DING's Success Yet to Yield Echoes

Southwest Airlines customers who use its DING desktop application are more likely to book tickets with the Dallas-based airline, a study released today said.

Online research firm Compete Inc., Boston, found that DING users are 45 percent more likely to book tickets through Southwest than the average visitor to Southwest.com. Sales driven through the service are estimated at $60 million a year.

More than 900,000 consumers have downloaded the free application, which sits in the computer user's system tray and delivers daily offers exclusive to DING users, since it launched in February.

Despite the desktop tool's success, other airlines and travel companies have not followed suit, said Gregory Saks, senior associate with Compete's Travel Practice. He sees this as a major missed loyalty opportunity, with 80 million consumers researching travel services online monthly.

“DING has about 1 percent of penetration,” he said. “There certainly is an opportunity for other players, but Southwest has the early mover advantage.”

Such a tool would help stem travel consumers' propensity for “cross-shopping,” comparing prices and services on several sites before booking. Online travel prospects now engage in 27 percent more cross-shopping than two years ago, Compete found.

Desktop tools and other methods are needed because rewards programs are not keeping customers loyal to one company, the study found. Members of rewards programs, such as those from Starwood Hotels and Intercontinental Hotels, check 5.9 supplier sites on average compared with 6.3 sites visited by travelers who don't belong to a rewards program.

“With nearly every brand offering its own program and consumers seeing less differentiation, it is clear that marketers need to look beyond just rewards to maintain strong customer relationships,” Saks said.

Financial services is another sector that would benefit from desktop marketing, a related Compete study found. Though most consumers said e-mail is the most convenient way to get security and account updates from their financial firms, they were open to desktop applications.

Sixty-nine percent of consumers surveyed by Compete said they would download a desktop application so they could receive useful information from financial companies on a regular basis; 78 percent would download the tool if the program protected them from fraud.

“Consumers are aware that this stuff [fraud] is going on, so they [welcome] anybody who can help with these kinds of issues,” said Mike Bailey, managing director of Compete's Financial Practice.

The majority of respondents (73 percent) don't think financial services providers keep them well-informed on new services and information, such as security and fraud issues. Customers also want to be notified when someone requests a credit report and when their credit card is accessed. They also want to receive account balances regularly.

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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