Required Reading for Frequent Flyers
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60 Seconds with David Klein, Vice President, Marketing & Innovation, Aeroplan
[Jan 2013 Issue]
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We recently had a conversation with David Klein, Vice President, Marketing & Innovation, in Toronto during Aeroplan's Media Day. Klein has been with Aeroplan for six years and he became familiar with the company when working for an ad agency whose clients included Air Canada and Aeroplan.

InsideFlyer
What does Aeroplan do to stay in touch with members and keep them engaged?
David Klein
In 2008, we launched what we call the Aeroplan Advisor's Panel, a group of around 90,000 members who have agreed to participate in surveys. We talk to that group quite a bit, about new products, partners, their awareness and interests--really across a wide spectrum of products. It's invaluable for staying in touch with members about what they are liking or not liking, what their expectations and interests are. The research panel has been key for us.

We have very well-engaged members who are open to receiving communications from us. Our communications have a high degree of personalization that keep them relevant. We have an Aeroplan e-newsletter that goes out to members on a monthly basis. In a typical month there are anywhere from 500,000 to 600,000 different versions of that newsletter tailored to specific members and their preferences and geographical location. Relevancy is key. The other way we are staying relevant to members is by being where they are. This past year we launched our mobile app. It's another channel for us to keep in touch with members and keep them informed. It all starts with customer insight, understanding what members want and learning how they are responding to our communications.

A lot of the research we did in the past couple of years was about members' comprehension of the program and awareness of partners, which has really led us to put more focus on program education. We've entirely revamped our on-boarding program for new members. A new member joining the program is not put into the regular stream of communications for the first four months. They receive a series of informational and educational emails and promotional offers to get them engaged. We are very focused on trying to not tell the whole story at once but breaking it into bite-size pieces that we think are going to be most relevant to members depending on how they are joining the program.

IF
How has Aeroplan evolved since you first started working at the company over six years ago?
Klein
There's more choice for members. Six years ago we were really just getting into the retail space and allowing members to earn miles for everyday activities. This past summer and fall we added Bentley's as a new partner and Birks most recently. There are more choices for members. We have around 75 partners now and 150 brands. On the other side of the business, I'd say it's the same thing. We've brought in more variety of awards, from merchandise and experiential awards to gift cards.

IF
What are some of the most popular Aeroplan awards?
Klein
Number one is flights. About 75 percent of awards are flight redemptions and 25 percent non-flight. If you ask the average Aeroplan member why they are in the program they'll say flights. Non-air is growing and experiential awards are becoming more and more popular.

IF
Aeroplan's mobile app was rated in the top 10 of travel apps at the Apple store. What makes the app so popular?
Klein
Probably number one is our audience. Our member base is very technologically savvy and smartphone usage by our members is very high so we've got a base of customers who are already in that space. We launched in two phases this year. The first phase gave them the opportunity to track their transactions, manage their accounts and see promotions. We built in a partner locator so they can see what partners are around them wherever they happen to be. Later in the year, we added the My Goal dream trip tracker that allows you to track your progress towards an award. For example, if you want to go to Hawaii, it will tell you how many miles you need and it can give you tips on how to earn miles faster.

IF
In mid-2011, Aeroplan made changes to its award charts, increasing the number of miles required on many flights. Why?
Klein
We hadn't changed our award chart in many many years. Costs had gone up and we had to change it to reflect the increase in cost. We tried to keep the changes as small as possible. The changes we implemented affected about 20 percent of all redemptions. The ones that were most popular, in particular the short-haul award for 15,000 miles, we didn't touch. It was a necessary piece of evolution.

IF
How does Aeroplan reach out to members using social media?
Klein
We're having a lot of fun with that. We have about 90,000 Facebook fans and 11,000 followers on Twitter. Our strategy in the social space is to go wide and go shallow. We weren't sure at first what our members wanted and we're learning along the way. For example, when we have partner promotions, we will promote those on the Facebook page and there will often be an added bonus for Facebook fans. For us it's become a way to reach out to members and engage and get feedback. We are starting to understand better how to use it to educate, promote and support the brand. We now have a place on our Facebook page where members can tell their stories and share their experiences.

IF
What has been the response for the new Digital Media Store?
Klein
The response has been good. Music is still the number one category. We are learning our way through what members are interested in, such as Facebook credits and books. When you're a coalition program like ours there's so much to communicate and it's the same with our music store. Loyalty is a long-term prospect and we are building up the awareness of the Media Store. It's doing well but again, it's a new category for us and we're going through the panel to understand better what members are looking for.

IF
Is there anything you can share about what members can expect in 2013?
Klein
We're going to continue to roll out new partners. You can expect to see more in the premium space following on the heels of Birks. You can expect to see us doing more in the mobile space, whether it's adding functionality to our app or leveraging the app and mobile more in terms of communicating with our members, location-based marketing being one example.


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