CFO World

Why technology, training and content go hand-in-hand in Jetstar’s marketing transformation

Jetstar's chief marketing officer talks to CMO about the airline's digital marketing transformation, investment into a new martech stack, and why training is vital


The dire shortage of expertise around digital marketing, automation and personalisation has made it imperative for marketing leaders to promote learning first, and capability second, Jetstar’s CMO claims.

“Expertise in this space [digital marketing] is not an old thing; it’s 10 years at best and it changes so much every year,” Phil Wade told CMO during a recent interview to discuss the airline group’s marketing transformation plans.

“To run a digital marketing team, you must have a learning and training mindset, otherwise you’re in trouble. You can become archaic in two years. The speed of change in our space is so fast, it can be intimidating. We’re trying to take out the intimidation and enjoy the learning experience together.”

Like most brands going through digital marketing disruption, Jetstar is facing a big learning curve. Over the past 18 months, the airline has upped its investment into Oracle’s Marketing Cloud stack as part of a wider transformation plan aimed at improving its ability to interact and engage with customers on their terms.

Having originally started as a Responsys customer seven years ago, the group has since taken on Oracle’s conversion rate optimisation tool, Maxymiser, and data management platform (BlueKai DMP). Most recently, Jetstar rolled out Oracle’s push tool, a mobile add-on within the Responsys platform.

Wade said the drivers for marketing’s overhaul and technology spending fall into three pots. The first is a group-wide vision to improve customer experience by having technology and marketing capability that allows customers personal interactions with Jetstar at every touchpoints.

“Secondly, it’s to make sure we increase our ROI: Any information on a customer allows us to improve our marketing performance,” he said. “That reduces marketing costs, which allows us to reduce our fares, which is a key reason we exist as a company.”

The third motivator is to improve the effectiveness of communications. “In a world when people are bombarded by messaging in so many different spheres, what that tech stack allows us to do is talk to people in the right space,” Wade said.

“You can make sure customers only receive information when and how they want to.” 

Achieving the holy grail of personalisation

Wade is the first to admit Jetstar hasn’t reached the ideal state of customer experience engagement. But there’s an ongoing commitment to bringing the customer to the heart of business decision making. The first step has been getting the technology in place to deliver and automate.  

“We have developed capabilities that allow us to embark and be confident in the way we’re progressing on that journey,” Wade said. “I’m very confident our email channel is now fully developed, and we’re talking to individuals at the right time and place right through the end-to-end user journey. Our focus in the next 2-3 years is on how to make sure that level of executional perfection is consistent across both our retargeting, outreach, and acquisition activity.”  

This is where staff training is critical and vital. Wade noted marketing is becoming increasingly programmatic, targeted and digital. What he wants to avoid is a situation where only part of the team is digitally adept.

To address that, Jetstar’s approach is to upskill the whole team to be digital marketers. “What we don’t want to create is people running in different gears,” he said. “We need in-depth training and an understanding of the whole digital marketing stack in terms of its power, complexity and every component so we can maximise the investment we made.”

That’s being achieved through internal training, Jetstar’s relationship with Oracle and via media agency partner, GroupM.

 “I think you have an active choice on whether you restructure, or you train. We have gone down the training route and long term, I believe it’s the right way to go,” Wade continued.

What is also changing is the way teams operate. For one, projects and work now commonly involve cross-team collaboration across Asia-Pacific. Teams have also adopted an Agile working methodology.

In addition, Jetstar has implemented a ‘personal training program’, where everyone has a budget to invest in training they need, something Wade said the team picked up from the startup community. Across the top, there’s an emphasis on building the right culture to become a world-class digital marketing team.

“To do that, we’ve made a commitment together that we want to train and develop,” Wade said.  “More than anything, it’s that which holds us together. We’re learning and changing all the time.”

How marketing activities are changing

All of this is impacting marketing initiatives significantly, and Jetstar senior manager, group customer targeted marketing, Emma Roberts, cited a growing emphasis on marrying channel activities.

One recent milestone in Australia came off the back of implementing a DMP, allowing teams to unite email activity with display advertising. Having identified a disengaged customer segment within its email program, Jetstar switched channels and was able to talk to those individuals via display advertising as well. The result was between 7-70 per cent growth on incremental revenue and better engagement.

“It was a massive win for us, because our email customer base is incredibly valuable and it delivered great results,” Roberts said. She’s now working to add search marketing into the mix.

Jetstar is also implementing a dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) tool, gaining the capability to personalise display messaging.

Personalisation is already the norm across Jetstar’s email programs. One ongoing, trigger-based program which won the airline an award at the annual Oracle Markie Awards this year sees the company sending a suite of eight emails in seven languages post-booking. These are based on demographic as well as what an individual purchased within their itinerary.

“We treat our segments separately. So if it’s a family with children for example, we’ll give them more specific information to that side of their journey versus a business traveller,” Roberts explained. “Once you purchase a flight, you receive multiple emails that guide you through the journey until you fly.”

According to Roberts, the program delivered a 20 per cent ROI improvement on pre-launch results.

But arguably, more important was the impact on customer satisfaction. Being a low-cost carrier, Jetstar is often chosen by first-time flyers in Australia and Asia, making it imperative the brand provide reassurance at every stage of the journey, Wade said.

“This email program is important in terms of ROI, but intuitively, it’s also important for NPS [Net Promoter Score] and overall satisfaction around our airline,” he said. “It provides a security blanket around that first-time fly. As we expand across Asia-Pacific, it’s critical for our business to get that lens.”

Up next: What digital marketing transformation is doing to Jetstar's customer segmentation approach

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Tackling complexity

Treating every customer as an individual, by giving them what they want when they want it, raises interesting questions about traditional segmentation versus optimisation, Wade said.

“What we’re trying to balance now is how the transition between traditional segments most business use, such as key attitudinal or age group, and to a personalised level,” he said. “At the moment, we’re blending. Some programs run based on traditional segmentation, some run on a personalised methodology based on multivariate, A/B testing and optimisation.

“As we go forward, our vision is everything will become personalised. But that journey requires us to go further than a DMP and to dynamic creative optimisation as well as personalisation of product. As an organisation, it’s one of our major strategic thrusts, but we’re not fully developed yet.”  

What helps is that most customers transact through the Jetstar.com website. “Every journey from the start is unique - people travel with different people, have different baggage requirements, food on the plane, and so on. The real challenge is how we use that information or content in what we do,” Wade said.

“We can use that as a signal, but it needs to be balanced against the complexity of doing something. That’s the continual journey every marketing organisation faces at the moment.”  

Content’s role in engagement

Wade said marketing personalisation is one of seven core programs of transformation. Another is to lead in the content revolution.

Jetstar has established a cross-functional working group to focus on content needs based around three customer lifecycle phases: To help customers make decisions; to serve customers once they’ve made a decision; and to encourage them to advocate for the organisation. That working team sits separately to the marketing function, with the two interacting on a weekly and monthly basis.

“You can’t just improve the tech stack, you have to improve your content stream as well,” Wade said. “It’s the second part of training: To become storytellers instead of traditional, shouting marketers. That journey has to go together, and it’s an exciting one for us across multiple languages, geographies and customer groups.”  

Meanwhile, the marketing team’s overarching strategic priority is how to use new insights to put the customer first across the wider business.

“Last year, not only did we set up lots of technological change, we also set up everything from customer panels to new brand tracking to give us new indicators of customer satisfaction,” Wade said. “We also changed the way we do NPS surveys of those who have flown.

“We have an extremely rich pool of data. The challenge now is to manage that data and make sure we put the customer at the heart of decisions we make, and a way that’s manageable.”

Already, marketing has established quarterly surveys and feedback loops to encourage dialogue across functions.

“It’s an exciting problem to have – we have to now work through how we make that meaningful  to ensure we make informed customer decisions in a digital age,” Wade said.  

Through of all this change, Wade said he was pleased to have a strategic partner in Oracle.

“This would not have been capable without the technology stack or their people,” he added. “Different companies will find different people to partner with. For us, we found a partner we trust believe in and has helped us deliver.”  

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