It is not possible to imagine the existence of any business without marketing. The ability of any business to present itself in a convincing way to consumers simply means that its clientele is going to increase and therefore raise the profit margin of the company. Various methods have been employed in the field of marketing for a long time. But the changing times that have ushered in new revolutionary means of communication have made businesses or companies take new initiatives in reaching out to consumers (Mohan2005, p.31). The overall explanation is the attempt to obtain and maintain a competitive edge in a highly competitive business world (Harmon, Rosen, & Guttman, 2001, p.33).
In this report, the findings of a consultancy company examination of Qantas Airlines of Australia in terms of its e-marketing practices and their effectiveness will be presented. The recommendations that are considered appropriate in the light of the findings will also be made as a means of suggesting a way forward for the company.
Definition of terms used in the report
Airline –Refers to any company that offers or runs air transport business for humans or passengers and cargo. Unless specified, the word airline as used in this report refers to Qantas airlines of Australia.
Competitive edge-Refers to the advantage that makes a company operate in a better position than its competitors in an industry.
Historical Context of Qantas Airlines
Founded in the 1920s, Qantas Airlines has faithfully served the Australian people as well as the rest of the world for the entire time it has been in existence. It has had its ups and downs, but throughout its history, the airline has maintained above average service classification. The current classification gives it four stars out of a possible five. This is a sign of a well-managed airline whose services are the envy of many in the industry.
Marketing In General and e-Marketing in particular
Marketing, as a core business practice, refers to the process by which the customer is reached and informed of not only the availability of certain goods and services but also the need for him or her to have these goods and services. The micro-processes involved in marketing include consumer information, consumer aid in need recognition, and to some degree, consumer verification of the chosen product before the final decision.
E-Marketing is a relatively new marketing initiative that has gained attention due to the shift to the information age. In this age, it is not so much about physical undertakings in business but more about online interactions. E-marketing is the employment of internet technology in the consumer outreach process. It is often employed by companies that have goods and services that need to be taken to consumers. In the case of airlines, the e-marketing policy has to encompass informing the people who are seeking transport on the available choices in terms of personal travel or the movement of goods (Tanskanen, Yrjölä & Holmström 2002,p.169-173).
The airline, Qantas airlines is what is being sold in this case. The selling that is being referred to in this case does not mean that Qantas is being given to another operator in exchange for money or anything else. The meaning of selling Qantas in this context simply means that all the goods and services that Qantas Airlines has to offer are being presented to the consumers. The major items that are issued by Qantas to the market are services by nature. This is not an exclusive condition but a general character of all airlines. The services being offered are as discussed below.
Passenger Travel services
The movement of passengers from one point to the other is the major service that is offered by Qantas airlines. This is therefore the major service that is out for sale. The passengers can be Australians moving or traveling out of Australia to another part of the world or people from other parts of the world traveling to Australia. The airline has various packages in passenger travel that are out for marketing. They include student travel packages which are characteristically subsidized given the fact that students are assumed to be operating on limited financial resources and the understanding that education is supposed to be supported by everyone in society. There is also a package for tourists and holiday travelers whereby both leisure seekers and holiday travelers are given financially lowered fares as a way of encouraging them to always come back to Qantas airlines whenever they feel that they need to go for a holiday or a tour.
This is a popular phrase in the airline business. It refers to people who are involved in frequent air travel. Some of these people include diplomats, businesspersons, and sportspersons. Due to their business significance, the airline has come up with a special package that includes the provision of reduced airfares to this special category of travelers. It is important to mention in this report that this is not an exclusive feature of Qantas airlines as it has been adopted by nearly all airlines; major and minor. This underscores the significance of these frequent fliers to the airline industry. The exclusive attributes of frequent flyers include the presence of membership whereby the frequent flyers are assigned numbers, the presence of a club, and the presence of their domain in the Qantas website (Qantas Airlines 2010, p.1).
The airline also offers services for the movement of cargo from one point to the other. The cargo that is moved is varied as it depends on the items that the customers have to move. The few items that cannot be moved include explosives and items that easily start a fire or catch fire if they are not properly handled in terms of sealing to avoid accidents.
The Relevant Market and Market Targeting
The Relevant Market
The airline has done much in terms of reaching out to a wider segment of society as far as transport is concerned. The coverage of clientele is well represented in terms of age, gender, health, financial status, diversity in terms of race, and nationality. Age-wise, the airline is open to all travelers regardless of age; apart from the common sense precaution that extremely young children can only travel in the company of guardians or parents.
The airline does not discriminate on grounds of gender, meaning that females and males are free and welcome to travel aboard the Qantas planes. The same applies to hermaphrodites as well as transsexuals or bisexuals. This is uniform in the entire industry since there has not been an airline that discriminates on the grounds of gender. On matters of health, the airline has no problem with sick people using its services so long as the sickness is not a source of risk to other travelers. Risky passengers can be carried with special arrangements. It is understandable that with the rise of highly contagious diseases such as swine flu, SARS, as well as the presence of mental conditions that can put the lives of other travelers in danger, the special arrangements mentioned earlier are a necessity.
Market Targeting by Qantas Airlines
This is the identification and pursuit of a particular group of customers. The issues considered during market targeting include business location, cost of running the business, and competition (Kennedy 2006, pp.7-11). Qantas has identified two groups as its market targets. These are entrepreneurs or businesspersons as the primary market and leisure seekers or tourists as the secondary target.
Characteristics of these market Targets
Primary Target: Businesspersons
These are people who are mostly in their early thirties to their late forties. It is definite that these age limits are not fixed and there can be other people of other ages too. These people are always on the move for business purposes and their travel plans are almost definite and fixed. This means that they are a reliable market for Qantas.
Secondary Market Target: Leisure Seekers or Tourists
Given the natural beauty of Australia, it is not surprising that this is an equally important market target for Qantas airlines. The majority of the people in this group are in their advanced ages such as the 50s and 60s. They are in most cases through with the active parts of their lives and all they want is to relax in a beautiful environment. They are also a reliably viable market target mainly because of Australia’s natural attributes that draw millions of leisure seekers every year. It is also important to note that the age limits are never fixed.
Qantas Organization: The e-Market Perspective
The initiative taken by Qantas airlines in terms of e-marketing is not radically different from what the other players in the field have done. This initiative can be broken into the following steps
Qantas has a well-designed website that has as much information as possible (Qantas Airlines 2010, p.1). The design is modest and the features captivating. The dominant colors are black, white, red, and blue. Red and white are the colors that make up the Qantas airlines logo which has a kangaroo as part of it. The information that is available on the Qantas website includes the frequent flier information, the booking domain, the history of Qantas airlines, and information about hotels and post-flight travel services such as cabs. The website also has a beautifully designed slide show that showcases the beautiful Australian sceneries as a way of attracting people to Australia through the airline (Shaw 1999, p.105).
Usage of other communication channels to inform the public on the e-services
Qantas airlines have made it its obligation to inform the public that it has a well-structured online office through which clients can obtain all the relevant information regarding travel. How this information is given out include the in-flight announcements that are normally made to passengers who have already boarded the Qantas planes, the usage of flyers and information booklets that have information with a reference to the company’s website as well as magazines and other company literature that cannot end without referring to the Qantas online office. All these outlets always inform the clients that they can go to the Qantas website for more or additional information on any area; whether it is booking or joining the frequent flier club.
Does Qantas Face Competition in Business in general and e-marketing in particular?
The world of air travel is saturated with airlines. This means that competition is an issue that Qantas cannot escape from. The nominated competitors in the Qantas scenario include Virgin Air, Tiger Air, and Jetstar.
The Nature of the Nominated Competitors
Jetstar, Virgin Air, and Tiger are not as old as Qantas airlines. But this does not mean that they cannot offer substantial competition. Branding of the product is the defining aspect in marketing and in this case, Virgin has staged a serious competition in branding its services. Jetstar and Tiger are equally strong but not to Qantas level. The e-marketing strategy for all the nominated airlines has mirrored that of Qantas whereby each of the three airlines has a website that has almost all the features that Qantas has on its website. The literature of all the three airlines also ends up by referring the clients to their websites.
This is a very close relationship; a scenario that calls for continued innovation to get the small competitive advantage (Korper & Ellis 2001, p.23). The established nature of Qantas given the fact that it is very old has come in handy in coping with competition not only from the nominated competitors but from other airlines in the region and the world.
Physical vs. e-marketing
In the Qantas case, physical marketing remains the most utilized means of marketing. The rising need for convenience in a fast-paced world and the generational character of current travelers has however begun shifting the trend to the e-zone. Young people are more likely to book their flights online and they are more comfortable dealing with computers (Tatnall, Bill, Stephen, Alastair & Andrew 1998, p.34). Given that this group can be trusted to go online at one point during the day, it is safe to assume that they will access information that may have been uploaded to the website. This is one of the explanations for the rising popularity of e-marketing. But it is important to point out that the transition from physical marketing to e-marketing for the Qantas case will not be a one-day exercise. It is a gradual undertaking that will take a substantial amount of time.
The Benefits Qantas gets from e-marketing
E-Marketing is financially manageable. The huge cost incurred in producing magazines and other company literature to market the airline is not part of the e-strategy. This means that the finances that traditionally went to these forms of advertising are not being used in large sums anymore, and will stop if the e-marketing strategy becomes the only mode of marketing and advertising utilized by the company.
Shortfalls of e-marketing
The reason for marketing or adverting is to reach out to the possible consumer and present all the information that the company has concerning its products (Choi & Whinston2000, p.21). This is not easily achieved by e-marketing given the fact that not everyone has access to a computer and if everyone has a computer, which is not possible, not everyone will access the internet. This makes the role of physical marketing crucial. This, therefore, presents a case of interplay between the two forms of marketing.
Comparison of the Websites of Qantas, Virgin, Tiger, and Jetstar
Comparison is necessary to see the features in the various websites as applied by the different players (Porter 1980, p.42). The websites of Qantas, Virgin, and Jetstar are nearly the same in design and information. The Virgin and Qantas websites have more red coloration with Virgin having more red than Qantas. Jetstar and Tiger websites are more yellowish. In terms of information; Tiger is sketchy, a pointer to its slightly reduced capacity compared to the other three.
What are the Communication objectives of Qantas?
By employing an aggressive e-strategy, Qantas airlines have the aim of providing more information to consumers, making it easier for consumers to access the airlines’ services, and reducing the jams in the offices. The ultimate aim like in any other business is to reduce cost and maximize gain or profits. The reduction of the production of too much paperwork is a first step in cutting down the cost.
The findings in general
Qantas has done commendable work in its e-marketing effort. However, there is still more to be done. The website has too much information on the home page and not sufficient references are contained in the company paperwork as a way of encouraging customers to make use of its online office.
In light of the above findings, the consultancy makes the following recommendations
- The information on the homepage of the airline website needs to be reduced. Leads or search terms can be listed as a way of enabling clients or visitors to the website to navigate to whatever point they are interested in (Deitel, Deitel, & Nieto2001, p.45). The aim here is to reduce home page congestion; a move that is likely to make it easy to access information and make the website homepage more presentable to visitors.
- The airline should make it a tradition to emphasize its literature in the significance of its online office. The best way to do this is to ensure that consumers are advised to visit the airline website for more information (Komenar 1999, p.67). Another way of doing this is the encouragement of travelers to make frequent use of online booking. An incentive such as slightly reduced airfares for those travelers who make use of online booking can be introduced as a way of ensuring that people are making more use of the company’s online office.
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