This post is part of a series on creating friction-free brand experiences. Read our first article on friction to learn more about the concept and what the series aims to accomplish.
Think of the strangest niche business you know. Meta-pizza boxes? Sidewalk gum removal? Or perhaps Handerpants? Well, stranger pigs have flown in the age of mobile-first consumers. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. and where there’s an underserved market, there’s a business opportunity.
In today’s Friction Free series, we take a look at a company who found an underserved market you might not immediately think of: wealthy travelers in need a private airfare. The company, JetSmarter, applies the ride-sharing model to booking your own luxury charter airplane. For those who can afford it, JetSmarter enables on-the-go travelers to book a private jet from their mobile app and be in the air in no time.
We recently had a chance to speak with Sergey Petrossov, Founder & CEO of JetSmarter. Read on, and you may be astonished (slash envious) of how bright the future is for a brand that takes well-heeled customers above the clouds.
Why is JetSmarter’s Marketing So Effective?
Not many people would be intrepid enough to apply Uber’s on-demand, distributed-service business model to the private flight industry. The startup costs, regulations, barriers to entry, and ingrained consumer habits are significant. But Petrossov has managed to create a small empire, growing quickly over the last few years, based on the value proposition of letting customers book private jet experiences instantly through a mobile app.
As it does with so many entrepreneurs today, the ideas was sparked by first-hand experience.
“In 2009 I began flying private…and quickly came to realize that the private jet industry was very archaic,” Petrossov tells me. “I spoke to the carriers I had established relationships with and discussed how large of an impact an app to charter a private plane would have on the industry. In August 2012, I created the beta version of JetSmarter, sharing it with an exclusive group of users. In March 2013, JetSmarter launched globally.”
More than three years in, JetSmarter’s going stronger than ever.
1. Purchase Experience
The old way: As you can imagine, the purchase experience was “a brick-and-mortar process,” says Petrossov. “Picking up the phone, waiting hours, and speaking to numerous people.” This way made the experience feel outdated before smartphones were even a thing.
The new way: With a mobile app showing daily JetShuttles and available routes for custom charters, consumers (who seem to become more comfortable with making large purchases on mobile with each passing day) can book a same-day flight with the flick of a thumb.
2. Product Experience
The old way: Sergey is quick to point out that the misery doesn’t necessarily end once a guest books a flight, but rather remains a slow burn throughout the actual travel experience, culminating with “the misery of long security lines or having to deal with the hassle of baggage claim” en route.
The new way: With JetSmarter, not only is it quicker to get where you are going (you can literally drive up to the jet, get in, and take off), the experience recaptures the idealized social adventure touted by airline ads of yore: “Our members fly, meet great people, and enjoy traveling again.”
3. Brand experience
The old way: Despite paying a hefty premium for private flights before JetSmarter came along, customers were not being rewarded with a true sense of 1) personalized service or 2) belonging to a branded community.
The new way: JetSmarter members receive a 24K gold-plated membership card, linking them physically to the virtual brand; they build a profile over time through their account; they still enjoy simple pleasures like free-flight deals; and they become part of a “country club in the sky.”
What’s next for JetSmarter? Sergey has plans as big as the jets his customers fly on. In particular, he is setting his sights on international markets, working out deals with additional carriers that will open his members’ network of possibilities to more global travels.
What Can Marketers Learn from the JetSmarter Story?
With all this in mind, I've synthesized the most salient points into three major takeaways.
“Before, During, & After” All Matter: Personalize Your Messaging
Certain qualities of a good experience (and therein, a good message) resonate with almost all consumers. We all want the same things–things like random freebies, service agents who know our names, reasons to be spontaneous and experience novelty, and feeling like being part of a community.
The important distinction to make here is between personal service (a disparate, analog model in which discrete brand interactions happen during transactions, but not in between) and personalized service (the digital model, in which automated brand messaging is tailored to each individual based on his previous activity and purchase behavior). What you can your team leverage today to be better stewards at scale and retain customers?
A Person is a Person, No Matter How Rich: Tell Human Stories
Sergey makes sure to point out that he’s very much in the business of making lives easier, and that sharing stories about those lives helps his marketing connect with potential customers because it proves that JetSmarter understands its customers’ needs and desires.
“Our typical user is anyone from entrepreneurs growing their business to real estate brokers traveling from city to city making deals,” Sergey explains. “One of our members, Samantha, owns her own real estate business and is constantly flying back and forth between South Florida and New York City on our JetShuttle. Since scheduled JetShuttles are free for members, Samantha is already saving money and has covered her cost of flying commercial within the first month of using the service. Our company matters because we’re allowing people to travel a lot more for a fraction of the cost.”
Scarcity Can Be Your Friend: Protect Brand/Product Cache
A priority for a nascent brand like JetSmarter is to build a clear, well-rooted, sustainable identity that consumers can connect with.
A quick story: Last Christmas, NPR’s Planet Money podcast produced an episode on Hermes’s iconic Birkin bag. The moral of the story was this: not only is the bag an expensive product, it’s made to be artificially scarce–so much so that the company is likely losing out on product revenue by constricting its supply to well below the point where the market would happily support its high price point.
If you look at the larger picture, though, the strategy becomes clear: There is a tremendous boon to Hermes’s overall brand’s equity, thanks to the flagship product’s mystique. People don’t want to be sold to; they want to buy.
Thinking along the same lines, JetSmarter’s site is not pushing its app down consumers’ throats. Instead, the call to action is simply, “Inquire about membership.” Not only does this messaging better qualify leads, it reinforces JetSmarter’s identity.
As an exercise, consider how your own marketing might better align with the perspective your brand claims to take in the market. See you in the cloud(s).
What are your thoughts on eliminating friction in our digital world today? What new technology can brands leverage next? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to catch next month’s post in the Friction-Free Series.