Ai Editorial: Seamlessness and relevance - what every interaction should reflect

First published on 23rd March, 2017

Ai Editorial: Airlines can attempt to serve passengers in two ways – pre-empt what a passenger might opt for or being ready for the next interaction after analyzing every digital click or interaction via all touchpoints, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta.

 

Making the most of every interaction is what every brand strives to achieve.

An airline may serve the passenger in an apt manner, say at the airport, but if, as an enterprise, there is no consistency in serving the traveller- say a question you have asked via Twitter after collecting your boarding pass and the staff at the gate isn’t aware of it - then it is bound to fall short in terms of seamlessness or relevance.

So connecting the dots between interactions so that it is available in the form of actionable data and blending it the context, location etc. in real-time is something that airlines need to target.

Why?

When the customer has means to ask a question related to their journey, then airlines better be prepared for it. It’s that simple.

In fact, optimization of every interaction is not just about travel. A customer is a part of new experiences that are all about seamlessness and relevance in every sphere of life. So when users are being served by a retail app or a cab hailing app the way they want, then why can’t the airline chosen responds in the same way.

Being prepared

What airlines can do can fall in two categories: proactive and reactive, and in both cases improving upon the functionalities of the touchpoints, including apps, and responding to a request, question etc. in the best possible manner.

- Improving every touchpoint in a proactive manner

Easier said than done, but airlines need to look at the way an app like Uber simplifies the choice of cars, the connection time to the next cab, helping one to visualize where the cab is on the map, the estimated price for the journey, one-click answer to having a conversation with the driver or no clicks at all for payments once you share the details.

The same way airlines can refine their own trip planning, post buying and the day of journey functionalities.

Relevant message/ communication: Digital enterprises are looking at data that tells about “now” or the moment in context. Companies like Amazon are improving upon their offering for mobile app analytics, and supporting real-time analytics. Such insights are helping organizations to target segments from a variety of different data sources, send targeted notifications with personalized messages etc. If an airline can understand the intent, they can send relevant messages. For instance, if a family is looking for a flight to Paris and searches for activity related to Disneyland, Roland Garros tennis etc., then how should airlines gear up for retargeting? Rather than displaying same ads on Facebook or any website, shouldn’t the airline send any useful content or offer around the activity searched for? Yes, if an experience is being “sold”, it would be much better. Since the current shopping cart and the path the customer took to get there can tell you far more about what they do next than any number of prior bookings, do work on new ways to be relevant with notifications, ads and messaging. Airlines can look at crafting a recommendation algorithm, encompassing various stages of travellers’ journey including real-time travel disruption management. Be it for accurately predicting hidden interests, evaluating minute behavioral changes or working out recommendations for various contexts, a proactive approach can assist travellers, and even step up revenue generation.

Analytics: Airlines need to observe the usage of their digital assets, and based on the past and real-time usage, one can come up with predictions about future events.

As SAS points out, predictive analytics and experience “has a lot in common”. In one of its white paper, SAS states, “While experience is important in dealing with uncertainty and should go hand in hand with predictive analytics, the statistical calculations that goes into predictive analytics – has two advantages: the amount of observations (data) that can go into the calculations to validate assumed relations or maybe even reveal hidden relations, and the statistical calculations offer an answer that is more likely to be bias-free – both in terms of the relationship, but also the individual prediction.”

- Keeping track of every interaction

What triggers a search or a question when a user interacts via any touchpoint needs to be captured and the sum of all interactions needs to be analyzed for the future.

There are certain experiences that are intrinsic to airlines as a product – for instance, seating in an aircraft. How would a family of four like to sit in an aircraft, which has either rows of two seats or three seats? Would they prefer to pay for certain seats? Airlines need to find ways to understanding the type of travel, what sort of features or services a traveller is seeking and accordingly, record their preferences. Now if a conversation takes place between passenger at the airport and the airline staff, then how about analyzing the same without any privacy issues? Today, as IBM asserts, technology is in place to “capture the audio of the conversations and run speech-to-text and tone analysis directly on the device, thus completely avoiding sending any sensitive data to the cloud”. Essentially what is being done is “tone analysis” and this can be equated with attributes like happiness, sadness or anger. Such insights can go a long way in coming up with a relevant recommendation when the passenger interacts or attempts a booking next time.

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Recommending it right – can travel triumph in a battle of its own?

First published on 17th March, 2017

Ai Editorial: Airlines need to find ways to make luring recommendations despite the inherent complexities associated with a category like travel. Time for airlines to look beyond their role as a delivery service from point to point, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

The way we shop for non-travel products, say a book or a smartphone, invariably gets compared with shopping for an air ticket, hotel bookings, in-destination purchases etc.

The likes of Amazon and Netflix continue to be a benchmark for personalised recommendations for a vastly different sector like travel.

Is this comparison between retail and travel apt?

“Pure collaborative filtering made famous by Amazon will not work for travel products,” says a source. “For us, contextual cross-selling has been a key driver for ancillary product attachment for years.”

“Travel is about exploration, vastly different from retailing. Each of us can breathe travel in a peculiar way, probably unlike any other product. So recommendations can be refined, tailored to an extent, but can it be cracked 100%, a complex puzzle yet to be solved,” said another source, referring to the possibility of coming up with an equivalent of Amazon or Netflix in travel. “Of course, unlike aggregators, airlines, at least for air-related travel don’t offer options (flights from another airline) as of now. But certain carriers may broaden their product portfolio in the future!”  

Still, to an extent, comparison is justified as consumer wouldn’t differentiate experiences. Choices, convenience…all that makes shopping a breeze, consumers would expect that to happen with every transaction, be it as a retail shopper or a flyer.

Here we assess how airlines need to refine their own journey of coming up with apt recommendations:

·          Matching expectations arising from non-travel shopping environment: When Amazon, Netflix etc. come up with a recommendation (and that too, on a regular basis) that resonates with us; it builds affiliation with the interface/ app as well as the brand. In fact, the association with these companies (a majority of these not even own the products they sell) is strong owing to the choices they offer us, the way they are offered, the way our activity is remembered, frictionless transactions etc. The Amazon app or Uber app always remains at the top of consideration set.

Of course, travel as a product category is different. But it does put the onus on travel technology, product as well as marketing professionals to come together to refine and deliver a relevant recommendation to brighten up the chances of a conversion. Attaining such level of expertise would mean acting on data – own data, 3rd party data/ external data such as weather, social, media consumption etc. Not only this integration is must, but also what is done in terms of predictive analytics, pattern recognition etc. needs to be relevant. Hopefully the emerging crop of travel flight search start-ups would lend a new dimension. The idea of finding your next destination or journey is luring, but when I see a mail or notification enticing me to take a trip to a destination  that I neither searched for nor matches my “activity” it is neglected straightaway.

·          Being where a recommendation is valuable: How to be a part of a digital environment, be it for an ecosystem (say Tencent or Google) or on a specific messaging/ social networking platform, where users spend their time, their decisions get influenced etc. is what airlines have to capitalize on. Traffic generation has never been a forte of airlines, so they need to be proactive enough to make a recommendation where audience is. For instance, if a couple is interacting via Facebook Messenger or Skype or Whatsapp, and are zeroing on a destination, can they book their air ticket or accommodation within that interface? Can a relevant recommendation from airlines at an opportune time facilitate a transaction?

Airlines definitely need to come up with a robust API strategy, rather than letting the likes of travel meta-search engines to capitalize on traffic resulting from Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent, Apple etc. via integrations and “connectivity” to pave way for recommendations of the product actually owned by them. (Meta-search engines have been moving even further up the funnel via native app features such as traveller inspiration timeline and push notification of travel ideas. They even provide APIs in addition to widgets and white labels to power travel search). So airlines, too, can take such collaborative approach via APIs and work with custodians of traffic. What if a meta-search engine provides FFP of a traveller with a particular airline, can this airline come up with a real-time recommendation at the time when this traveller is on the meta-search platform?

·          Recommendations that aren’t about past but “now” too: Using semantic analysis and pattern recognition for driving repeat buying, or automating cross-selling isn’t new. But there is scope for improvement in areas like quality of recommendations provided data ingestion layer is robust. Airlines need to focus a meticulous data management plan i. e. collect, store, process, analyze, and visualize big data on cloud, and look at data that tells about “now” or the moment in context. In fact, the current shopping cart and the path the customer took to get there can tell you far more about what they do next than any number of prior bookings. With such plan in place, airlines can look at crafting a recommendation algorithm, encompassing various stages of travellers’ journey including real-time travel disruption management. Be it for accurately predicting hidden interests, evaluating minute behavioral changes or working out recommendations for various contexts, airlines have to capitalize on artificial intelligence and machine learning.  Quality of recommendations have gone up, too, avoiding erroneous attribution and refraining from displaying recommendations repeatedly.  

·          Smart recommendations with no heavy “background” analysis: Detailed profiling is without doubt a weapon in the arsenal, but what if there is some quick, light analysis “on-the-fly” that can delight a traveller. Say a traveller is watching a movie in-flight, how about coming up with a notification for buying merchandize, tours and activity-related buy or even exploring a new destination? Marketing technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and new possibilities are always exciting. Today an airline can bank on a recommendation emanating from a location recommendation engine, which is backed by a matching algorithm built upon geo-data-mining and machine learning processes. So say one arrives on airline.com, is asked few questions about interests/ preferences for that particular trip, and is recommended few destination options with authentic content and itinerary. Such location matching in the form a viable recommendation opens up a plethora of option, including monetisation via ancillary offerings.

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

 

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: 5 ways how analytics can step up customer-centricity

First Published on 6th March, 2017

Ai Editorial: Be it for extracting data from airlines’ existing digital assets, all touchpoints or realizing the full potential of IoT, without a competent analytics layer, airlines would continue to struggle to attain customer-centricity, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

With more and more channels, systems and technologies to explore, the role of analytics is evolving in several ways – organizationally and technically. Even from the infrastructure perspective, things aren’t the same. Tracking and measuring results isn’t new, but it is not easy to keep pace with in today’s complicated digital landscape.

Here we explore how airlines can gear up for the new world of analytics:

1.    Making the most of analytics dashboard: It is time airlines go for a platform where relevant data is centralized, structured and connected. Such set up should facilitate data integration, the result of which would be enabling all systems work in unison. Data keeps on growing in every organization, if it ends in silos, then one will always struggle to attain customer centricity. Airlines should manage data at an enterprise-wide level. Ultimately, the goal is to capture all guest interactions and preferences. From coping up with the issue of data in silos to getting closer to predictive intelligence, revenue optimization etc. – the vision is to making every touchpoint an asset, deliver precise passenger communication etc. Such analytics platforms provide real-time updates – enterprise-level information, funnel analytics, in-app analytics etc.

Also, it needs to be highlighted that the look of dashboards has evolved from mere analytics around attribution or web and mobile analytics to being a marketing platform. They feature analytics and information about the user, their profile, their experience (tracking devices used by one person, details related to interactions across touchpoints) etc.

Also, aspects related to security, scalability and data ownership of such platforms paving way for an organization to gain control are of paramount importance.

2.    Making analytics a part of an enterprise’s culture: Growth hacking is generally associated with start-ups, but it is being asserted that the success garnered from a strategy (that results from expertise that is partly marketing, partly product development, partly engineering) can be integrated into long-term plans, too. With a robust dashboard, various departments can evaluate how one initiative is working across the organization. Metrics can be evaluated at a more granular level, for instance, breaking down a campaign by channel, device etc. This cross-department or cross-functional view is healthy.

Paul Byrne, senior vice president of development at OpenJaw Technologies, as shared in one of our earlier articles, says in order to be data-driven airlines can start with a “lean experimentation approach”. He recommended that airlines can identify some of the low hanging fruits (short term goals). “Digital marketing and operation teams are key contributors at this stage. Identify and outline what you want to know from the data and to do what? Now identify the data sources needed to answer your queries and start aggregating / massaging the data sets,” Byrne suggested. A strong collaboration is needed between strategy, marketing, operations, analytics and IT teams for this to be successful.

From a specialist’s perspective, mixpanel, in its new eBook, “Decentralizing data and the future of analytics”, highlighted that if the first step of building a data for the entire organization is getting everyone to commit to metrics, from there on the focus should be on showcasing how seamless analytics can be and galvanizing data consumers.  Some other recommendations – no harm in getting a little messy and analyzing data adjacent to your projects, enable “non-technical employees to own the metrics around their own projects”, and focus on “customer’s experience, and which data sources, however unconventional, can improve it”.

3.    Make data-driven decisions based on analytics: Airlines need to run their digital assets, improve upon on them, keep track of revenue resulting from them etc. But all of this can be fruitful if the decision-making is data-driven. For example, by evaluating performance of an app - new vs. returning users, app revenue, user retention, and custom in-app behavior events etc. airlines can assess usage and revenue. If an airline is sending targeted push notifications, how does a traveller respond?  How analytics around app usage trends and user behavior increase message relevance and effectiveness?

Companies like Amazon are improving upon their offering for mobile app analytics, and supporting real-time analytics. Such insights are helping organizations to target segments from a variety of different data sources, send targeted notifications with personalized messages etc. Can a passenger be sent a notification at a time defined by the airline? Yes. So for instance, if a user interacts with an airline chatbot, and it turns out that this user has the tendency to ask for what’s going to be served during the flight? Can this user be shown relevant image as a push notification at an appropriate time (on the day of travel or at the airport)? Possibly yes.  

4.    Approach towards analytics: It is imperative for airlines to work out the best approach – work on analytics internally or buy one. Of course, one of the key aspects is investment that would be required to set up the requisite infrastructure internally. The project timeline, resources required including engineers and data scientists, monetary investment etc. need to be evaluated diligently.

mixpanel, in its study for product analytics solution for an enterprise, shared that the related costs of an internal build can be categorized into 3 parts - an initial cost outlay, maintenance costs (web services required for ingesting and storing user actions, plus the computational cost for each time an organization queries the set of data) and the cost for a visualization tool on top of the infrastructure. The study underlines that considering the 5-year cost of building, running, and maintaining an internal tool, organizations tracking 500 million to 10 billion annual user actions will save between $570K and $5.2M with a robust, customizable product analytics solution from 3rd party specialists.

So airlines need to look at accessibility, cost-effectiveness, speed, and customization before arriving at a decision.

 

 

5.    Gearing up for now and the future: The pace with which the Internet of Things is evolving means the need to analyze streaming data on an ongoing basis is staring at entities. Also, airlines can benefit from edge computing as of today.

Why this is important for airlines? If we understand from a scenario – say a conversation taking place between passenger at the airport and the airline staff, then how about analyzing the same without any privacy issues? Today, as IBM asserts, technology is in place to “capture the audio of the conversations and run speech-to-text and tone analysis directly on the device, thus completely avoiding sending any sensitive data to the cloud”. Essentially what is being done is “tone analysis” and this can be equated with attributes like happiness, sadness or anger.

Cisco estimates 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020 and 500 billion devices by 2030.

Since IoT devices typically send more data than the average technical product, this means such data has to be processed and analyzed in real-time. This is challenging as handling this volume of data is complex. Rather than relying on traditional computing models, the industry has already moved analyzing data at the edge of the network - means analysis and response has moved close to the devices generating the data cut down on latency and reducing the load on the network and the enterprise data centre.

There is a need to assess what sort of infrastructure is required so that it can ingest IoT data. And this includes incidental data that comes along with IoT.

In this context, specialists like mixpanel aptly underline that analytics isn’t just about humans deriving insights. It’s also the competency by which machines will make decisions!

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Airline merchandising and mobile – 8 areas to look at

First published on 2nd March, 2017

Ai Editorial: Selling core products, air- and non-ancillaries via mobile to a leisure traveller is one proposition that demands constant improvement, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Merchandising via mobile is an attractive opportunity, and airlines fittingly are looking at several areas – their IT infrastructure, data and analytics, fulfilment, facilitating payments via mobile etc. – to ensure progress is being made.

Here we look at 8 areas that need to be dwelled upon to step up ancillary revenue generation and overall merchandising strategy via mobile:

1.    What makes mobile stronger than ever before? The prowess of mobile lies in its ever-present quality. So as precision of location data goes up, airlines should also “contextualise” their marketing efforts better. It is being highlighted that the number of beacons and sensors has risen considerably. And with better data quality, the game isn’t just about location anymore, but rather there is an opportunity to refine travellers' profiles and demographics based on emerging accurate, real-time data. Airlines can look at the airport environment and push ancillaries. Of course, other areas of merchandising do come into play as well – preparedness for personalised offers, sales offers, seamless transactions, ancillary partnerships etc. For instance, today I can be offered a latte at Starbucks via an attractive coupon based on previous purchase history and proximity. But with more data available, it is time for airlines to get creative, target even better experiences and as result higher ancillary revenue generation.

2.    Improving upon the journey of the traveller: It can be frustrating to queue up at the airport or looking for directions to the gate from another terminal. Airlines have to look at the overall journey, right from booking to pre-book phase to day of travel to the airport environment to in-flight to arrival. As stickiness of an airline app increases, the chances are travellers would be receptive to messages, notifications and even browsing for products/ offers on their own. Airlines have to evaluate new developments around mobile that can make the journey a pleasant one. For instance, IoT can connect a passenger’s baggage to his/ her mobile device for real-time tracking and updates. It can create verified IDs from distributed documents, speeding the process of passing through security, customs or boarding a plane. It can be used to provide real-time alerts about flight changes, status updates or emergency notifications. The potential of IoT commerce, however, requires airlines to embrace mobility, connectivity and IoT thought processes and strategies now.

3.    Dig deeper into funnel analysis: Passengers are willing to pay for extras that add value to their itinerary. For this, the mobile booking funnel analysis needs to be spot on, taking care of distractions, friction points or non-converting data, checkout effectiveness via testing.

In fact, funnel analysis can be an important weapon in assessing where shoppers are dropping out of the onboarding flow or how they end up completing a transaction after adding an item to their cart– this way airlines can gear up for a-la-carte sales or branded fares. This is vital as airlines need to find a balance between offering choice and how to sell them via mobile. For example, if the deal is too cluttered or the display isn’t simple enough to understand, then conversion won’t take place. Doing too much, say too many bullet points or offerings too many options, especially on a mobile device, can be a major hindrance in shopping.  So typically in funnel analysis, the series of steps leading to a transaction might look like search – view flight - add to cart –add a hotel to the cart - checkout - enter payment information and flight shopping is done.  

4.    Mobile experience: Speed is one factor that can make or break an experience. Airlines like Virgin America have relied on one simple call to action that are booking flights.

Among other issues, the mentality of offering the “lowest common denominator experience” needs to be done away with.

For instance, in case of responsive web design, it is being underlined that it has touched its saturation point. Even though it is apt for layout management and discovering distinct devices, there is a need to look at adaptive technique as well, delivering app-like sites. This way airlines can optimize experiences for mobile web – delivering web push notifications and app-style web payments.

Also, airlines need to build on the momentum of conversational commerce, and capitalize on it via mobile. Such trends can’t be ignored, as the blend of millennials and mobile is forcing evolution in consumerism and workplaces, both undergoing societal and technological transformation. At the same time a thorough study of what millennials expect is required as technology only facilitates the life they want to lead. “Millenials seek convenience, seek to belong and co-create, for them it’s about creating stories around travel, and being part of an authentic experience. Airlines need to recognize this and serve their mentality,” LikeWhere’s founder Simon Dempsey told me in an interview late last year.

Also, content needs to gear up for mobile-first approach, artificial intelligence etc. 

5.    Personalisation: Data analytics is critical in coming up with personalized offers throughout the travel process.  Without knowing what a passenger has shopped before, it is tough to fathom what they might want in the future. So the basic foundation is laid when a robust data strategy is in place, otherwise growing data will end in silos, and one will always struggle to attain customer centricity. Efficient digital organizations are looking to collect, store, process, analyze, and visualize big data on cloud. As more a traveller feels that their experience has been tailored for them, and the more relevant recommendations are to them, the more likely they are to engage.

Those airlines that aren’t ready to count on data, analytics and cloud are definitely missing out on shaping up their mobile personalisation efforts as studies have indicated that more than 70% of travellers share location and personal data for personalised services, and have indicated that context-aware promotion could persuade them to make a purchase.

Once airlines manage to clear the hurdle of inter-operability i. e. sharing of data from disparate sources, then they can get closer to serving offers/ recommendations as per travellers’ preferences.  

6.    Non-air ancillaries: In addition to flights, airlines need to gain access to inventory from hotels, car rentals, insurance and activities etc., either as standalone products or bundled packages. And as part of their offering or under their own brand. Airlines need to work on flexible web and mobile front-end, and also a single, standardized set of XML messages that cater to all channels.

Airlines are increasingly opting to control their own merchandising, e-commerce and API technologies. The focus is on using platforms that enable airline control, faster speed to market, and flexibility – and drifting away from solutions that are hard coded or community-model based, or tied to a particular PSS or channel. (Read about NDC XML APIs vs proprietary APIs).

7.    Payment and fraud related to mobile: In-app purchases and one-click ordering are a norm now. Shopping is all about toward convenience, simplicity, and speed. Airlines need to look at a couple of areas – streamlining process for transactions, fulfilment and transfer of funds and as well being prepared for fraud. One has to move in a swift manner as IoT thinking and increasingly smartphones are leading to more sophisticated digital wallets and mobile payments – which will lead to personalised mobile wallets or payment technologies with predictive capabilities built in.

Airlines need to support popular wallets and payment apps. Considering that every payment method has its own underlying technology and every mobile device has its own operating system, airlines need to take control of their payment ecosystem by owning their own payments layer that can deal with the fragmentation. The best plan is to adopt technology that is modular in nature and can work as a stand-alone solution with scale and scope. However, airlines also need to be careful as all new payment options may not pay off in travel commerce.   

Mobile fraud is complicated for airlines just like any digital business as transactions that are made through mobiles collect less information than web transactions, and therefore look much more similar. It isn’t easy to  differentiate between the real or fraudulent orders. As a result, higher costs are incurred, which includes the greater chargeback rates, lengthier time for manual reviews and bad service rendered to users. Airlines need to look at ways to authenticate users, relying on signals to add to the fraud prevention mix, like mobile carrier, precise geo-location and biometric behavior. There is also a need to make use of low-friction authentication steps that are made for mobile, like fingerprint scanning technology, SMS verification codes etc.

8.    Attribution: As Google recommends, even if the transaction didn’t materialize on a mobile device, “that doesn’t mean mobile didn’t play a role”. Airlines, like other businesses, need to assess the ways travellers are using mobile to connect with a brand. So in this context it is vital for brands to match a user’s engagement to actions across multiple devices. Of course, what works on a PC site may not work on an app, so sewing engagement via relevant metrics would be the key.

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

 

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Quest for control set to take merchandising to another level

First Published on 21st February, 2017

Ai Editorial: Dealing with highly integrated processes meant for inventory, distribution and sales isn’t easy for airlines. But if one persists and decides to rework on IT  infrastructure, commercial strategy, data integration etc., then it can yield better results for merchandising, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Inclusion of air- and non-air ancillary services into an airline’s commercial strategy is on the rise, and so is the need for better cross-platform experiences and integrating data across channels, complete pricing and shopping and merchandising solutions that focus on revenue grow on demand, dynamic pricing and personalisation and is platform agnostic.

All of this if done in a meticulous way can also pave way for customer-centricity, and control over what to be offered to a traveller, the way its shown, on which channel etc.

Quest for control also indicates that merchandising-related initiatives are undergoing change – for instance, if on one hand new non-GDS interfaces are being developed, on the other the introduction of air ancillaries features GDS prominently in the mix.

We look at areas that indicate airlines are making progress with their merchandising strategy:

·          Every offer to depict “value”: Airlines acknowledge the need to react quickly and adjust pricing dynamically, in a flexible way according to rise or fall in demand. Of course, a major concern here is to manage price sensitive customers. In this context, dynamic bundling and cross-selling become significant - including personalized pricing and up-selling. This refers to creation of sales offers based on demand.

As Vayant’s CEO Eric Dumas indicates, airlines need to focus on technology for optional services and branded fares management, once they are filed and distributed. He says airlines can choose to unbundle sales of seats, meals, baggage, class upgrades, lounge access and more, charge different prices or create separate offers to different consumer segments. Or they can blend all elements together in order to create a vast volume of unique, personalized sales offers with the accuracy relying on real-time data. This way airlines can manage their pricing (raise it or bring it down), but by adding an extra value or services to the package airline is making its customers feel valued.

·          Sharing inventory and content in “non-traditional ways: Airlines are looking at several approaches for direct connections. The objective is here to capitalize on additional content that could not be displayed previously. Also, another major consideration is offering additional services at relatively lower cost than before. As indicated by NDC projects, airlines can selectively craft offers/ bundles for routes as chosen, being in control of merchandising. Also, another highlight is differentiation coming in via elaborate content depicting what the product/ service is all about. As we have witnessed, airlines have been working on their IT set up to ensure they put their sales and distribution in other baskets rather than only one. For instance, a new non-GDS interface in case of Lufthansa’s deal with Siemens and Volkswagen  (Amadeus Cytric bypasses Amadeus GDS to hook into Amadeus Altea).

·          Offering value to intermediaries: Airlines can scale up their direct connect IT set up and own rule-based merchandising engine to maximize their distribution strategy. Of course, there can be channel-specific or partner-specific hurdles, but as indicated by NDC pilots/ projects, all of this can be sorted. Also, a major highlight of such arrangement is: an airline working on special bundles that can be sold via intermediaries’ platform. This can be tailored for one intermediary, too. For instance, a tour operator or an OTA can exclusively offer lounge voucher or avail complementary additional luggage option. 

·          GDS continues to be an integral part of distribution mix: In a recent article posted by Airline Weekly, Scott Kirby, president of United Airlines mentioned: “…As for 3rd parties, I am all in favour of our third parties being able to sell ancillaries.” He said this isn’t an avenue to push direct sales, rather he asserted that customers should be “able to shop where it’s most convenient for them. I want it to be cost efficient, but I also want them to have full access to all of our products”. Amadeus is allowing airlines, such as Etihad Airways, to display images of  product and ancillary services, such as exit row seating. Sabre asserts that the group makes ancillary and branded fare content available through all points of sale that they develop. In an interview with Ai around mid-2016, Sabre mentioned that 72% of bookable air content in Sabre offers an ancillary and/or branded fare.

·          Facilitating sales via APIs: Today airlines have worked on their API gateway, publishing end-to-end PSS API in public domain. APIs are available for flight and fare availability, ticket issuance, payment etc. Airlines are making standardized data available to developers, allowing them to use the interface to integrate direct booking links for offers from the airline into their web- and app-based offers.

Sabre also says an advanced level of merchandising capability is also built into APIs, which are used by developers to build or update a customized booking applications for their websites or to use Sabre content within another application.

·          Capitalising on intelligence in real-time: As airlines focus on NDC systems, there would be provision for XML analytics that is tied in to the NDC API. The objective is to gain an insight into operational performance of web services and XML APIs coupled with real-time intelligence that the XML message flow contains. Right from merchandising solution to real-time PSS data reliable interfacing to the external contemporary system where the proper data aggregation could be maintained to API strategy to harnessing the intelligence embedded in the rich NDC-schema compliant XML message streams, airlines need to prepare in a diligent manner.

The pace of change might be slow, the number of airlines going about refining their merchandising strategy might be low, but it is a positive sign considering prevalent highly integrated processes, and change doesn’t come easy to this industry.

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

 

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Digital transformation = getting connectivity + blend of technologies right

First Published on 10th February, 2017

Ai Editorial: Digital transformation isn’t just about dealing with archaic IT set up. Rather it’s a journey that is about getting IT architecture and connectivity right, that eventually paves way for collaborative innovation and customer-centricity, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Which is the right way to approach digital transformation?

When we talk of the limitation of a PSS, extracting data out of a legacy set up, working on connectivity for SaaS, mobile, and the Internet of Things, delivering a connected experience…it is imperative to make sure all of this can be stitched together as part of an enterprise-level cohesive transformation.

Transformation that aptly depicts the strength of the travel product, and serves the traveller in the manner that suits them best.

It’s a huge undertaking for an organization, it’s an investment. What’s the right blend of architecture, and how to work out connectivity?

Digital transformation isn’t only about offer management

The way airlines craft an offer for a user, be it for their own distribution channel or on 3rd party platform, is undergoing a major change – creating it dynamically to offer travellers with the most relevant offer at any given time, through any point of sale. Plus there is a need to look at pricing, availability, and schedule building as part of real-time offer creation and delivery across all channels. But working only on offer management is just one aspect of transformation.

In addition to this, airlines also need to look at areas like speed-to-market and re-evaluate their connectivity approaches.

API-led connectivity can bring a change, and there are tangible benefits that are being worked upon. For instance, flydubai via its API-led connectivity approach is looking to cut down on passenger queues at airports with mobile check-in, speed up departure gate boarding etc. As for merchandising, the airline intends to bundle its offerings with supplementary services such as rental cars, hotels and adjust prices accordingly.

Such connectivity enables us to view the estimated pickup time on a map (Google Maps) when we are waiting for our cab service ordered via Uber. So how can airlines get closer to attaining such proficiency, which along the way can also improve upon overall merchandising?

API-led architecture

In a recent webinar, Mohammed Ahteshamuddin, VP, IT-PSS and Customer Experience, Dubai-based flydubai stressed on the need to transform, and this stands true for even those carriers that aren’t even decade old and carry no or less “legacy baggage”. In fact, LCCs of today are distributing via GDSs, interline partners, code-sharing etc. and this along with the call to serve today’s “always-connected consumer” calls for a change.

Need for transformation emanates from the fact that there are maintenance-related and scalability issues, dealing with data silos, monolithic systems etc.  

Ahteshamuddin, referring to digital transformation, underlined the significance of collaborative innovation via open API strategy in order to connect, collaborate and share, as well development of a platform for digital interactions and transformation. Such architecture is one critical aspect of digital transformation, and it is all about agility and speed-to-market. Importantly referring to how architecture has evolved over the years, starting from 1960’s to service-oriented architecture or SOA and eventually microservices-oriented, Ahteshamuddin said microservices archicture offers a huge opportunity to set up a scalable and available platform and also deliver contextualized personal services through APIs. Microservices are one component of working on digital transformation that are required to meet modern business demands. With it, an application is broken into smaller, completely independent components, enabling them to have greater agility, scalability, and availability. Such offering allows developers to focus on exact areas without adding unwarranted intricacies to deployment or other administrative tasks that are usually associated with isolated services.

Implementing such architecture

So how did flydubai go about choosing its API-led architecture?

Ahteshamuddin mentioned that the team, which worked with MuleSoft, chose to focus on the blend of service-oriented architecture, microservices and APIs. This was done to find a way to unlock data from legacy systems via an integration hub via SOA; flexible, scalable and available components, for composing these into more business usable assets; and APIs to standardize and simplify the interfaces. One vital area where airlines end up making progress is the resulting decentralised access to data and capabilities while not compromising on governance. At the same time, one needs to work on security capabilities for public facing APIs, e. g. presentation of data in a governed fashion. Entities need to focus on application of logic to data, such as transformation and enrichment, and access to source data, whether from physical systems, or from external services.

As for connectivity approach, multiple building blocks is the way to go in order to attain agility and flexibility.

The first layer, as explained by flydubai and MuleSoft, is systems APIs (for accessing underlying systems of record), second is process APIs (provide access to non-central data, designed specifically for processes in an organisation) and experience APIs (optimization of content, paving way for channels to access data in a desired format and accessibility for devices such as wearables, how the information is displayed on any particular device). “On this platform we have managed to transform the core system (PSS) of the airline that needs to be ready for the digital transformation. We have designed the middleware around offer management, order management and customer management. For offer management, we integrated pricing engine and merchandising platform integrated via MuleSoft hybrid integration platform, and with microservices components of availability, we have built on the offer management API. Similarly, the team has worked on order management API (encompassing sell, book, ticket, payment etc.). Also, the customer management component system interacts with the loyalty and CRM systems to create the single source of customer APIs. The API gateway exposes all these APIs to business partners.

In additon to architecture and connectivity, one also needs to focus on people – employees and travellers. For instance, if we talk of data, it alone cannot provoke change - rather accessibility, acting on it, training, incentivizing employees and ending up with the development of a customer-centric culture is key.

Making the most of APIs

So flydubai has worked on their API gateway powered by their platform, publishing end-to-end PSS API in public domain. APIs are available for flight and fare availability, ticket issuance, payment etc. and, as Ahteshamuddin says, one can build own booking engine on “our APIs”.

The objective of the airline is to collaborate with various stakeholders, primarily divided into three groups - business partners including OTAs, payment partners etc. (say enabling OTAs to build custom search and booking functions), user community including operators, agents, corporate clients (say for tour packages to include flights and travel services using  APIs or a corporate ensuring bookings are as per travel policy) and the developer community (for creating mobile and IoT applications).

How has this undertaking shaped up? Ahteshamuddin stated that agility and speed-to-market has been demonstrated with integration of the carrier’s reservation system into myIDTravel portal, a portal for airline staff to book tickets), and this project from design to going live was done in two weeks. Also, the airline garnered the IATA NDC Level 3 certification. As for the migration to the platform, the airline is facilitating migration of partners previously associated via web service page, but in terms of progress, flydubai has over 60 OTAs, meta-search engines including Skyscanner and KAYAK, IT providers and payment specialists. 

And finally, other than facilitating new apps based on the airline’s developer portal, the plan is to improvise on an ongoing basis to capitalize on data and analytics to personalise the experience. For instance, intelligence derived from machine learning can make product recommendations based on activity patterns or  ease off strict rules that force even legitimate customers to identify themselves at the time of payment. Similarly, the team is also looking at areas like shopping experience (few months ago easyjet introduced a mysterious plane door to inspire people to travel), as well as seamless, connected travel experience.

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Experience optimization - key to gaining share of wallet

First published on 7th February, 2017

Ai Editorial: A series of initiatives – account personalisation, machine learning driven recommendations, tracking every interaction etc. – can pave way for experience optimization and in turn ancillary revenue generation, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Garnering a major chunk of travellers’ wallet, be it for them buying an airline ticket from airline.com or using a co-brand credit card for various transactions, is like putting pieces of a puzzle together.

If we talk of airline-owned touchpoints, the business challenge or the puzzle that is being sorted should be able to aptly serve the passenger, right from inspiring them to the post-journey phase.

Just focusing on transactions isn’t going to be enough. The focus needs to be on experience optimisation – which would essentially mean working out the right content for each visitor every time they visit on airline.com or their app. And this can’t only be transactional in nature, rather should span across the end-to-end traveller journey across key touch points such as servicing, delivery, disruption management plus ticketing and fulfilment.

There are quite a few positive initiatives in this context, for instance, account personalisation. And, yes, there are hurdles, too, that result in a gap in experience optimization and dissuade passengers from buying at all.

·          Account personalisation: One area where progress is being made is speedy bookings and swift flight check-ins on airline-owned platforms. This is being enabled by passenger-focused technology, one that speedily directs users to content that would make an impact or possibly a favourable action from users. Ryanair took an exemplary initiative last year, one related to account personalisation. This way the carrier chose to enable passengers to share their travel preferences by setting up a personal profile, and saving passport details etc. The users can also store their payment information. Such initiatives are bound to make trip planning, booking and even servicing simpler, more efficient. In the case of Ryanair, the carrier asserts that the scale of its application is exceptional, capable of managing over 105 million or so users. Of course, digitally-savvy airlines or retail companies today are focusing on managing data, and this includes data from that is within an organization and also from outside. So if personalisation platforms, moving ahead with progressive profiling of their customers, can act on data in real-time, then it would push experience optimization to a new level altogether.

·          Capitalizing on technology for conversion: Be it for early stages of the booking funnel i. e. when a passenger isn’t sure of where to go or removing usual pain-points when a user it about to book, technology can play a vital role.

- If we talk of finalising a flight itinerary, it could be adding context to personalise the experience when an anonymous visitor is exploring an airline website. So what if the booking flow comes alive when website users shares their interests, favourite activity etc. and the airline ends up offering an itinerary based on personalised destination recommendations. This also means relevance is added to ancillary retail products. Ireland-based start-up LikeWhere is offering such capability via their location recommendation engine, which is backed by a matching algorithm built upon  geo-data-mining and machine learning processes. And this is connected to the user interface of an airline’s website or mobile app. The company asserts that the flight is not the consumed product, the destination is.

In another judicious of machine learning, the intelligence derived from it can also ease off strict rules that force even legitimate customers to identify themselves at the time of payment. This multi-layered verification, which if same for all buyers, can increase complexity at the time of the check-out. Rather if machine learning can spot a group of buyers and term them as low-risk before they even make a purchase, then this would help in improving upon the conversion rate.  

·          Content optimization: As we highlighted in one of our recent articles, if airlines aren’t able to deliver content that covers  apps, sites, social channels, IoT devices etc., then they are falling short of displaying their own product aptly. Content needs to gear up for mobile-first approach, artificial intelligence etc. E-commerce companies are evaluating content-as-a-service through microservices and APIs. It is being underlined that headlines CMS marks the evolution of the CMS architecture. Headless is being termed as an answer for content for multiples screens, and the list also includes devices such as smartwatches.

·          Emotional engagement: Today travel companies are counting on eye-tracking and facial-movement technology to assess what and where people look at and why in order to refine design and functionality of their digital platforms. According to Expedia, such initiative pave way for more nuanced understanding of what users want and how to move them from browsing to booking. In case of Expedia, user experience researchers use electromyography technology to document minute changes in the user’s facial muscles. The findings are being augmented with eye-tracking, more visual and verbal clues etc. The resulting data eventually paves way for product development decision-making.

·          Tracking every interaction, even on non-branded touchpoints: It is incredibly tough to assess the real experience of travellers since they are also engaging and responding to the experience in the non-airline environment. Imagine you are non-loyal flyer, who has had a bad experience with an airline. You Tweeted about it, wrote on Facebook, wrote an email and eventually the airline called you to sort out. Say after a week or a month you are planning your next booking, and you access airline's site and mobile app, do you think it is possible that you are going to be greeted with a personalised message as you are looking for tickets on the same airline's website/ app?

There are various technologies available for user tracking, but it is quite challenging to link actions seen on social media to a CRM system that will enable the web experience to be different the next time the user visits.

You can only drop a cookie while users are on your own website or a hosted forum that your company sponsors. Also, there could be a great deal of privacy and access issues. As of now, be it for hotels or airlines, the sum of all interactions isn’t being analyzed, and till the point it happens, there would be a gap in experience optimization.  

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

 

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Content is vital for merchandising, are airlines ready for it?

First published on 2nd February, 2017

Ai Editorial: If airlines aren’t able to deliver content that covers apps, sites, social channels, IoT devices etc., then they are falling short of displaying their own product aptly, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Airlines generally tend to struggle to make the most of their core offering when it comes to displaying images, videos etc. This means airlines are falling short of optimizing the investment being incurred on refining the overall product and shopping experience. And with this gap, they are also potentially missing out on revenue optimization, say selling of air ancillaries.

Are airlines matching content with the intent of the customer? Are airlines equipped to handle opportunities emanating via artificial intelligence, robotics and automation? Not really.

So where is the problem when we talk of management of content?

One area that is being discussed even in the other sectors is the limitation of traditional content management.

Airlines need to look beyond web publishing, and rather gear up for publishing that covers apps, sites, social channels, IoT devices etc. One also needs to support global, multilingual content at scale.

Keeping pace with technology

The pace with technology evolves increases expectations, brands are expected to be ready, and that’s what we, as travellers, expect from our favourite airlines, too.

In this context, content needs to gear up for mobile-first approach, artificial intelligence etc. For instance, chatbots are being trained to respond to queries. Now if a traveller is sitting at the airport, about to board the flight in next 30 minutes, intends to ask a question around what’s going to be served during the 7-hour transatlantic flight and is even willing to pay for a certain dish, can the chatbot show the image of the dish if its available? How much to pay for it? It is definitely possible today. Chatbots and AI can provide convenience and value to travellers via real-time recommendations (say links to purchase options or opt-ins that could lead to purchases). If bots are improving upon the experience, then content that is being shown is an integral part of the whole effort. Even chatbots should be equipped to automatically serve content in the format – aptly suited for a user’s device, right?  

“Headless” CMS

The limitations of legacy content management systems (CMSs) typically are - being browser-first, page-centric, on-premises set up etc. Traditional CMS products were set up as a coupled CMS. As for the coupled versus decoupled web CMS architecture, in case of coupled architecture authoring and delivery are on the same set up. While the initial setting up is simple, there are challenges that are being highlighted with the coupled approach. Scaling up is one issue. Also, since content is normally in a database schema (CMS code is tightly connected with templates and custom code) intended for use on the site, it can make integration and migration arduous. Plus, software complexity is more since the code base features both authoring and delivery concerns. Also, being on the public server raises security issues.

In this context, headless CMS has been in news.

Such systems pave way for editing, storing, and management of content but put away the design and delivery of the same content to a distinct offering. Here API makes the content available through any channel and on any device.

E-commerce companies are evaluating content-as-a-service through microservices and APIs. It is being underlined that headlines CMS marks the evolution of the CMS architecture. Headless is being termed as an answer for content for multiples screens, and the list also includes devices such as smartwatches. Also, headless CMS allow developers to choose whatever front-end user interface technology they would prefer. Organizations can better manage application lifecycle without any interference of CMS code. Another advantage that airlines can consider is the fact that a decoupled architecture is beneficial for those digital assets that need high levels of availability and performance, for integration with third party business systems etc.

Don’t ignore customer experience

However, it needs to be highlighted that there is balancing act that needs to be managed, when we talk of headless or coupled.

As a specialist in this arena, Sitecore underlines that organizations need to be careful with the impact on customer experience (CX).

In a recent blog post by Sitecore, it was highlighted that even as headless CMS can result in freedom while finalizing on a front-end user interface technology say for an app, on the flip side the CX end up being decoupled as well.  This would limit the ability to personalize that experience, or answer real time with pertinent content, or even test and optimize and manage forms and market in context of user interactions.

So how to go about headless CMS?

Sitecore asserts that such architecture should be used by “digitally mature” entities that are capable of managing “customer experiences in context of how users interact with your brand”. Further adds, it should work for those “whose digital properties are personalized, who regularly test and optimize those experiences, and whose organizations are set up to be customer-centric.”

Then only one should expect to manage the balance between contextualized digital experiences and standout app user interfaces.

Overall, airlines need to evaluate possibilities with the cloud-first headless CMS approach.

Content management, be it for going for an architecture that supports delivery of content for emerging technologies and all devices, adopting personalization rules that tailor a site content based on visitors’ profiles, or monitoring how content is performing, without navigating to a separate web analytics system, is one key area that is demanding action in a swift manner.

This way airlines can get better with their overall e-commerce plan, and target improved revenue generation from both their core products and ancillaries.

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

 

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Too easy to go awry with personalisation

First published on 27th January, 2016

Ai Editorial: By being too transaction-centric, overlooking the limitations of big data or not respecting travellers’ privacy, airlines can go wrong with their personalisation-related efforts, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta   

 

Amidst all the talk around how personalisation, backed by smarter data capabilities, can elevate the overall brand experience, there are noticeable instances where the whole initiative can prove to be either useless or even annoying.

Yes, personalisation is a journey – moving from demographic segmentation to bringing behavioural and transactional data into the picture to algorithms-driven, automated one-to-one personalisation. But being meaningless during the path is what marketers are trying to avoid. As cautioned by a couple of airline executives in the recent past, when things go wrong, the image of a brand takes a beating.

·          “Awkward personalisation can be worse than not personalising at all,” this is what Maria Cardenal, head of product development at Vueling Airlines had to say when we interacted about selling ancillaries and personalisation.

·          In another interaction, Frank Bornemann, head of marketing, Loyalty Programs & Provider Management APAC at Lufthansa, highlighted that airlines have so much data available to address individual needs, but yet they usually blast offers to all customers in newsletters, apps, social media etc.

What personalisation shouldn’t be like then?

Ø  Irrelevant by being “transaction-centric”: An email addressing users with their “name” and sending 10 emails in a month with all of them enticing them about buying your next flight with a promo code or discount can detest a user from even opening an email. And if users have accrued points or miles, it is even more detrimental to the experience as users neither can unsubscribe (since they would lose out on something relevant to them) nor wouldn’t like to open as most of it seems like “spamming”.

As highlighted by Olson Digital, for most entities operating in the digital space, every interaction with a visitor is not a direct sales opportunity.

Be it for historical data, the recent activity (say keyword search or clicks on the website) etc., anticipate where the user is in the booking funnel. Let’s say a user typically takes two family vacations (in March and in June) and there are other times when the same traveller travels for business. What would the right time to inspire this traveller for family vacations? What sort of content would be shown depending upon historical data, the recent activity (keywords search, sections clicked on email, behavior on airline app/ website etc.), the stage in the booking funnel etc.

Treat every piece of communication as part of the journey, starting from the inspiration phase, and enabling the user to take a decision with relevant messaging, choices, deals etc. Olson Digital sums this up with an analogy: a suit “must fit one’s preferences (cut, color, fabric), the season or occasions during which it is likely to be worn, and ultimately one’s body”.

Ø  Missing the mark with big data: A major issue with big data is assumptions arrived at, based on variables. These can be 90% - 95% accurate and yet can end up being irrelevant with the recommendation. VCCP’s co-founder and chairman Charles Vallance made a pertinent point in a blog post few months ago, “the trick with big data is to make it small”, and “distil and compress it until it tells you something concrete, substantial and discriminating”. He underlines that if one would only end up counting on data-driven targeting as personalised and to being personal, and overall a way to forge desirable customer relationships, this may well end up being a mistake. Vallance accentuates that one needs to balance out, and make the most of the blend of human angle, communication and technology, and also states: “technological leaps that big data makes possible are seldom about understanding me better, they are more often about serving me better”.

Airlines and travel organizations can also dig deep into what sort of analytical process failure can result in disappointing results. Look into bias, and their impact, and also learn about true positive, true negative, false positive, and false negative, and ask pertinent question like why same data can result in different interpretations?

According to specialists in this arena, being extremely reliable on the initial dataset, no data cleansing or transformation, or statistics being done wrong are common issues.

Ø  For trust, know your limits: We all dread the idea of sharing too much information on any social network or even sharing our email id thinking of being chased or being exposed to unwanted messages. The responsibility is even bigger when a consumer shared some piece of information for a meaningful association. Make the effort to ensure customers can opt out. Retargeting definitely hasn’t evolved it seems – be it for chasing with same creative or showing an ad umpteen times even when a consumer isn’t interested.

As Cardenal explained, even if an organization is ready with data and has managed right interpretation of that data (aligned with the business strategy, as well as the technology to be able to use it effectively), do ensure the same comes into play at the right moment and with the right message. If no, then the same effort can come across as intrusive by the traveller.

Technology is not enough, you need to build your customer’s trust.

Travelers are willing to provide more personal information if it means a better customer experience for them. If you make proper use of their personal information and the message you send is relevant to them, then it will not annoy them, but will develop trust. 

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017;

Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Speed – one vital driving force behind every CTO, CMO’s move

First published on 6th January, 2017

Ai Editorial: Speed is one popular notion that is driving new initiatives at an enterprise level. Ai’s Ritesh Gupta assesses how 3 areas –merchandising, API connectivity and micro-moment marketing – are gearing up for the same.

 

Speed with which what an airline can do, be it for introducing a new ancillary product, acting on business intelligence or dealing with digital marketing ecosystem for funnel optimization, is now defining what transformation is all about. It is exerting tremendous pressure on every organization to evolve in a certain manner.

From the IT standpoint, one has to make the most of the blend of mobile, IoT, SaaS, cloud, big data and social and accordingly adjust their operating model. For a marketer, it’s imperative to make the most of every interaction a customer has with the brand, making apt use of CRM, marketing automation or campaign management tools to organize multichannel interactions.

Here we explore certain operational changes that denote the significance of speed, in the context of supporting an environment for innovation, gaining competitive edge for instance launching a new product or a new digital asset building on the existing resources etc.

·          IT operating model: Airlines need to excel with their API connectivity as this paves way for a seamless application network of apps, data, and devices. Implications for airlines include passenger tracking inside the terminal to speed up departure gate boarding or cutting down traveller queues at airports with mobile check-in.

As a specialist in this arena, MuleSoft foresees that in 2017 APIs and microservices are going to be vital weapons that IT teams would build for developers across an enterprise to use for apps, services, and processes. (According to IBM, microservices architectural approach is a way to set up only one application as a group of services, each operating in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API). This way one would be able to discover, reuse and self-serve assets. Overall, such move is going to result in speed and agility by enabling more teams to innovate without central IT being the bottleneck. How? Such IT operating model means technology components can be split into smaller pieces, be composed and recomposed into new digital products and services across the business. Citing an example, a blog post on MuleSoft, explained how by divulging data through reusable APIs can propel innovation, rather than starting from scratch every time a project is initiated. From a tangible benefit perspective, this means when an app for iOS is created, and post this an Android app is to be delivered, this wouldn’t require a massive effort. Rather by divulging data required for the app through APIs, various components of the mobile app can be referred to as reusable building blocks.

Among airlines, flydubai is one such airline that has been counting on one such platform to cut down on the time taken to introduce new products by up to 70%.

·          Merchandising and distribution: Personalized offers in milliseconds? Yes, this is what airlines need to consider. Airlines have to work on plans that result in flexibility and quick, centralized approach to merchandising. For instance, the web and mobile front-end should be accommodating so that it adapts dynamically when one adds or eradicates any fare, bundle or ancillary. The work that is done at the back-end to introduce a new offering should be done in a way that there is no amendment required in existing digital assets such as PC website, mobile app etc.

Also, if an airline is pushing its content via NDC-enable API then any changes/ new offering needs to be displayed across all the channels to sustain consistency. One has to work on dynamic merchandising, pricing, availability, and schedule building as part of real-time offer creation and delivery across all channels. The related engines for such functionalities should be cost effective and have millisecond response time.

·          Not just traditional “marketing”: For marketers, it is important to respond quickly to market opportunities with real-time market and performance insights. For instance, if tomorrow another game like Pokemon Go emerges, then what sort of agile planning is needed to make it part of the marketing mix. Of course, the popularity of Pokemon Go underlined the potential of speed and scale of digital disruption, and marketers need to be ready for it. So airlines need to evaluate what they can do to integrate data and technology.

Marketers need to be nimble, need to capitalize on the blend of content, data, analytics, algorithms etc. The lines between marketing, product, and engineering are diminishing. For instance, the team needs to have certain set of technical skills to capitalize on say each ecosystem (Apple, Google etc.), what can trigger virality (for instance, how to count on gamification) etc., funnel optimization through measurements and insights using tools such as Google. We are in the era of micro-moment marketing. As Google points out, mobile has fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments. These moments have been categorized (Want to know moments, Want to do moments, want to buy moments etc.), and marketing today need to acknowledge that moments tend to sit at the crossroads of content, immediacy and intent. How to crack this is in real-time is going to be the key forward. No doubt piecing together a technology staff for the marketing function is a very big challenge.

How can airlines embrace change and count on "speed" for competitive advantage? Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain in April this year.

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

 

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

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