May 11, 2008

Consistency Is King

I've never actually flown JetBlue myself, but almost everyone I know seems to have wonderful things to say about them. Enough so that it's sunk in: leather seats, friendly crew, great in-flight entertainment.

They've even launched a new campaign called "Jetting" that's all about the superiority of their experience. So it was with no small amount of dismay that I encountered their actual website, and discovered that it was in no way the HTML, Java or Ajax equivalent of plush leather seats. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

I mean given that this is the one point of interaction many (if not most) consumers will have with them, the website should really be something special.

And it's not.

To wit: If I want to fly out of NYC, I can only select one of the 3 airports (JFK, LaGuardia & Newark) - there's no default "NYC" option that shows me flights from all 3 so that I can select the cheapest one/best time/etc. Now any New Yorker can tell you that this is a very useful function since all three airports are (more or less) equidistant from Manhattan, and flight prices can fluctuate wildly between them. It's not a tough thing to add and it's present in sites like Kayak and Expedia.

So already they're losing me.

Then, once I do pick an airport, the site only gives me one-way options and prices, leaving it to me to figure out the cheapest combinations myself, rather than grouping them together the way most airline sites do. This just adds an extra step (Is the 8:25 departure plus the 7:30 return cheaper than the 9:25 departure and 10:30 return?) and makes the site seem far more confusing than necessary.

The lesson here is that brands need to think about how and where consumers find them and to make sure that experience matches the experience promised in the advertising. For an airline like JetBlue, the website is a critical part of the flying experience, since it will likely be the consumer's first "official" contact with the brand-- even if they ultimately book the ticket through Travelocity or Expedia or even a travel agent, many consumers will check out the Jet Blue site at some point in the process. And making sure that site matches all the great buzz the airline has generated should be far more important to them than any other marketing effort they're undertaking.

Unfortunately, for too many marketers, that realization hasn't even begun to set in.

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