website — iflyA380.com — to build brand awareness and to satisfy the needs of its loyal passenger base. With the site, consumers now can choose a destination and view all applicable flights on A380 planes across multiple carriers. To fulfill reservations, traffic is directed to the commercial airlines, which are B2B customers for Airbus.

It’s a winning recipe for Airbus and its passengers, but also for its traditional  customers. Airbus gains insights for its airline customers through analysis of website traffic patterns and consumer choices. And site visitors get a personal experience due to Airbus receiving second-party customer data from its airline partners.

Your technology foundation dictates your solution

Reaching out to consumers in this way wasn’t something Airbus or its aircraft competitors had done before. Airbus started from scratch to figure out how to develop a website specifically designed for B2C consumption in its B2B world.

A one-off project was not the intent. Airbus built a site that features the advantages of traveling in the A380. It includes integration of Instagram images from passengers and has information about exciting and picturesque destinations. Consumers have multiple ways to search for an A380 flight and then book a reservation.

The results have to scale for global use, facilitate the use of analytics, and sit on top of a fundamental design that could be reused.

What made iflyA380.com possible was an ongoing transformation of the Airbus digital platform. New tools for digital marketing included digital asset management (DAM) to store and control content, a content management system that enabled efficient creation of media of all types, and a collaborative cross-department architecture that allowed people across the company to work together.

Having integrated tools in place meant that Airbus could concentrate on new ideas and new ways of stoking the magic of its products and brand. The iflyA380.com site is a perfect example of how the right foundation makes more daring and eye-catching experiences possible.

The ease, low cost, and speed of development and deployment with Airbus’ existing tool set also changed the dynamics of strategic decision making. Had the iflyA380.com site been built from the ground up, the economics might have made executives hesitate to take the B2C plunge.

Business synergies grow when you focus on customer needs

The iflyA380.com site helped Airbus learn important practices for digital experiences. Most importantly, the experiences you create don’t have to be variations on what was always done. Anything that drives business, builds the brand, increases productivity, and helps partners and consumers can be a win.

By bridging the gap between B2B manufacturers and its ultimate customers, Airbus has opened important new possibilities. It proved its reach to the consumer audience and its ability to partner with a variety of other travel-related businesses — whether airports, taxi services, hospitality providers, or financial services vendors. By focusing on content that filled customer needs, the opportunity for synergies of business interests became immediately larger.

You can read more about customer experiences in general, or see how to further optimize digital experiences in our manufacturing series.

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