Case Study: DFW Airport Uses LBS Offers to Spur Traveler Spending

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Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is a massive, luxurious airport that in some areas resembles an upscale mall. Many of the travelers who passed through, the airport found, were tech-savvy. 84% owned smartphones and 36% were checking in on location-based services while waiting to board their flights. So to connect these travelers to the stores near their gates, DFW worked with the owners of airport restaurants and shops to come up with a cohesive marketing campaign using Foursquare and Facebook Places. Since launching the promotion in August, more than 7,500 travelers have already checked-in. Below, vice president of marketing Sharon McCloskey and Megan Bozarth, senior manager of consumer marketing for the airport, talk about the plan.

How did you get interested in using LBS?
McCloskey: We really got started using Foursquare because we noticed that when people come to the airport, they’re usually a couple of hours early because they anticipate there might be a security line. The passenger gets here early, goes and finds their gate and sits down. What we want them to do [with] the extra time they have is to get up and shop, quite frankly, or eat at one of our food establishments. We see people in those holding areas before they get on the flight, and many times they are doing something on their phones. We started to survey our passengers to find out what kind of phone they had and what kinds of things they were doing on their phone, and a lot of the time, people were checking-in. So, we thought, how can we take advantage of this? How can we leverage this technology and provide people with offers that are right around them so they feel comfortable getting up and they’re not wandering too far from their gate in order to go take advantage of an offer?

How did you decide to work with Foursquare and Facebook Places in particular?
McCloskey: I was talking to our passengers and was asking them: If you’re already checking-in, which 36% of our passengers said that they were already doing anyway, that’s really where they were checking-in. We just went where the customer was.

What kind of mechanisms do you have in place for encouraging people to check-in once they get to the airport?
Bozarth: We have a large amount of real estate here at the airport, so we basically blanketed our airport inside with banners, window clings, and backlit signs. There’s usually a monitor bank of 10 or 12 [flight information display] screens, so we took the last screen of that and we’re rotating ads on that screen, as well, promoting the campaign. One of the most important things we did is we actually provided our shop and restaurant owners with a toolkit. We [gave them] signage, t-shirts, and buttons for their employees to wear in their locations, so when a person walked up, they were very familiar with the fact that their location offered something via Foursquare or Facebook Places.

What goals did you have when setting up the promotion?
McCloskey: We didn’t set goals in terms of check-ins, but the goal was to get a good cross-section of offers throughout all of our terminals. For example, we have five different terminals. We have just about every airline here that you could have, especially domestically, so really the challenge for us was more of an internal one, because each of these shops and restaurants is independently owned [franchises], if you will. So how do we get all of those owners on board with this, and how do we get them to understand the value of this technology and what it can bring to them? And [how do we] incentivize them to give an offer that we can then put on Foursquare or Facebook Places.

So how did you do that?
McCloskey: Through a series of meetings [where we] explained [the campaign] to them. We have 200 different shops and restaurant locations throughout the terminals, and we got 85 different locations to step up with offers right off the bat. [We got] these folks to come in the room and showed them the technology and showed them the research results that we had from our passengers. They could see [that] 84% of our passengers are using a smartphone; here’s the difference between a smartphone and another cell phone; here is all of the functionality. Really [we were] educating them. Once they started to see that this is a trend, and once they started to see how different locations outside the airport were already using it, then 85 different locations got on board. A few examples of some of the specific Foursquare/Facebook Places offers from our concessionaires [are] Brookstone Terminal D, free astrolight with any purchase with check-in; Urban Taco Terminal C, 15 percent off any combo meal with check-in; [and] Tequileria Terminal E, free chips and salsa with every check-in.

Since we’ve launched, many of the other locations that were not participating have said, “OK, wait a minute. Now I’m starting to see people are going into the restaurant next door,” and “Hey I want to give you an offer. I want to participate in this thing next time.” And we do intend to [let them]. The program is set up so we will rotate offers out every three months. We do get a lot of frequent travelers through here so we didn’t want to have the same offers all the time. We’re going to work with our shop and restaurant owners to rotate those offers out every three months.

Who is setting up the offers on the backend with Foursquare and Facebook Places?
McCloskey: We’re actually handling that for them.

Now that the campaign has been running for a few months, what kind of response have you heard from travelers?
McCloskey: We’ve had 7,500 check-ins since we started, so we’re excited about that. We received positive feedback when we had brand ambassadors in the terminals talking to our passengers; just more from the standpoint of, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realize the airport was doing this kind of thing.” We think from an image standpoint, that [the campaign] puts us in a good light and we’re happy about that. I think one of our biggest wins, in working with the shops and restaurants, is getting the owners of those shops and restaurants to see the value of the technology. The fact that they are now requesting to put offers on Foursquare and Facebook Places with us — we think that’s a big win, because it shows they’re leaning forward and we were able to educate them [about] the value of this technology.

Do you have any future LBS campaigns in the works?
We are continuing [the campaign] with Foursquare and Facebook Places. Every three months [we’ll continue the] rotation of those offers. We’ll continue to monitor what our passengers are doing with their smartphones. As long as they are using things like Foursquare and Facebook Places, then we will be there. I will say that for the holidays coming up, we will be doing some location specific MS Tags and some interesting things coming up in our terminals, in order to offer these rewards to our passengers.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.