Customers Respond to Southwest Airlines' Latest 'Ding'

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Southwest Airlines customers are quickly signing up for the new Ding service for their computer desktops, which notifies them about special, limited-time fares.


The Dallas-based company is the first airline to offer this type of free, downloadable application, which sits in the computer user's system tray and delivers daily offers exclusive to Ding users.


After viewing that day's special -- which typically lasts only a few hours -- fliers can click on the offer's hyperlink to Southwest's site to buy a ticket.


Signups for the "Ding -- Live Updates from Southwest.com" service, launched Feb. 28, are exceeding expectations, said Kevin Krone, vice president of interactive marketing for Southwest, though he declined to release current or estimated signup numbers.


Along with the attraction that many of the fares are significantly lower than regular ones, the service aims to increase excitement for deal seekers, offering special fares to certain cities for only a few hours. For example, a Ding message March 4 stated, "Lunch time fare: Must purchase by 7 p.m.," and listed low fares to certain cities, such as $30 one way from Tucson, AZ, to Los Angeles.


"Customers love our lower fares, but sometimes they get word of a sale too late," Krone said. "They want to know right away."


Southwest executives also know that weekly "Click and Save" e-mail offers to customers are not always read immediately, so special fares are missed, he said.


"And, we don't want to over-e-mail you," he said.


Future applications of the technology could include tie-ins to Southwest's Rapid Rewards frequent-flier program as well as delivering special Ding fares to customers' cell phones and other wireless devices. Rapid Rewards members who downloaded Ding the week of March 7 were offered two bonus credits when they installed and agreed to run the program for at least 30 days.


Ding users list their home airport so Southwest can better tailor offers to customers by city, Krone said.


The application could work well on cell phones, when more include Windows-based systems, as well as PDAs and other wireless devices. Customers' flight information is sent to their cell phones when they request the service.


"The wireless market is finally starting to build momentum, so it's attractive for us to invest in it," he said.


Krone expects most Southwest fliers to sign up for Ding over time because "the fares are so attractive, and the only way you can get to those [fares] is through Ding."


Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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