Southwest Fares ONLY Available On Southwest.com

Many you have probably read that Forrester believes that online experiences of the future will be: customized by the end user, aggregated at the point of use, relevant to the device and to the moment, and social as a rule (CARS). We've been seeing a number of companies — Avis, eBay, USAA, Weather.com, and many others — developing experiences that demonstrate attributes of our CARS model today. And we expect to see more and more given trends in consumer behavior, technology development, and the number of potential competitive threats companies face.

All that said, yesterday, I saw a commercial that was decidedly un-CARS-like. One of the things several of us who are thinking about CARS have found is that the A (standing for aggregated) is really a critical attribute. Not only are consumers getting more savvy about the online research they do (using multiple sources), but also the availability of data is allowing them to comparison shop more than ever before and the number of competitors that enable this type of comparison shopping is growing too. What we think this means is that companies' Web sites are no longer going to be the only go-to places to experience their brand — instead, they're going to have to be creative about how their content (or product) is aggregated elsewhere. But I digress . . .

So this commercial from Southwest Airlines wants consumers to know that its fares are ONLY available on its site. In fact, Southwest is so jazzed up about it, it filmed a musical of sorts to convey this idea.

So despite the large and growing number of sites allowing consumers to search for the best flight for a specific set of travel criteria, Southwest expects its consumers to go to its Web site to find their flights. Interesting brand play for a brand trying to be a cost leader. What do you think?

Comments

Cost

How much are consumers will to pay for aggregation? One of the ways Southwest can keep their fares low is to not pay the aggregators for the privilege of comparing their prices. This is a holdover from face-to-face time with a travel agent. Southwest didn't pay them either.

That said, I suspect that the aggregators (Priceline, Expedia, etc) could easily add Southwest to their pricing look up if they were willing to do it for free.

The bottom line is that nothing is free. The consumer pays for the company presence, one way or another. Southwest is letting them know that if they want to save money, they have to work a tiny bit harder.

Volume

Nancy - great point. My personal feeling (and this is not something I've researched but others like Chris Andersen have) is that consumers are not willing to pay (at least overtly) for services like aggregation meant more to make their lives easier than to provide overt product value.

That said though, cost leaders like Southwest rely on volume to make their profits so it still seems odd to me that they wouldn't consider it important to be in all of the relevant places that people who search for low cost flights would be looking for those flights. Southwest is also aggressively expanding the routes they fly so as they compete more and more on longer routes, they need to capture bargain hunters who might not even be aware that they fly those routes. They do some awareness through traditional and digital advertising but I don't know whether that's as effective as capturing consumers at the point or research or decision making.

I agree that nothing is free and things like advertising and marketing costs eventually come right back into the prices we as consumer pay - it's the choice and effectiveness of traditional channels and how they're combining with digital that I question.

Very interesting

Great post and fantastic insights! Southwest most certainly has the right to do what it’s doing, but it could backfire on them in the end. If they want to gain the exposure flight search sites offer, this move might hurt them. Still, if they are trying to push people away from those sites and directly to theirs, they could be on the right track. Here’s hoping that budget-conscious flyers realize where to go to get the best fares. Otherwise Southwest might need to have its customer service reps read this article (http://www.upyourservice.com/learning-library/customer-service-recovery/...) on managing complaints!