United Airlines offers several upsell options when they sell airline tickets to passengers. Despite logging in with total access to my customer profile, they continue to fail at the upsell. Why?
It Was New To Me
About 18 months ago I switched my loyalty from American Airlines to United. With that came a new way of traveling in some respects after 15 years on the other side of the fence. With United, during a ticket purchase, several upsell options are presented prior to booking. American Airlines didn’t really focus on this as much.
Following the sale of a coach ticket, First Class upgrades by segment are immediately offered if they haven’t sold out the cabin, followed by one final turn to spend more money for Mileage plus redeemable miles at a rate of about 2.5¢/point.
It’s a Great Idea Poorly Executed
Personally, I don’t mind adding something extra that will make my journey more enjoyable. While I don’t want to be endlessly upsold, sometimes I prefer to use a lounge on my journey and my status won’t get me in the door or I am relatively confident I will want the internet.
United, and other carriers, should absolutely push their options at the point of sale when a customer is already considering the total cost of their trip. However, I am not going to buy something I get for free. At this point in the process, I am logged in, they know that not only am I an elite member, but I am 1K. They are attempting to sell me an Economy Plus seat that I will select on the next screen for free anyway. They do the same with checked luggage.
In fact, they can’t even get the imagery to appear correctly on the page.
Additionally, I like a deal and would be inclined to purchase some products but the prices listed are retail. Why on earth would I buy a lounge pass for the same rate as a walk-up when the carrier both knows that I have two free unused day passes from my credit card with them and also that there is zero advantage to doing so.
The worst part is that they know the purchase is illogical because you may get it for free to the point that they put a disclaimer above the options, yet continue to show them.
“Your account may give you access to travel benefits.”
The easiest way for United to generate income from passengers like me is to use data to determine what options should be offered. If I get economy plus seating for free, don’t pitch it to me. If I get free checked bags through my status (which they know since I have logged in) and further free luggage through my credit card (they know this too) then why offer to sell me a bag at the same price that I can buy on the day of my flight?
If I have purchased one specific option in the past, perhaps I am more likely to do so again. Likewise, if I have never purchased a particular option (checking a bag for example) and I take 30 trips with the carrier per year, wouldn’t it make sense to refresh those options some? Wouldn’t it be more likely that I would purchase something – anything – than the same product I have said no to 29 previous times?
Assuming for a moment that I found some I upsells I preferred, wouldn’t it make sense to put something smart up based on this to invite me to purchase it again? Wouldn’t it make sense to save favorites when I executed a purchase and offer to add it at a different segment of the buying process?
Using data and applying basic information would greatly improve the chances of purchases.
Some companies would be enviable to the extensive and intimate knowledge United has of their customer base and their purchase decisions, yet it seems like United is uninterested in applying intelligence to their upsells. They are not the first company to waste massive data troves on poor execution, but when they explicitly acknowledge that you can get some of the same options for free but don’t bother to use that data it’s confusing and frustrating and if I was a shareholder of UAL, disappointing.
What do you think? Would you like to see more or fewer options to upsell? Should they change every time? How would you improve the concept?