They've been working on ways to use data gleaned from car parking and Heathrow Express bookings as well as WiFi log-ins to establish the nature of a visit. It's important because an airport is the prime example of a brand that needs to adapt to the same customer having different needs on various occasions. If someone has booked parking for a fortnight in the school holiday, it's quite likely they're taking the family on holiday and if they are logging in to WiFi and the loyalty app early every Monday and late every Friday, you can probably be sure they're a commuter. Both types of journeys could be undertaken by the same person. It's up to the brand to establish which journey it is and offer a "kids eat free" restaurant deal for a summer vacation or perhaps an alert for new laptop case deals for the business traveller.
Just in case you're thinking that an airport has it easy because people have to identify themselves, it's worth pointing out that this is true, but the marketing and CRM guys have no permission to see or use data that is shared with the airport for capacity planning and security. It's up to the airport to gather in its own data from customer booking, WiFi log-ins and transactions carried out through it loyalty programme. In fact, to make things easier the airport is launching a single app at the end of the month so its airport information app (maps, services, flight data) can be combined with its loyal shopper programme. This gives both sides a single view of one another.
The airport is also an interesting case to examine in terms of how it is supplementing data. It is not only enriching its existing data with third-party information on household income and other demographic data, but it is also in talks with airlines to share its mapping and flight data APIs so they can be added to their apps and online services. What and how much data this will allow to flow back to Heathrow is under discussion but you can assume, I'd imagine, there will be space around the flight information and maps for an alert to today's special deals in Duty Free.
So, the takeaway that Heathrow might offer other marketers is that when it comes to customer journeys, never imagine there is a single path and never assume that each person is always on the same path. Journeys will vary from one type of product and service to another-- sometimes you need a cheap deal for the kids to eat, another occasion you've got time to browse the latest executive gadgets if tempted by the right offer.
Getting closer to customers through data but not blindly assuming you have all the answers is another takeaway. Supplementing data with third party demographic and income data might make sense for many brands and so to does looking at what you might be able to provide other companies in your supply chain in return for data that improves your single customer view.
Perhaps the final takeaway is that, since marketing is likely to be the guardian of customer experience, sometimes it's not all about pushing a sale but improving a journey. The CRM guys at Heathrow claim that particularly for families, they will as often as not prioritise a message about where the nearest play area is rather than go all out to find an appropriate offer. Sometimes a balance has to be reached between easing the customer journey so they come away with a good feeling about the brand, rather than thinking you are only there to shower with offers and promotional messages. Next time you take a business flight on your own, see how the airport reacts to you digitally compared to when you're taking the kids away for a holiday and judge for yourself if they're getting the messaging right.