The digitally connected traveler seeks out information, services, and products from a number of sources: search engines, OTAs, review sites, social media, even their friends. And yet, many airlines are slow to gain traction in the digital travel market, offering their passengers a static, low-value application. Sure, it might be useful for digital boarding passes, or to access the onboard entertainment, but that’s about it. It’s then deleted as soon as possible upon landing. In the era of digital connectivity, it’s odd that an airline’s app seems to keep passengers eerily disconnected from anything of value outside of its own limited functionality. If airlines aren’t using their app to sell products, provide information, or interact with their customers in a meaningful way, they would be better served just developing a mobile game rather than professing to serve the needs of today’s connected traveler.

Ready for digital natives

Digital natives are post millennials that have grown up using technology as part of their daily lives, in particular, mobile devices. They prefer a “cool experience over a cool product.” (Medium). They expect all interactions to be mobile-friendly, readily at their fingertips. They want access 24/7 to answers to problems, address travel needs, etc. They love to absorb as much information from peer reviews, online ratings, influencers’ opinions, and friends before making purchases. The traveling digital native is primed to embrace an airline’s app, as long as they see value from it. The app needs to provide some level of personalized service or helpful information, and it should give them more control over their travel experience. If not, expect that app to be deleted and ignored.

Improve customer communication

Many airline brands communicate with their customers through social channels or using chatbots to resolve issues and communicate information. An airline’s mobile app can an essential part of this communication to help keep an airline top-of-mind when it comes to travel and tourism - especially beyond the flight. In addition to sending real time updates about flight status or weather conditions, airlines can help passengers secure ground transportation or make suggestions about tours they might enjoy. After the trip, an airline’s app can be a direct channel for communicating offers and announcements. For example, sending push notifications to alert a customer about an upcoming seat sale to a city that they have demonstrated interest through in-app searches. The more communication with a passenger, the more actionable insight can be gathered about their interests.

Another revenue channel

Airlines have a number of channels to sell tickets, for example OTAs and search engines. But the drawback is that they don’t control those channels and are limited by what their selling partner can offer, like a seat upgrade at the moment of purchase. Even on their own sites, most airlines are handcuffed into only selling add-ons during the booking path. Leveraging a mobile app, airlines can sell ancillaries at any moment in a traveler’s journey. For example, VIP lounge access offered on the day of travel, or a taxi ride to the airport, the day before departure. An airline app that is only used to access onboard entertainment is missing a huge opportunity to sell in-destination experiences and tours, on top of duty free and in-flight meals, etc.

A tool for data gathering

Airlines already have valuable travel data. However, they tend to lack the more nuanced types of data that can be gathered within a robust travel app. If a passenger performs a search on a city or destination activity, an airline can profit from this data. If a passenger has certain tendencies when they’re traveling alone, versus when they’re traveling with their family, an airline can make highly personalized offers that align to not only their passenger’s segmentation, but also to align with the reason for their trip. This behavioral data creates a richer passenger persona and provides the number of data points required to enable machine learning and to feed an AI engine.

Simplify the passenger experience

Travelers use an enormous number of travel apps to help them along their journey (Travelport claims travelers use 10-12 apps for searching, booking, and traveling). They might use one to find and book tours, one for transportation, one to find accommodations, another to find local restaurants, and another to monitor the weather, and … the list goes on. About 57% of travelers want their planning, booking and traveling needs to be contained in a single app. Travelers also check their itineraries numerous times, to keep track of when to arrive at the airport, boarding time and gate, hotel details, tour bookings, dinner reservations, etc. Airlines can offer a traveler app to help consolidate all of these mobile tools and improve the travel experience for their passengers. Not to mention, airlines can take advantage of the screen time with their customers to offer upgrades, up-sells, and cross-sells. Something nearly impossible to achieve without a mobile first approach.

Travel personalization is the answer

If you add up these 5 points, you come to a simple result: travel personalization. In the end, personalizing the travel experience is the best way to delight passengers as well as drive ancillary revenues. Without a mobile app, airlines have no ability to gather actionable data, nor a channel to distribute personalized travel and tourism content. Mobile is the means of personalizing service in real time. And with the mountain of data they’ll gather, airlines can leverage the full power of AI to become successful travel retailers.

Guestlogix is a travel commerce platform with a mobile-first design. It can deployed as a standalone, white-labelled app, or can integrate easily into an existing app to help airlines deliver personalized service to their passengers. The AI-driven, suggestion engine allows airlines to take full advantage of their data and their mobile first approach to customer service. Find out more at https://www.guestlogix.com/solutions/platform

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