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2/11/2009
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MicroStrategy Lands Business Intelligence Deal With Continental

Understanding customer buying habits and retaining their loyalty is hugely important in the troubled airline industry.

MicroStrategy on Wednesday announced a deal for Continental Airlines to use its business intelligence software to gain insight into passenger purchasing habits.

Continental's marketing staff is expected to use MicroStrategy's reporting tools and dashboards to analyze data and spot trends that can help the airline develop timely marketing programs, according to MicroStrategy.

MicroStrategy has deals with at least seven other airlines, but they're all outside the United States, including Air Canada, Alitalia, and Austrian Airlines. With all those deals, "CRM analytics is a recurring theme," said Sanju Bansal, COO of MicroStrategy, in an interview Wednesday. "Airlines are trying to figure out passenger trends and [study] scheduling data to better market to existing customers."

Customer retention is hugely important to the troubled airline industry. For its fourth quarter of 2008, Continental reported a decline in capacity of 7.4% over the same period in 2007, a $266 million net loss, and a drop in revenue of 1.5% to $3.5 billion.

MicroStrategy wouldn't reveal the size of the deal, and Continental wasn't available for comment Wednesday.

With MicroStrategy, Continental plans to get closer to its loyal customers, said product manager Matt Ipri. That might include developing programs that send customized rewards to frequent fliers' mobile devices or help with rescheduling via mobile devices if their flights get canceled.

The deal with Continental is another example of how airlines that are more reliant on customer loyalty than cheap fares are looking to retain and grow customer bases with the help of smart software. Alaska Airlines, for example, late last year completed an implementation of Oracle Siebel Loyalty Management, to develop programs that provide customers with options when flights are canceled, or offer them promotions based on personal information gleaned from their profiles or travel history.

In addition, many airlines have been cutting routes to cut costs. Continental may also use MicroStrategy to analyze flight routes and identify those highly populated with frequent fliers. As a result, it can avoid canceling those routes that might sever relationships with its best customers, Bansal said.

Continental already analyzes customer data that it keeps in a Teradata warehouse. But the use of MicroStrategy tools will make it easier for marketing people to quickly develop reports on their desktops from the data warehouse and turn that knowledge into new types of marketing programs, rather than wait for IT to develop those reports, said Ipri. "It will be more business self-service and faster time-to-value," he said.

Later this quarter, MicroStrategy will ship a full upgrade of its software. Improvements include in-memory processing technology that results in faster responses to queries, as it limits trips to data sources.

MicroStrategy 9 also lets users access data in any relational database of any size. Previously, users were limited to one data source per project.

SkyWest Airlines recently integrated asset, desktop, and help-desk management software in its back-end systems. InformationWeek found out how. Download the report here (registration required).

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