AMR's AAdvantage unit - their frequent travel program and one of their most profoundly successful business units - has forayed into social media. While it's nothing as sexy as a social network or a new Facebook app, it is nevertheless a way that AMR is letting its most loyal members interact with each other.
In late October, under the guidance of my company, crayon, they launched the AAdvantage Milefinder Map, a mashup of the Google Maps API and AAdvantage partner data. If you log on to the map, you can see hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies and other partner information, sorted around 11 city centers. At this point, it's just a pilot program (I know, sorry!) and AMR may expand it to other cities based on the response.
Users can use the standard social media sharing functions such as Digg, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, etc. to share their findings. But most importantly, they can submit reviews of each vendor, in order to better inform other AAdvantage members of places to visit or avoid, based on their experience.
The comments are monitored for off-topic rants, profanity, or any other untoward activity. But in their commitment to keeping the experience as transparent and authentic as possible, AMR is leaving any negative posts up. I give them full credit for doing so, for it's not easy for a large brand to let go of control.
Finally, I'm happy to see that this approach - using online tools to help steer offline decision making - is gaining traction. ComScore and the Kelsey Group recently found that offline purchase behavior is influenced by online reviews. In fact, percentage of people who consider online reviews in the top 3 categories match the major AAdvantage Milefinder Map categories:
- Restaurants - 41%
- Hotels - 40%
- Travel - 27%
This is good news to other brands that may be a little hesitant to try some online experiments, knowing that their purchases are really done offline. The line between online and offline is continuing to blur in a very interesting way. One flows into th next and information is collected, analyzed and acted upon an a variety of ways.
Are there any industries that you typically research online and then purchase offline? What are they?