Operating services to over 130 destinations, KLM is the oldest airline in the world still flying under its original name, but despite its extensive heritage the Dutch flag-carrier has been agile in adapting to the constantly evolving travel industry.
Reportedly making €25 million per year through social media sales, the brand is adept at marketing through a broad range of digital channels. With this in mind we spoke to the KLM's affiliate marketing manager, Alicia Solis, to find out more about how the airline thrives within the highly competitive affiliate marketing space.
How did you come to be the affiliate manager of an international flag-carrier?
Alicia Solis: I started my career in digital marketing at an affiliate network. That offered the great opportunity to get insights into affiliate marketing of many different sectors and companies. After managing affiliate programs for several international brands for two years, I wanted to work for a single advertiser. The travel industry has always had my interest and when I saw the job opening at KLM, I knew that that was a unique opportunity. Luckily, they thought I was a good match, too.
What were the motivators behind KLM’s adoption of affiliate marketing?
AS: We want to be present amongst all digital touch points that travellers meet online: from first inspiration, orientation and comparison to the actual booking. Affiliate marketing enables us to collaborate with a diverse range of publishers across all touch points on a performance based model. Since the launch of our in-house network last year, we can expand our affiliate partnerships globally in an effective and scalable way. KLM.com is available for more than 80 markets and our in-house program makes it possible for affiliates from all those markets to join and promote our flights.
Marketing an international brand is no small feat. What challenges do you come across?
AS: We are active in a great variety of markets that each have their own culture and dynamics. It is a challenge to keep track of the local trends and be flexible with our affiliate marketing approach per country.
How do you ensure KLM’s affiliate presence is unique and stands out among its competitors?
AS: We took an important step by launching our private network last year. In order to make the most out of the affiliate marketing channel, we wanted to take things into our own hands and build personal relationships with our affiliates. They know what their visitors, our potential customers, are looking for and how they like to receive that information. We can learn a lot from them and offer them better tools and input to promote us by having a direct dialogue. Providing tailor-made creative and being flexible in our approach to individual affiliates, we have had very positive feedback about this personal approach.
How do you make sure publishers are suitable for the KLM brand?
AS: It is important for us that a publisher is a good match for KLM and adds value both to our affiliate program and our potential customers. Within the standards we handle, we are very open to affiliates with new concepts and ideas. Innovation and pioneer spirit are dominant factors within our whole e-commerce department that became famous due to its unique social media approach.
How diverse and varied is your publisher network?
AS: Our publishers are very diverse. They reflect the different touch points that travelers will meet online from the idea for a trip until the search for the best deal. We have price comparison websites, airport and city marketing websites, travel bloggers as well as deal websites amongst our partners. They all operate in quite different ways and have diverse needs. Providing the right input to all of them and setting up fruitful partnerships with all publisher types makes our work very versatile.
What one piece of advice do you have for affiliate marketers operating in the travel industry?
AS: Invest time and resources into direct contact with your affiliates. Learn from their individual feedback and act upon it.