Dash, United Airlines Forge Pact

In a bid to help United Airlines retain customers, advertising and affiliate marketing company Dash has struck a deal with the airline to provide users of its frequent flier program with a customized version of its “dashBar.”

Under the terms of the deal, the dashBar will be customized for United Airlines, offering its frequent flier customers discounts at United, and additional “miles” in their accounts. Users will receive 500 miles for downloading the bar, another 500 miles for using it the first time, and, then, up to 11 miles per dollar spent at any of Dash’s 130 partner merchants.

The dashBar — an application that runs on the lower portion of users’ browsers — tracks consumer surfing behavior and allows Dash to reward purchases at certain online stores, of which Dash is an affiliate. In some cases, the users receive cash back for purchases, or, as in the case of the United Airlines bar, the users are rewarded with miles.

Dash uses the bar to drive customers to sites with which it has an affiliate relationship, and it sells advertising that appears on the bar when users visit a competing site. When users visit the Amazon.com site, for example, an ad informs them that they can receive 5 percent off at Barnesandnoble.com.

For United, the deal represents a way to strengthen its Web and loyalty strategies — important factors for a company with a major hub in super-wired San Francisco. In addition, the company has been concerned about retaining customers, after a labor dispute with its pilots which was accompanied by widespread flight cancellations. Offering its customers an additional way to earn miles, and having a persistent presence of their desktops, is a means for the company to hold on to its frequent fliers.

Besides allowing United to reward customers, the technology also give it the ability to place ads in front of its members when they are visiting other travel-related sites on the Web — including Travelocity.com, Expedia.com, and other airline sites. These ads will, presumably, tout the benefits of buying directly from the United Web site.

The agreement boosts Dash by tying it with a powerful distribution partner, which increases its ability to provide results for advertisers. So far, the company has gathered more than one million registered users, and it is working with companies with large customer bases, hoping to strike deals like the ones with United. This is the first major affinity deal that the company has announced. Marketing communications company Omnicom Group owns a minority stake in Dash.

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