In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
New features aim to ease booking and provide richer information.
In what it’s calling a “digital refresh,” airline JetBlue Airways today launched newly redesigned e-commerce and m-commerce sites, aiming to make it easier for travelers to book a flight on the go and find information such as maps to airports and driving conditions. JetBlue also today debuted an iPhone app that matches the design scheme of the sites while catering to the needs of highly loyal customers.
“We’re an 11-year-old company with roots in the digital channel,” says Michael Stromer, vice president of customer connections. “Many of our competitors have begun focusing on digital in recent years and have caught up. We made this investment in this channel because we want to stay several steps ahead.”
Personalization is a major element of the redesign. An area for signing into a True Blue loyalty account is now featured prominently atop the e-commerce and m-commerce home pages. Once a customer signs in, the sites access all the preferences information in the customer’s account and customizes features and functions. For example, a customer’s most commonly used home airport is featured on the page with links for airport and road conditions. If it’s within 72 hours of a flight, gate and other airport information is displayed. And if a customer regularly travels to Orlando, the site may display an advertisement for Walt Disney World.
Navigation also has been enhanced—with tablet computers in mind. There are fewer text links. Buttons are larger, a convenience for customers using touchscreen devices. The bottom content on all the pages has been cleaned up and aired out so that fingers don’t accidentally touch the wrong link. JetBlue also highlights at the bottom of the page its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages and its and blog.
JetBlue, No. 78 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300, also has added some functionality on the back-end that affects what consumers see and how they access the sites. It is using geo-targeting technology to serve up flight prices relevant to the city from which a consumer accesses the site. It’s added a behavioral targeting engine from Adobe Systems Inc. to highlight relevant content based on how a customer is clicking through the site. And it has hired Akamai Technologies Inc. to host site data on servers around the country to speed the delivery of pages to desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets.
The airline worked with web design firm Rokkan on the redesign, which was inspired by JetBlue’s customers and employees. It e-mailed a survey to 15,000 of its True Blue loyalty program members and received a 50% response rate. And it interviewed everyone from crew members up to the CEO to gauge expectations from within the company. That input led to the focus on personalization and ease of navigation, Stromer says.
Usablenet Inc. built and maintains the m-commerce site. Double Encore helped develop the app.
Today’s launch is phase one of a three-phase project. Phase two will debut mid-year and phase three at the end of the year. JetBlue is hush-hush on the next two phases, but does hint that social media will play a big role.
JetBlue also today launched its first mobile app for the iPhone; an Android version is in the works.
The app provides all the functionality of the sites and is presented in tiles that are easy to touch. A personal greeting along with True Blue points total appear atop the screen, followed by the weather forecast for the city to which the customer is next flying. Flight information appears below, followed by three boxes: Share, Check In and Pick Me Up. Share enables a traveler to e-mail details of his flight to friends and family. Check In allows customers to skip lines at the airport, as well as select seats. And Pick Me Up provides directions to the airport and up-to-the-minute flight and gate information to the person picking up the traveler at his destination.
Customers can book flights through the app. They also can elect to receive push notifications from the app. A push notification is a message in a window that pops up on the smartphone screen regardless of whether the app is open or not. In case an app user misses a push, JetBlue has included a Push inbox in the app where a customer can read the most recent messages.
There’s also a section called Fun Stuff. “We figured out a couple ways for now to get customers to use the app when they are outside the travel realm,” says Jonathan Stephen, project manager and mobile producer. “So we give them the ability to create postcards and download wallpapers.”
The app also enables customers to view in-flight entertainment schedules. A traveler can enter his flight number and the app will download the entertainment menus onto the smartphone so that he can view the content even without a wireless network connection. On that note, JetBlue plans to deploy Wi-Fi networks on its planes later this year.