Abid Hussain Barlaskar

"Consumers are tired of gimmicky cashback offers": Shuchi Chawla, ixigo

Travel aggregator brand ixigo calls out cashback-traps of online brands including OTAs.

#FullPaisaVasool travel and hotel booking aggregator, ixigo's latest ad campaign for its loyalty program 'ixigo money', comes as a relief to all travellers who book their tickets online. The brand went about communicating its unique proposition of letting customers utilise their entire cashback amount for payments - just like real money.

Cashback, discounts or even convertible reward points often help alleviate the tension on tight travel budgets. But the pain-point emerges when these points/"currency" from cashback or coupons can only be utilised in small portions and not the entire amount at one go.

"Consumers are tired of gimmicky cashback offers": Shuchi Chawla, ixigo

#FullPaisaVasoolNote Ki Maala Pe Dhokha

Imagine you're on an e-commerce platform, you have 5000 INR (earned through cashback) in your platform wallet and the amount cannot be used on one purchase. For example, as a policy, MakeMyTrip allows users to use rupees 500/2 per cent of the total booking amount, whichever is lower, for booking domestic flights.

"Consumers are tired of gimmicky cashback offers": Shuchi Chawla, ixigo

#FullPaisaVasoolShagun Ke Lifafe Ka Dhokha

The brand's campaign takes a dig at travel agent platforms and their loyalty programs which apparently make 'fools' out of customers in the name of cashback and are laden with restrictions. All three ads are set in a marriage scenario where the bride, groom and a dancer, in separate cases, get to take away only small portions of their gift cash.

"Consumers are tired of gimmicky cashback offers": Shuchi Chawla, ixigo

#FullPaisaVasool Dancing Uncle Ka Dhokha

The brand claims that since the year of its inception, ixigo money has helped travellers save a whopping rupees 1 billion on flight bookings.

Moreover, the cashback based loyalty programs are an in-thing among e-commerce players with many experimenting with various offerings. Fashion shopping platform Myntra, with its very own Myntra Credit, helps customers with quick checkouts, refunds and other benefits.

Similarly, online food delivery platform Zomato, launched its Piggy Bank and Z-coins (1:1 ratio with INR) earlier this year, taking the cashback game to a new level. The coins are earned as 10 per cent of one order and can be used to avail a 10 per cent discount off the next order. The coins also have a virtual look and identity but are non-transferable.

"Consumers are tired of gimmicky cashback offers": Shuchi Chawla, ixigo

Zomato's Z-coins and Piggy Bank

Getting back to the campaign, ixigo is an aggregator platform which drives traffic and sales for its seller partners e.g. agents like Goibibo or the airlines themselves.

So why would it pick on its partners and can it? Moreover, the service was launched a year back so why an ad communication now?

afaqs! was in touch with Shuchi Chawla, head - Brand and PR at ixigo, to know more about the campaign.

"Consumers are tired of gimmicky cashback offers": Shuchi Chawla, ixigo

Shuchi Chawla

Chawla maintains that ixigo money is not just cashback but a virtual travel currency which can be used across platforms. "We were listening to a lot of insights from consumers who were tired of these really gimmicky cashback offers and limitations on using them. Thus, it was natural for us to disrupt the loyalty and cashback scene in the travel industry. We just helped our users use the entire cashback amount all at once on any platform of choice," Chawla explains.

"This campaign is our first concentrated effort to reach out to the larger base of online flight bookers and flyers. Until now, much of our communication has been targeted at the user-base already on board ixigo and educating them. We felt that it is time to scale," she adds.

How big a risk is it to make rivals out of partners?

"We look at it differently. With ixigo money, we actually drive more traffic to the platform itself and hence, across partners. We add more value to our partner brands and users and don't look at it as being rivals or taking from someone's pie. As a platform, we allow users to compare and book from 120+ travel suppliers and OTAs (online travel agency) for flights, hotels etc. We create a level playing field that way," Chawla responds.

ixigo has its own identity that way, so why use the cashback game for building the brand?

"ixigo money is more of a virtual travel currency and we don't look at it as cashback. It is aimed at driving loyalty on the platform. It's not aimed at building identity, but preference and awareness. We have a host of other features like fare predictions, alerts etc. which actually ask users not to book a ticket immediately and wait for the right time," Chawla outlines.

The campaign was entirely crafted by ixigo's in-house team. And, a LinkedIn post by a team member reveals that three ad films were created and produced in a week's time and at a tenth of the expected budget.

"This is part of the experiments that we keep conducting. We have had video creation capabilities for quite some time, but it was limited to creating shareworthy content. This is the first time we ventured into promotional advertising. Here, we can control the entire part of the production and thus the turn around time is faster. When it comes to agility and trying to convey the message in time, it's easier if we do things in-house." Chawla adds.

"Consumers are tired of gimmicky cashback offers": Shuchi Chawla, ixigo

Vivek Dutta

"Consumers are tired of gimmicky cashback offers": Shuchi Chawla, ixigo

Amit Kekre

Vivek Dutta, executive planning director, Hakuhodo India, says, "ixigo's strategy to attract consumers with a cashback offer is more about their consumer-facing USP rather than competing with partner service providers. As an aggregator, their role is to attract as much traffic as possible. Myntra, offering discounts on Levi's does not mean that it is competing with Levi's... rather, it is mobilising its inventory. Similarly, more inventory that ixigo can mobilise would mean better business for partners. It's a win-win situation for all parties concerned. However, what would be interesting to see is the consumer's reaction to the claim that others partner sites are not transparent in their claims and offers."

Amit Kekre, national strategy head, DDB Mudra Group, says, "In my opinion, it is not advisable for brand ixigo to take on its partner platforms. ixigo money is surely a USP for the brand and the consumer might be benefitting from it. But, when we talk about the overall consumer experience provided by ixigo, other partner platforms are also a part of that experience and of ixigo's eco-system and their imagery does impact the brand's credibility. Hence, taking them on in order to promote a specific offering might not be the best way to go."

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