IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative has helped set some basic standards for airline retailing in a digital world, and more airlines are leveraging travel technology platforms to become better retailers and merchandisers. But that’s just a start.
Much of today’s airline technology is focused on inventory management, but without making the connection to content and relationship management. Airlines can now incorporate more info and ancillary merchandise alongside their own inventory into “rich content” ready for distribution to online travel agencies – but they’re still missing tools to manage content and customer relationships in their direct channel apps or websites.
How can airlines deliver more value and engage customers more effectively in the direct channel? They can start by increasing the relevance of their content and offers, through greater personalization and by making it easier for fulfillment partners to connect to the airline’s customers.
Content Management and Curation for Airlines
Today’s travelers have high expectations when it comes to digital content. Think about social media platforms where they can access and manage content from many different sources. Airlines must start thinking about retailing and merchandising from a similar perspective, by providing a superior digital experience where content is driven by fulfillment partners, but curated and personalized by the airline using its own internal customer data.
Traditional inventory management is more about making sure information is accurate and merchandise is fully visible and accounted for, something usually handled by the caterer or other fulfillment provider. But the travel sector has become a global ecosystem of fulfilment providers, all looking for new digital markets for their products and services, and airlines must be able to dynamically package and curate this merchandise for each individual customer.
This will only be possible as airlines are able to use customer data more effectively to personalize digital travel content, both their own and that of other providers.
Relationship Management for the Engaged Traveler
The other side of content management for airlines is relationship management. When content is relevant, personalized and dynamic, it gives travelers a reason to return to the app or website and helps establish an on-going digital relationship with the customer – before, during and after the flight.
In today’s global travel ecosystem, it’s hard to establish these relationships without connecting the airline customer to other travel services, such as hotels and car rentals. Travelers are increasingly booking and making travel plans on-the-go, and it’s not enough for airlines to simply offer them ancillary merchandise during the booking itself. They need content and offers in real time, in context and in the most convenient way possible – delivered to customers’ mobile devices.
Airline apps and websites should be the customer’s go-to resource for connecting the entire journey and unifying travel services in a seamless way. Whether travelers want to book a hotel room, rent a car or schedule an activity at their destination, the airline should be able to make those connections in the direct channel while keeping the customer connected to the airline brand.
This is what the future – and really, the present – of digital travel content is all about. Our Travel Personalization Platform can provide airlines with the digital tools they need to personalize and curate content for stronger customer relationships and more opportunities for retailing and merchandising.