Alaska Airlines SMS Offer FAIL

Not long ago I signed up to receive text-message promotions and offers from Alaska Airlines. I like Alaska Air. They are probably my favorite airline and I fly them whenever I can. They also seem to recognize the needs of a mobile traveler (is that redundant? does travel = mobile?) because they have smartphone apps, a mobile web site, and offer flight alerts via SMS.

Their latest SMS promotion said the following:

Mildly interesting, I guess, but I immediately have a series of thoughts.

  1. Why do I need to register? Wouldn’t I just get the credit?
  2. I’m probably not going to book a trip just because I can get double miles. Does this incentive really drive new bookings?
  3. Is this offer only good for today or the next few hours?

With my head filling with more questions than answers I click on the url and my (smart) phone browser displays:

(life-size image)

Ouch. What the heck is this? It appears to be a page on their main web site that is almost completely filled with text that is far too small to read. Even when I zoom in to the point where the type is legible it means I need to pan side-to-side in order to read a complete line.  I’m not doing this. It will be far too painful.

I do, however, scroll to the bottom to see just how long this page is and I find a couple form fields. One asks for my mileage plan number (don’t they already have it?) and the other asks where I heard about this offer, presumably in an effort to track the effectiveness of different channels at driving people to the offer. Zooming way in I tap the selector and there isn’t an option to say I heard about the offer via text-message.  This SMS effort appears to be an afterthought.

FAIL.

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What could have saved this campaign?

To put it mildly, there is a lot of room for improvement here. Let’s start at the beginning with the SMS message and work our way through.

The main issue with the SMS is that it doesn’t conform to the standards of the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices. Any broadcast message like this needs to have opt-out verbiage such as “reply STOP to cancel msgs”.  This is not only a rule it is the right thing to do for the recipient.

Next is the landing page. It wasn’t designed for mobile viewing and is almost a guaranteed poor user experience. It would not have been difficult or expensive to build a single mobile landing page that displays the details of the offer, the terms, and an entry form to capture registrations. Using a non-mobile page will significantly impact participant opt-out rates (assuming you’ve told them how to opt-out). The odd thing here is that Alaska Airlines has a mobile site at m.alaskaair.com.

Finally, Alaska Air should be holding mobile marketing efforts to a higher standard of accountability. I’m pretty sure that they can’t track anything associated with this effort.

  1. They are using a vanity bit.ly url which will only tell you the number of clicks. It won’t allow you to carry through recipient information like mobile number or even the mileage plan number. They will never know who actually clicked.
  2. They are gathering user-reported source info but not including SMS as one of the options. They will probably never know if the SMS generated any registrations.

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