When it comes to delivering best-in-class digital experiences, United Airlines recognizes that a composable approach is now key – and Sitecore is supporting their strategy every step of the way.
Embracing a composable future
Headquartered in Chicago, and employing 70,000 people globally, United Airlines has the most comprehensive route network in North America and is one of the top five airlines in the world.
Bob Dieguez, Sitecore Developer at United Airlines, explained that their journey with Sitecore began six years ago with Sitecore Experience Platform (XP). The airline is currently using XP to run three high-traffic applications. These initiatives were launched between 2017 and 2019 and include:
- FlyingTogether: A global intranet portal for employees and contractors
- WingTips: A policies and procedures resource
- A pilot-specific library of information
The portals have a global reach of over 70,000 employees and content is updated by over 250 global content authors.
In 2021, following a Covid-related pause on projects, United engaged Americaneagle.com to handle their upgrade to Sitecore XM 10, utilizing Sitecore Experience Manager (XM), Sitecore Personalize and Sitecore CDP in the cloud.
Why switch to composable?
Jon Price, Global Sitecore Practice Director at Americaneagle.com explained that a composable approach allows businesses to drive decisions, as opposed to letting tech dictate business direction. This approach moves away from ‘this is how it works’ or ‘what it comes with’. A highly composable system provides components that can be selected and assembled in various combinations to satisfy specific user requirements.
Switching to a composable approach makes sense at any time, but especially during a new project, an upgrade, or a fresh build. For United Airlines, it was the right moment to make the move.
United Airlines’ existing solution was built over six years. Multiple teams, agencies, and developers contributed to the solution. During that time, marketing and creative agencies had grazed the surface of personalization and analytics but were looking at what they could do next.
In the post-pandemic era, United Airlines plans to grow its workforce from 70,000 to 100,000 employees. To support this ambitious goal, they need a flexible, scalable, future-proof solution. They want to spend less time and effort on upgrades and maintenance and more time on feature development and increasing business value.
A new approach
United Airlines needs to communicate on a granular level with employees and envisioned their FlyingTogether portal as a one-stop shop, with experiences tailored to individual employees. For example, when a new employee logs in, their personalized experience focuses on onboarding material, while other employees see content relevant to their role or location.
United Airlines’ previous stack included:
- Sitecore Experience Platform (XP)
- Content management XM combined with analytics personalization A/B testing in an all-in-one DXP
- Email Experience Manager (EXM), part of XP, used to craft email campaigns. The airline was sending out around 2 million emails per year
- Coveo for front-end search
- Internal hosting/data center
Switching from Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) to Sitecore Experience Manager (XM) meant United Airlines could put a greater emphasis on content management.
For complex use cases like personalization, A/B testing, and the ability to plug in HR data for personalization, they’ve chosen Sitecore Personalize and CDP. This streamlined solution means there’s less to maintain, and gives the business and communications teams more flexibility, as well as other business units the ability to start adopting and using the technology too. The advantage of Personalize and CDP is that it can be applied to any tech stack, any content management system, or any mobile app.
The airline is retaining Coveo, adding Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and migrating to Sitecore Managed Cloud.
Setting out a framework for success
Together with Sitecore and Americaneagle.com, United Airlines took part in Inspiration Day workshops to identify pain points and set out their KPIs and priorities in a 3-5 year roadmap.
Leveraging Sitecore Personalize
Personalize and CDP seamlessly provide relevant content or a recommended next step to a user. Loading in human resources data from United Airlines’ HR systems – name, location, department, role, then activating a decisioning model when a user visits the homepage creates a very powerful, personalized experience.
The major advantage of switching to a composable platform such as Sitecore Personalize is that other business units can start adapting and leveraging the technology for non-Sitecore sites.
Anyone who flew to or from Chicago O’Hare Airport for Sitecore Symposium would no doubt have looked at a digital sign in the airport displaying gate information – this was likely powered by Sitecore technology. Moving forward, all United Airlines’ digital airport displays will be coming from Sitecore, using Personalize to tailor messages for travel updates such as flight delays.
Benefits of a composable approach
United Airlines plans to go live with the whole composable rollout in Q1 next year, but since Sitecore Personalize and CDP are set up to run in an agile way, they don’t have to wait until then to use these products — they’re already leveraging their capabilities.
The airline has identified a number of benefits related to moving to a composable approach including:
- Less intensive upgrades - upgrades have been cut by 25% or more
- Lower hosting costs
- Less data management
- Less time on maintenance and more time on future development
- Quicker development life cycles and faster time to market
- More features and releases and the ability to plug and play with other systems such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud
Fiona Hilliard is a Content Marketing Manager at Sitecore. Connect with her on LinkedIn.