E-commerce marketing

IF I had asked you to picture someone reading Fifty Shades of Grey, what would that person look like? A single female in her 20s? Or perhaps a 37-year-old soccer mom? We all know what they say about assumptions, and in this case, the research behind who’s really reading Fifty Shades of Grey may shock you.

From marketing a novel to getting passengers on an airaeroplane, the basic principles are the same. Marketers cannot make sweeping assumptions about their target audience. An airline could easily assume who its passengers are, why they’re flying and where they want to fly to. However, if I compare assumptions I’ve made at FlySafair to the actual make-up of the people filling our seats, I’ve seen remarkably different pictures.

Assumptions are the main reason why it’s time to turn some traditional marketing principles on their head. Guesswork based on generic methods results in skewed market segmentation, messaging that misses the mark, and wasted advertising spend. But making informed decisions based on fact ensures marketers reach the right person with the right message at the right time.

The big data phenomenon is a revolutionary tool for marketers today, especially in the e-commerce space, in which both airlines and novels such as 50 Shades of Grey increasingly make their bread and butter. However, not enough e-commerce businesses are adjusting their marketing strategies to take advantage of tools that can help get their targeting on point.

Misguided market segmentation

Traditionally, marketers would use generic measures — such as the Living Standards Measure — to segment their market. They’d make decisions based on variables such as income bracket, gender, age group and whether a person had two cars in the garage.

Based on these metrics, they would then make sweeping assumptions about that “target market”. For example, a single female between 25 and 35 who lives alone with two cats must want to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Or that most weekday flights out of Johannesburg must be full of male businessmen.

Unlike some global markets that may be homogenous, SA is proudly characterised by groups of diverse people. Each group might be quite small, in terms of the number of people or their economic power, for example, and no one group on its own is necessarily viable from a marketing perspective.

Stop guessing

The difference in e-commerce is that big data should drive everything marketers do. At FlySafair, this allows us to know exactly who is sitting in our seats. We can then make targeted predictions based on fact and knowledge as to whom we need to target.

An online bookstore may be surprised to learn that they should be targeting 50-something married men when marketing the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey simply because this is the market that bought the first novel. , not 25- to 35-year-old single females with two cats.

Evidence-based targeting, as opposed to assumptions-based targeting, will save the book store money and effort that would have been wasted on trying to appeal to the wrong audience. In a similar fashion, we use evidence-based targeting to help FlySafair drive down its marketing cost per acquisition — a saving that it can in turn pass on to the consumer, thereby keeping the price point more attractive.

FlySafair commands approximately about 15% of the web traffic to low-cost airline websites in SA, yet our marketing spend is only 11% of all airlines. This compared to one of our bigger competitors who clearly follows a more traditional strategy, accounting for 52% of the marketing spend, but only boasting 23% of the traffic share.Messaging that hits the markMarketing, especially in e-commerce, is no longer about formulating an idea of a target market and then coming up with a message we think will appeal to them. We’re now able to draft a plethora of messages and experiment with different combinations of text and images and the messages are tested with the market to see which combinations perform best on different media platforms.

In our digital contexts, FlySafair literally runs thousands of ads at any given time, each with different messages and creative executions.

For example, we know that customers in Gauteng tend to respond well to advertising messages that focus on our airline’s superior on-time performance, while customers from the Eastern Cape tend to respond better to ads that mention attractive price points. Similarly, people in the Western Cape respond better to ads that have pictures of people in them, while Gautengers prefer to see beautiful images of the destinations we fly to.

Meet them where they are

The internet has given marketers new ways to reach their target markets. With the wealth of information and statistical tools available to marketers today, there’s no reason to be wasting money and resources on approaches that don’t deliver results.

By running linear regressions on a radio campaign, we can see the degree to which one independent variable affects another dependent one. For example, by regressing our daily radio advertising spend against our revenue in that listenership region, we are able to gauge just how effective that advertising is.

Marketing costs need to be covered in your asking price, and there’s no reason that your consumers should be asked to pay for your inability to tell them about your product efficiently. At FlySafair we have to keep our costs low in order to keep our fares low, and that means driving efficiency in all aspects of our business, from the floor cleaning solutions to the way we utilise our aircraft. Our marketing approach is no different.

• Gordon is vice-president of marketing for FlySafair



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