When it comes to creating a relationship with customers, airlines have it pretty tough.
The vast majority of travelers book their flights based on price and convenience, and they tend to forget the company they’re flying with until they’re cursing them for losing their luggage. While in-flight magazines usually do a suitable job of conveying brand values and building trust while people are on the plane, there’s still the issue of how to maintain contact in the time between touchdown and takeoff.
Royal Dutch Airlines (or KLM) may have found the best answer to that challenge yet: iFly Magazine, the airline’s digital magazine and this year’s “Best In Show” winner at the Digiday Content Marketing Awards. Created in 2009, KLM’s visually stunning multimedia travel publication now puts out eight editions a year in three different languages.
“KLM wants to be more than an airline,” said Rogier IJzermans, founder and CEO of Born05, the Dutch agency that helps KLM produce iFly. “To do that, you must add value to the touch points and contact moments you have with the customer.”
Each issue takes three months to produce and requires the work of about 12 Born05 employees. In addition, the agency works with freelancers to provide a local’s view of a popular destination. For instance, it tapped Indian photographer Aman Chotani for this short photo essay on his home country and Belfast native Jamie Stinson for a video guide to his favorite spots in the city.
In addition to these hometown tours, iFly also does stories that plan out the perfect vacation to a given region (similar to The New York Times‘s “36 Hours” series). Each story is fairly short and chock full of photos and videos, making the whole package an entertaining and easily digestible read.
The publication’s tone was initially more authoritative—IJzermans described it as being similar to a “guiding uncle that tells stories about the world”—but after some testing, Born05 and KLM found that readers preferred a friendlier, more personable approach.
“It’s a laid-back, inspiring medium,” IJzermans said. “We created a content format to tell the story behind the product.”
While many of the stories include calls to action to inspire people to book their next flight, iFly is less about driving sales than it is generating engagement between readers and the KLM brand.
In fact, IJzermans says his team measures the effectiveness of iFly based on a conversion rate that counts not only when a reader makes a purchase, but also when the reader shares the magazine with his or her friends or interacts with elements on the page. These interactions are extremely important, as KLM uses them to build out customer profiles and optimize the content and sales offers it makes in its email marketing.
According to IJzermans, KLM usually sees the conversion rate hover between 6 percent and 8 percent, with average engagement times between 7 and 8 minutes. The most impressive statistic? Upwards of 30 percent of readers consume at least four issues per year.
“We have other channels to pursue the sales aspect,” IJzermans said. “The goal is that we stay top of mind, and that we deepen the relationship with our audience based on the content and the stories.”
The magazine’s primary distribution channel is email, where KLM is able to reach people who sign up to receive the publication when it is released. IJzermans said the company gets “fantastic” open rates.
In addition, KLM repurposes the content created for iFly for its social channels and KLM.com in order to get the highest return on investment. It also pays to promote its content on social media, primarily on Facebook. In total, each issue is exposed to about 12 million people in 200 different countries.
This social integration is extremely important to KLM—it aims to be “the most social airline in the world,” according to IJzermans—who sees this method of distribution only becoming more important in the future.
With its front and back covers, iFly was designed as a digital magazine, but in the future, IJzermans thinks we will start seeing more and more high-quality content formatted to be distributed in an agnostic fashion across the various social platforms—including iFly.
“A magazine is a perfect medium based on previous conventions to bundle stories. In the future, the most important innovations will be the social element,” IJzermans said. “You’ll see much smarter distribution of the same content to multiple touch points along the customer journey.”
iFly is just one of many examples of strong, traditional digital content hoping to migrate to social. For everyone in the content game, distribution is king—and social media is the land it rules.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go book a flight to Vietnam.