Every week, I get an email from United Airlines telling me about their e-fares for the coming weekend. Almost every week, I ignore this email because the information isn’t relevant to me. This week’s email includes fares from Burbank to San Francisco, Wichita to Denver and White Plains to Chicago.
United knows that I live in the DC area. United also knows (from having years of my frequent flier history) the places I go to frequently. If they used all that data to only send me relevant offers, I’d be more likely to read their email. If they highlighted deals to San Francisco or Seattle, there’s a very good chance I’ll bite.
Despite all the talk about companies using mass stores of data to provide laser-targeted offers, the reality is far from it. United isn’t alone. American Express has 14 years of my purchasing history, yet not one of the six “CustomExtras” offers on my last statement was relevant.
I’m even willing to give United more data than they already have. I’d be happy to fill out a form listing all the places I want to go. Have a last-minute bargain to Prague or Istanbul or Sydney? Sign me up. I’m glad to help you fill those empty seats. United doesn’t even have the challenge of developing custom creative — all they need is the city and the price.