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Delta’s plan to offer free Wi-Fi will turn its planes into first-party data hubs

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, Delta announced that the airline would start rolling out free Wi-Fi through a partnership with T-Mobile to passengers on more than 700 of its planes. Delta also announced that in April it will launch the Delta Sync Exclusives hub, a digital service and experience platform that will offer games, entertainment, and content through partnerships with The New York Times and Paramount+, for example.

Enterprises everywhere are in pursuit of an ideal post-cookie playbook that transforms anonymous audiences into known customers. By integrating customer demographic and engagement data from the in-flight entertainment platform through Delta Sync, the company will gain control of its first-party data and therefore will improve personalization, curate in-flight content, and increase customer loyalty. Through the Delta SkyMiles loyalty program, the airline will also share the first-party information with its promotional partners.

The impending deprecation of the third-party cookie in 2024 when Google will stop accepting third-party marketing cookies for Chrome, has moved first-party data from an after-thought to a top business priority, as it represents information enterprises collect directly from their audiences. Enterprises can effectively gather information about their customers through instances like loyalty programs and onsite traffic without invading their privacy. The value for the enterprise lies in its ability to gain full control of the data, which builds trust among customers.

Delta has made serious enterprise IT investments in recent years to improve its ability to unify and analyze data. The ability to gather, unify, and orchestrate data is typically made through a customer data platform. This process ensures the company is combining customer data from flight purchases, credit

card spending, travel habits, and demographics to tailor promotions. By further combining the in-flight entertainment data, Delta will hyper-personalize content, offers, and engagements for customers.

Beyond the obvious passenger convenience and onboard experiential aspect of Delta’s free Wi-Fi and entertainment hub, the technology deployment also represents something far more valuable. By putting the mechanisms in place to obtain customers’ emails and monitor and analyze their digital behavioral preferences and activities, Delta is essentially turning its planes into first-party data hubs.

Two often-used vehicles for first-party data collection include online user registration and free Wi-Fi, both of which require a user’s email address. By requiring registration to its Delta SkyMiles loyalty program to access the free Wi-Fi and the Delta Sync Exclusive hub, Delta will not only collect customers’ personal data but also grow its loyalty program.

Then by integrating and analyzing customer and behavioral data, Delta will ultimately increase the relevancy of the customer engagement and offers. In fact, the Customer Data Platform Institute cites a cost savings of up to 30% and revenue increases of 20% when customer engagement is optimized with relevant experiences.

The launch fulfills key objectives when embarking on a first-party data strategy: Delta will tailor content and services to customers’ objectives, offer value in exchange for customers’ data, and its technology investments will enable the data exchange.

By taking ownership of the data, developing key capabilities related to data analysis, and working with trusted partners, Delta will quickly realize the competitive advantages of implementing a comprehensive first-party data strategy.