Marketing leaders face the challenge of achieving a positive ROI —in fact, it is the top challenge for the digital marketers we surveyed in China earlier this year. Fortunately, a few marketers have managed to achieve this, and Spring Airlines is one of them. My recently published report, Case Study: Spring Airlines' Digital Business Takes Off With Social Marketing, tells its success story. From it, B2C marketers can learn how to achieve positive returns on their investments in social marketing initiatives and support their transition to a digital business.

As a private airline and the first budget carrier in China, Spring Airlines is performing well despite fierce competition from much larger state-owned competitors with more resources. Since the airline’s launch a decade ago, Spring’s B2C marketing professionals have focused on making the airline's business operations as digital as possible in order to:

  • Keep operating costs low.Unlike its main competitors, Spring receives no financial support from the government. To keep operating costs low, Spring bypasses travel agents, selling tickets exclusively via its official website and some designated ticket offices.
  • Support its challenger status and catalyze customer obsession. To compensate for its smaller scale and resources, Spring successfully differentiated its brand as an early adopter of digital, mobile, and social and built an extremely close relationship with its customers.
  • Maximize the return on marketing investment by leveraging social media. As a budget airline, Spring's marketing budget is significantly smaller than the industry average. Spring manages to plan and execute social marketing effectively —its social media is much more effective than that of its competitors at driving site traffic.

Spring established a dedicated social media department in the fall of 2010; since then, the team has continued to grow quickly and generate positive ROI. Spring's success in social media and digital business are due to it:

  • Aligning social marketing with business outcomes. Spring set detailed, business-relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) for its social marketing initiatives. It set clear business goals for each key target audience group and coupled them with a measurement system that also aligns with business outcomes.
  • Leveraging cross-organizational collaboration to maximize social marketing results. Social marketing is more likely to affect business outcomes when the marketing team works closely with other departments across the firm. Spring Airlines' flat organization and tight cross-organizational collaboration has accelerated its social business success.

To learn more about Spring's social marketing and digital business best practices, including its successful Paile Monkey business line and innovative social seating and creative social flights programs, please read the full report.