First Published on 27th November, 2017
Ai Editorial: A traveller’s journey, right from dreaming to planning to booking to travelling, encompasses several touchpoints. How being a part of a digital economy and industry-specific business processes can help airlines in serving passengers in the best possible manner, explores Ai’s Ritesh Gupta
For an industry that is caught up being process/ operations-focused, being too “siloed”, the task of being a part of a digital economy or embracing new business processes isn’t a straightforward one for airlines.
Traditionally airlines have focused on safety and operations, and this means customer-centricity has largely been way below in the list of preferences.
But with the race to own the customer largely drifting away to those who “own the data”, airlines are rightly looking at evolution to sector-specific processes, systems etc. to serve the passengers in the best possible manner. The consumption pattern and the fulfilment part of taking travellers from one destination to another is unique, quite different from buying a book online, but airlines can’t ignore consumerism that essentially is now about a connected, contextual experience.
Going by what airlines can possibly do to being more customer-centric falls in two categories:
1. Improving upon on this sector’s underlying processes (every airline’s IT strategy is unique, thus they may decide to take relevant/ best of breed components from a range of suppliers), and
2. Making the most of datafication and IT trends to be a part of a digital economy.
Both are equally important as there is no single customer journey.
“There will be no single customer journey. In fact, it will be the opposite. We go into the area of hyper-personalization, where each passenger will get a different offering through potentially unique set of channels. Artificial intelligence combined with platform economy allows unprecedented customer flows,” explained Marko Javornik, VP/GM Mobility and Travel, Comtrade Digital Services.
Here we explore how airlines are finding a way to serve their passengers by being part of a digital economy, and via industry-specific systems and processes (offer management, OneOrder concept, as envisioned by IATA), ahead of this week's 8th Mega Event Worldwide, to be held in Palm Springs, CA, USA (29 November – 1 December, 2017).
Platform economy model
Javornik emphasised that digital economy works through a platform economy model.
An interesting aspect of such model, according to Accenture, is the frenemy-like set of vertical industry groups “competing with captive offerings of horizontal platforms (e.g. Spotify on iOS vs. iTunes, Netflix on Prime vs. Amazon) is a characteristic of the platform economy”. Good news is that the travel industry is starting to count on computing power, data storage, and open-source frameworks. Whether airlines make the most of datasets in their own environment or find a way to act on the activity of a shopper on Facebook or Alibaba (could be via retargeting or a branded storefront), acting on quality, relevant data must.
Being part of such model or ecosystem can help airlines to make the most of where traffic is – it could be Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Fliggy etc. Say, a user ends up having an interaction with a chatbot on an airline’s account on WeChat about a fare from London to Shanghai. How about showing content (things to do in London)/ deal related to Shanghai when the same user visits airline.com? And if the airline knows about the profile of this traveller, how about offering precise options for things to do or a bundled offer? Plus, contextual signals such as like the time of day, weather, location (if you’re at home or traveling) and style (family, adventure etc.) can even refine recommendations further. This is where preparation in terms of having a single view of the customer, rules-driven content architecture, making the most of content on 3rd party ecosystem etc. can end up delivering a differentiated experience.
Industry-specific systems and processes
Airline are looking at the systems they use or processes they are part of to improve upon several counts. One of them is controlling costs (considering the level of the look-to-book ratio as of today). Another area is improving upon KPIs such as average order value. Airlines have a lot of operational systems, for example, seat load factors by routes. So can such systems be fed into merchandising platforms to make offers that are dynamic, on real-time basis? Yes.
Also, even though there is a continuous debate around JSON vs. XML featuring in NDC and OneOrder schemas, different stakeholders have gone ahead and allocated resources for the same. This is being done to be in control – making available customized, rich content offers via every sales channel.
It is being highlighted that by building on the Offer and Order Management systems, using NDC as the distribution protocol, and creating the One Order standard, airlines will have a much larger pool of APIs and third-party content providers to offer their customers the right travel offer at the right time, regardless if the customer is coming to the airline. As for the OneOrder offering, it would communicate with an airline's passenger services system through industry standard interfaces. The offering running in parallel to an airline’s PSS, would feature complete PSS booking connectivity and document process capability, converting PRN into “orders”. So PSS would pass on information to the NDC platform, where master record would be stored. The blend of this approach counts on historical details provided by the order management system and this vital, real-time business intelligence is leveraged in personalisation of offers. The fundamental concept of order management system is that it becomes the central source of truth. So the airport display, check-in counter, ground handler, catering…every aspect connects to the order management system. This would again help in serving the customer through the journey in an earnest manner.
Here from experts at this week's 8th Mega Event Worldwide, to be held in Palm Springs, CA, USA (29 November – 1 December, 2017).
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