Brussels Airlines transforms data into actionable insights with lookalike targeting

Brussels Airlines and blue2purple use Google Analytics 360 and Google Marketing Platform to create hyper-targeted lookalike audiences, resulting in higher engagement and significantly better conversion.

As Belgium’s flag carrier and the largest airline flying from Brussels Airport, Brussels Airlines flies to over 90 destinations across Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. Part of the Lufthansa Group since 2009, and facing heavy low cost competition in the Belgian market, the brand aims to provide competitive pricing while maintaining high levels of service -  a balancing act that requires a strong focus on efficiency and innovation across the organisation.

Destination Digital

According to Heidi de Cloet, Digital Marketing Manager at Brussels Airlines, being able to respond quickly to changing consumer behaviour is crucial to the brand’s success. “There’s an ongoing shift from traditional channels to online, and we’ve adapted our organisational structure to the change,” says Heidi. “It starts with the platforms we use. We’ve invested in the development of our website and mobile app, and in digital servicing such as online check-in, booking management and customer care.”

The Data Advantage

With the shift to digital comes a wealth of data from tools like Google Analytics 360, so a recent project for Brussels Airlines has involved learning how to use this resource to drive greater marketing efficiency. “Our mission is to be the most personal airline, so we also want to make our advertising tailormade,” says Heidi de Cloet. “Serving the right message at the right time creates relevance for the customer, giving us a competitive advantage.”

In their quest to make better use of this data, Brussels Airlines partnered with digital media consultants, blue2purple. “We’ve helped Brussels Airlines to define a unified strategy across the different departments of the company, such as marketing, sales and IT,” says Gaetan Godart, Client Service Director at blue2purple. “Unification unleashed a lot of data that we’ve then been able to use in Google Marketing Platform1 to create high quality audience signals and lookalike models.”

To fully investigate and validate the advantages of using lookalike models for prospecting and awareness campaigns, blue2purple decided to run an audience A/B test. Using Brussels Airlines’ own first-party audience data, such as purchase history, website behaviour and browsing characteristics, they built remarketing audiences in Google Marketing Platform, and then created lookalike models with search intents to identify new prospects. Then, to compare performance, they ran this campaign alongside one targeted using only third-party audience signals.

This campaign was the first evidence that the technology and data we’re putting behind our campaigns provide real value. This is proof that our investment in tech is paying off.

- Heidi de Cloet, Digital Marketing Manager, Brussels Airlines

Tech Investment Takes Off

Media spend and reach for both campaigns were identical, but the difference in performance proved to be substantial. Ad interaction increased by 52%, while the conversion rate for the lookalike-targeted campaign was more than double the rate achieved by the third-party targeted campaign. According to Gaetan Godart at blue2purple, in addition to producing strong business results,  these tests promise to have a deep and lasting impact on the brand’s marketing strategy: “we’re now thinking about buying audiences rather than buying media, which is a real game-changer.”

"Brussels Airlines is investing heavily in innovation to become a digital-first company,” says Heidi de Cloet, summing up where the tests fit within the brand’s larger digital transformation. “This campaign was the first evidence that the technology and data we’re putting behind our campaigns provide real value. This is proof that our investment in tech is paying off.”

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