How mobile apps can help airlines customize the passenger experience and increase ancillary revenue?

Mobile is eating the world, and it would be surprising if airlines were to be the exception.

In fact, because of its very nature, mobile seems specifically suited to the needs of the modern traveller, presenting airlines with the possibility to take passenger engagement to a whole new level.

At this stage you have possibly read or heard about the power of big data and machine learning technologies to customize or even predict your customer’s experience. This is even more accentuated when it comes to air travel, where the combination of big data solutions with dynamic ancillaries gets close to being the Holy Grail of the traveler experience: maximize the airline’s revenue opportunities while improving significantly the traveler experience.

What is the platform best suited to interact with travelers in such a comprehensive, continuous and personalized way?

You guessed it: the mobile phone.

How mobile apps can help airlines customize the passenger experience and increase ancillary revenue?

From service aid to revenue platform

Airlines have been launching mobile apps from the smartphone’s early days, yet, it is debatable up to what point they are currently getting the most out of mobile.

We are not talking here about boarding pass downloads or of getting an alert when the time of your flight is approaching, neither are we talking about simply adapting your booking process to the specificities of the mobile channel.

These are all important features, the bare minimum that customers would expect, but the ultimate challenge is for airlines to make of their mobile apps a proper revenue-generating machine.

The key here is to be able to present your clients with a unique offering at the right time and place."

And once you have got them hooked, to make it extremely easy and natural for them to click on the purchase button. Airlines must become a lot more like online retailers and fully leverage the power of impulse shopping, selling you what you did not even know you needed until one second ago.

Your virtual travel assistant

Think about your airline’s app not just as an electronic version of the paper itinerary and boarding pass of yesteryear, but as a smart, dynamic and adaptable travel assistant that will guide you through every step of your journey.

Mobile usage is, actually, so ubiquitous that no stage of the trip is beyond reach:

From planning and inspiration stage to booking, then on to pre-flight stage, when you can customize your bundle of services until the last minute. You could even be able to anticipate what the traveler needs.

With on-board Wi-Fi becoming more generalized, we should expect a connected mobile device to play a key role when it comes to the in-flight experience too, from accessing entertainment options to in-flight purchases or service requests...

At destination, your airline app can become a useful companion, providing suggestions while on the go. Here a whole range of possibilities open up for those airlines ready to cooperate with local partners.

And, of course, the post-trip stage also matters, as it when travelers can provide feedback and start planning the next journey.

Each of these areas requires a dedicated, well-designed approach, that includes rich, targeted content, the relevant calls to action and, increasingly, interactive features, such as the possibility of interact with your airline in real time via chat bots and other conversational tools.

The latter (chat bots) is one of the areas where we are likely to see plenty of innovative developments, as airlines ride also the incoming conversational commerce wave.

Join the conversation

Rather than a device to push notifications to your customers, firms are starting to leverage instant messaging services as an efficient two-way communication channel. It helps that for most people instant messaging is almost like second nature.

Here airlines have a choice of either embedding conversational features into their own apps or, simply, use universal platforms, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

A traveler, would, thus, be able to send customer service queries, receive boarding passes or even make changes to its booking, including the purchase of ancillaries, through chat.

While the use of this channel is still incipient, there is little doubt that it will eventually become commonplace, which poses airlines a number of questions: own platform or third party one? Up to what point can the process be automated? Each of these options presents its own set of advantages and trade-offs...

From service to revenue

You know who your clients are, you know where they are at any one time by combining geofencing and beacons. This present a myriad of monetization opportunities for the airline and its partners.

Why not create a win-win situation for everyone? Why not anticipate the needs of your customers? Offer them exactly what they need at every stage. Offer them those things that they did not even know they needed, but won’t be able to do without afterwards?

The key with mobile is that it allows you to present your clients with the perfect offering at the right time and at the right place."

There is, of course, the booking process, starting with the inspirational stage. If you know your customers, travel patterns and their location, you have a good head start to customize what they see when they open your app.

But getting them to book with you, and maybe purchase some ancillaries, such as extra legroom, some extra baggage allowance or a hotel night, is only part of the job.

Throughout the times immediately before, during and after the trip, the traveler is likely to carry his mobile with him at all times. Here is your privileged channel of communication with them. Here is your chance to delight, and to do so profitably, for you, for your ancillary partners and also for your customers, who will be able to enhance their travel experience.

For example, help them get to their flight hassle-free. Their mobiles know exactly where they are (using geofencing) at any one time and when the flight is due. Provide alerts, but suggest also ground transportation options, provide a convenient way to book them and monetize.

Once at the airport, you know the time, you know the gate: suggest services pro-actively. Let’s say you have time to spare, why not offer a lounge pass at a discounted rate, as a taster. Let’s see how many of these passengers later repeat. Or, imagine your client is in rather the opposite situation, really short of time. No problem: offer a last minute priority check-in.

When at destination, make of the airline app your travel companion. Who else knows your travel plans better? Let the restaurant nearby tempt you with an offer you won’t be able to refuse, or get some tickets for this weekend’s concert…

Some may find this a tad worries, customize your settings to opt out.

These is the way the airline industry is going, with giants such as Ryanair, defining themselves, primarily, as online retailers able to cater to a whole range of their customer’s needs, often well beyond the mere act of flying.

At newshore we have developed innovative dynamic ancillary solutions and apps for our clients in the airline industry, exploring new ways to interact with air travellers and fully leveraging the possibilities offered by the mobile channel.

We can help your airline get up to speed now.