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Alaska Airlines boosts paid search success

  Article , Travel , Success stories

Improves ROAS with Audience Targeting

Alaska Airlines boosts paid search success

Owen Bickford spending time with young Alaska Airlines fans on Bring your kids to work day.

Owen Bickford spending time with young Alaska Airlines fans on Bring your kids to work day.

What began 88 years ago as a small, regional airline, Alaska Airlines has evolved into an international carrier with more than 115 destinations and transporting more than 45 million customers annually. Guided by integrity, care, ingenuity, and professionalism, this Seattle-based company retains its hometown feel and has earned a loyal following of people who know there’s something special about an airline that treats its customers as guests.

Owen Bickford, Paid Search Program Manager, has been with Alaska Airlines for four years and manages their search program. “I really like the way Alaska treats its guests, and it’s surprising the way people feel about Alaska as a company,” says Owen. “You don’t usually see people who love an airline.”

This culture of continued improvement and growth is what drew him to the company. Alaska Airlines empowers its employees to do what’s right for its guests. “Anyone can stop the operation, just so that we ensure everything is safe and up to par,” says Owen. Furthermore, Alaska Airlines is investing in its employees by increasing in-house capabilities—including digital marketing—allowing them to be as in touch with their guests as possible.

We talked to Owen before COVID-19, and while things have certainly changed for us all, the need to be in touch with your customers is more important than ever.

The ease of use, the scale, and the lower costs are all big parts of why I love working with Microsoft Advertising.

— Owen Bickford, Paid Search Program Manager, Alaska Airlines

Stimulating demand with paid search

Not only has paid search been a great way for the airline to capture demand, it’s also helping them to generate demand. According to Owen, one of the best ways they’ve found to build loyalty is simply getting people on their planes so they can experience the difference.

“A lot of people outside Seattle don’t understand that we fly to more places than just Alaska,” says Owen. So, he uses paid search to educate people in different regions who may be searching for flights between Los Angeles and New York, for example, but may not know about Alaska Airlines. When an ad appears, it’s an opportunity to inform prospective customers on where Alaska Airlines flies and the value they offer, stimulating demand.

Driving results with audiences

Owen is always on the lookout for ways to improve performance, taking full advantage of Microsoft Advertising features such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to help him automate and drive efficiency.

Two of the most essential performance indicators for Owen include return on ad spend (ROAS) and filling flights, both critical to their bottom line. “I love PPC because it's attributable,” says Owen. “Almost everything we do, we can prove the value it brings in actual revenue.”

To drive a higher ROAS, Owen decided to leverage remarketing in Microsoft Advertising. As part of the campaign, he included In-market and similar audiences in addition to standbys like remarketing.

As a result of the campaign, audience-generated ROAS increased by more than 20% year over year. Furthermore, the average booking value of audience list members increased by 15% YoY. Owen has incorporated the learnings from this success into nearly every campaign since.

A true partnership that delivers value

For Owen, Microsoft Advertising delivers tremendous value. “The ease of use, the scale, and the lower costs are all big parts of why I love working with Microsoft Advertising,” says Owen. But for Owen, Microsoft Advertising is more than just a platform. He relies on the Microsoft Advertising account management team as trusted business partners and advocates. “They are pretty unique. They really partner with us to understand what our goals and problems are and try to help us solve them.”

The account team at Microsoft Advertising supports experimentation, which is important to Owen. “Paid search is always changing so if you’re not testing, you’re falling behind,” he says. Early testing provides a unique advantage, allowing the airline to capture initial gains that others may not be getting.

When asked what single piece of advice he’d share with other search marketers, Owen advises, “Don't wait for someone to tell you what to do next. Just go out and look for opportunities to make a difference for your business.”

I love PPC because it's attributable. Almost everything we do, we can prove the value it brings in actual revenue.

— Owen Bickford, Paid Search Program Manager, Alaska Airlines

See a summary

Download the infographic to take the Alaska Airlines success story with you.

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