DING! The sound of retail at Southwest

The other week at our Airline Business Awards we were talking with Richard Sweet, marketing director at Southwest Airlines, about DING!, the suitably cool new web download launched earlier this year that lets customers see latest fare offers on their desktop. If you haven’t seen it yet take a look at http://www.southwest.com.
What impressed us most was the way that they had rushed out with DING! on the grounds that no-one is going to have more than a couple of these things on their desktop and Southwest was determined to be there first. Makes you wonder who they were rushing to beat into the market? In truth, it probably wasn’t the other majors so much as retailers and online agencies.
Another example, perhaps, of Southwest living up to its claim of being a customer service company that “just happens to fly”. It’s an interesting point. As bookings go online, so all airlines are increasingly going to be retailing  direct to travelers rather than through traditional travel agency wholesalers. While there has been much talk of the technological and cost issues that raises, there has been less focus on the fundamental change in business culture it must surely bring. That is pretty unchartered territory.
The folk at Southwest are being pretty coy about just how many customers have downloaded DING! to date, but they do admit that fare sales can now be trialed over hours rather than days. They are still themselves working on refining their approach to that degree of immediacy. 
DING!, along with their strategy going into the East Coast hubs, helped Southwest walk away with this year’s Marketing category in our annual awards programme. Visit our dedicated website to see full details, as well as pictures of the good and great gathered for the evening’s festivities in the ever magnificent setting of London’s Middle Temple Hall http://www.strategyawards.com.

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