UPDATED: Qantas asks Frequent Flyers for personal data in exchange for points

New Yahoo7 toolbar asks Qantas members to allow the airline to use their search activity information for marketing purposes in exchange for Frequent Flyer points

The chief of marketing management consultancy, Trinity P3, claims Qantas’ decision to request Frequent Flyer customers for personal search data in reward for extra points is indicative of the lack of sufficient customer information being collected by brands.

Qantas Frequent Flyer launched a dedicated web search toolbar on 19 June which rewards members with additional points in return for using their online search activity information for marketing purposes.

According to the Qantas corporate page, members can earn one point for every valid web search to a maximum of 150 points per month. To do so, they must install the Yahoo7 toolbar on their Internet browser and be logged into their Frequent Flyer account. The toolbar can be used across Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Firefox browsers but not on mobile devices.

Qantas said it will use the toolbar to collect personal information on a user’s search and web browsing activities and use it “marketing purposes in accordance with the Toolbar Collection Statement and Terms and Conditions”.

According to the Qantas Terms and Conditions, a user’s name, Frequent Flyer membership details and toolbar data will be transferred between Australia, its US-based toolbar provider, FreeCause (trading as Rakuten Loyalty) and the airline’s Philippines call centre.

“It’s indicative of marketers that are struggling to find ways to get under the skin of their customers,” the managing director of TrinityP3, Darren Woolley, said to CMO in response to the news.

“We have an airline with a Frequent Flyer program and multiple partners that they should be able to draw all this buying and purchasing behaviour from. I think it’s indicative of the fact that a lot of companies do not collect this sort of information, or if they don’t share it with other partners.”

The interesting thing will be see what uptake there is of the toolbar, Woolley continued.

“With all of the consumer backlash about privacy, and especially all the publicity about the US government collecting data on people, it will be interesting how many people are willing to give that up for a point per search.”

Co-founder and CTO of marketing software management provider ion Interactive, Scott Brinker, expected to see many more marketers experiment with these kinds of ideas.

"It turns the privacy debate inside out. We're expressly asking for permission — or even, as with the Qantas toolbar, inviting active participation — from our audience for broader data collection in exchange for rewards and benefits," he commented.

"Because this is done as part of an explicit understanding between the brand and its customer, the accuracy and relevance of the data has the potential to be significantly better.

"That being said, it remains to be seen which of these experiments will work — which ones will find the right combination of incentives for consumers, without turning them off, while providing enough value to the marketer to make it worth the effort."

Brinker added the industry will learn a lot from the winners and the losers in this line of innovation.

As reported in the SMH, Qantas follows in the footsteps of the Coles FlyBuys team, which launched a similar toolbar last November in partnership with Yahoo7. The Fly Buys offering also sees FreeCause collecting user information.

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