First impressions matter - as do last ones. Studies show that people tend to remember the start and the end of a given list. We could apply the same logic for moments along a travel experience, which isn’t great news for airlines. The harsh truth is that the beginning and end of air travel is generally filled with the most frustrating, confusing, and inefficient moments of the entire trip. This includes standing in line ups for security screening, customs, or waiting for baggage post flight. Sure, in many cases, it’s not the airline’s fault that the experience is lacking at these points in the journey, but they generally get the brunt of dissatisfaction with passengers saying "it's not your fault, but it's your problem." What if airlines could improve the passenger experience by applying a little travel retail theory and simply distracting passengers from the stresses and hassles, inherent in modern-day air travel?
Distraction may be as important as conversion
It's obvious that airlines can help de-stress travel by simply selling ancillaries like jump the line services, or VIP lounge access. And they can do this more efficiently using a sophisticated travel retail platform. However, airlines don’t necessarily even need to convert on those products or services in order to make passengers feel more comfortable. Simply by offering these services gives passengers the sensation that they have more options and therefore, more control over their experience. They would be distracted by the alternative to standing in a line. Now it’s “their choice” to purchase the service or not. Having a sense of autonomy is one of the keys to de-stressing travel.
Travel retail in the air
Engaging in travel retail therapy is enjoyable for passengers trapped on a long flight. Customers enjoy using shopping as a means of exciting their imagination and satisfying their curiosity. Regardless of whether they buy something or not, “window shopping” provides a distraction for the passenger. While in-flight, airlines can promote items for purchase, but also provide information, suggest tours and destination activities, that can entertain, enhance their journey, and entice travelers to buy.
Airlines hold all the cards, at least on board
In the cabin, passengers are a captive audience. Because they don't have access to wi-fi, they can't access other e-commerce, digital services. This means that airlines are in a position to be the sole owner and merchant of travel retail products - during the flight. If a family wishes to plan their activities, tours, meals, and entertainment while they’re flying to a destination, they can only do this through the airline’s channels. And since the airline knows where these passengers are headed, they can push only the relevant offers. Airlines can get ahead of the travel retail competition and build loyalty with their travelers at the same time - converting their customers into return shoppers to boot.
For a deeper dive into these trends, check out our webinar, “4 Keys to A Wonderful Experience.” We explore some of the science behind learned helplessness in travelers and examine behavioral economics as a means of nudging travelers towards purchasing decisions.