Ai Video – What would it take to identify a flyer?

 

How to start with a transformation plan where the blend of data, technology, content etc. results in customer-centricity?

JR Technologies has been making steady progress as a specialist, and recommends a platform that’s a blend of both offer and order management, standing out for business intelligence, passenger identification module etc. for a seamless journey (being aware of the current flight, current order, servicing needs etc.). It would also mean that the platform, running in parallel to an airline’s PSS, would feature complete PSS booking connectivity and document processing capability, converting PNR into “orders”.

George Khairallah, President, JR Technologies says the company’s recommendation is not to start with offer management, rather with order management.

"Whenever we work on a transformation plan with an airline, we advise to start with order management, take existing data, put into order management system, take business intelligence out of it and use it in offer management system. So when the loop is closed, an airline not only offers the right offering to the passenger, but can also track what is happening to “orders”,” explained Khairallah. “So yes, airline can offer what to buy, and when there is an “order”, one can track what happened to the services. 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.”  

By Ritesh Gupta 

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Ai Video: Chatbots – finally taking off?

First Published on 18th May, 2017

Chabots, essentially an autonomous program designed to interact with users, are gradually gaining prominence.

So how are chatbots delivering when it comes to one-to-one personalised interactions? Specialists, with expertise in airlines-specific domain, point out that chatbots have moved on from limited utility or benefits to digitization of customer service, as well as encompassing one-click transactions. “No reason why chatbot can’t take an order for a meal in an aircraft, or convey whether the flight is going to be on time or not etc.,” says Jonathan Newman, commercial director at Barcelona-based Caravelo.

Airlines are exploring various aspects as the utility of chatbots comes to the fore:

- What all can be done by chatbots and the level of efficacy? What’s the success and error rate?

- If a 3rd party platform is involved, for instance, Facebook, then how to deal with data ownership?

- How bot training is progressing?

- How to work with an airline’s marketing department for content, tone of voice etc.?  

- Cost control

- Utility and KPIs 

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Ai Video: Identifying right tech for “tech-dependent” passengers

First Published on 9th May, 2017

“Technology’s role is to enable the business. Technology is reaching a point where it will enable new capabilities for the business (airlines) to deliver (to) their customers (a better offering, a better service),” says Malachi Faughnan, Chief Information Officer, Datalex.

It is vital for airlines to assess how IATA’s NDC XML standard can pave way for customer-centricity, and how they can capitalize on the proficiency of API-led architecture, microservices (with a microservices-based architecture, services are built around business capabilities, systems are broken into multiple services, it allows for frequent changes without affecting the entire system and continuous delivery is enabled) etc. Airlines need to move on swiftly, as passenger experience isn’t up to the mark as of today, and dig deep to assess what’s the apt technology set up for today’s “tech-dependent” passengers.

As Malachi says, “Competitive advantage will only flow to those that see and act on a shift first,” let’s see how traditional carriers evolve, and count on technology to deliver a superlative experience. 

Related links 

Ai Video: Digital Transformation and Tangible Results

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Ai Video: Digital Transformation and Tangible Results

First Published on 4th May, 2017 

Airlines, like any business entity, must make rapid progress and capitalize on the prowess of digital transformation, asserts Dejan Cusic, Business Director, Ireland & UK at Comtrade Digital Services.

Before embarking on a project of such magnitude, airlines need to have a precise understanding of the digital world, how to inch closer to crafting unique customer experience, embracing the requisite speed of innovation and using technology to improve business performance or reach of the business. It has to be ensured that constant testing and an iterative approach to product development takes the project forward, and yet there is no compromise in business continuity. Also, leadership, that paves way for a digital future and overcomes cultural resistance, is a vital component of such initiatives. 

Cusic referred to Ryanair’s steady progress with their Always Getting Better or AGB initiative (into 4th year now), with the carrier currently working on its 2017-18 customer experience improvement plan. The plan is to not only grow passenger numbers to 180 million per annum by 2024, rather let them select their travel preferences by creating a personal profile, securely store payment and passport details (an application was launched last year). “(Through the application), Ryanair is working on continuous study of passengers’ preferences, understanding their habits – which seat is preferred, the destination chosen…so when such data is harvested it would pave way for personalised offers, seamless travel experience in the future,” shared Cusic. 

Traffic has increased by over 50% over the last 3 years.

And the crux of this whole initiative is – the promise of “low fares” stays, where as new initiatives like being able to book connecting Ryanair flights on the Ryanair.com website, with a feeder flight service with other airlines following later this year; pre-saved preferences for faster bookings (3 clicks) etc. are being introduced. 

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Ai Editorial: Getting closer to passengers – count on offer + order management

First Published on 2nd May, 2017

Ai Editorial: A traveller gets lost in today’s technology. How can airlines come up with offers or service that indicates they know their passengers, explores Ai’s Ritesh Gupta    

 

A lot of questions are being raised about the process-centric functioning of airlines.

This is owing to the fact that legacy systems aren’t capable of performing certain tasks because they were never designed to do so.

The way airlines serve passengers today doesn’t fit in with what their customers would ideally look for.

For instance, if a passenger lost her bag during a journey, when she logs in next time on airline.com or checks in would this be acknowledged? Or can the airline staff at the boarding gate offer an upgrade to the same passenger? Not possibly as customer-related information isn’t readily available, and the record of every interaction around an “order” isn’t being updated and the same can’t be accessed, too, by all.

So how can the industry get rid of their inflexible booking, ticketing, delivery and accounting process?

For their part, IATA has envisioned a standard for the ONE Order initiative, paving way for one access spot for passenger orders. And with this, doing away with the need for multiple reserva­tion records as well as e-ticket/ EMD concepts. While a passenger’s journey would be streamlined, for airlines it would mean no more costly reconciliation exercises between varied references.

Of course, the industry isn’t closer yet as airlines are expected to experiment with ONE Order messages in the coming months, the question is - is there a framework that is being worked out to aid airlines in their transformation? How to make the most of offer management, order management etc. as airlines strive to nudge towards customer-centricity?

Right approach for personalisation

JR Technologies has been making steady progress as a specialist, and recommends a platform that’s a blend of both offer and order management, standing out for business intelligence, passenger identification module etc. for a seamless journey (being aware of the current flight, current order, servicing needs etc.). It would also mean that the platform, running in parallel to an airline’s PSS, would feature complete PSS booking connectivity and document processing capability, converting PNR into “orders”. So PSS would pass on information to the NDC platform, where master record would be stored. The approach (for which JR and Unisys recently announced an agreement) counts on historical details provided by the order management system and this vital, real-time business intelligence is leveraged in personalisation of offers.

Airlines need to able to create offers and then change the accepted offers into orders (here offer management system should take all the data points, run them through analysis and business rules, check availability and applicability, bundle the offer items, calculate the pricing, and deliver it along with branding and rich media to the passenger). Then it needs to transition into an order management system for fulfilment and accounting.  This is somewhat analogous to the concept of tickets and EMDs in the legacy, but in the Order structure, there aren’t restrictions that are present with these electronic documents. 

What’s in for the passenger?

As I interacted with George Khairallah, President, JR Technologies during the 11th edition of Ai’s Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Palma de Mallorca, I was keen on knowing what can airlines work on to respond to queries, changes etc. via a touchpoint that a passenger chooses? For instance, a disjointed experience like this is common today - requesting a change via Twitter while approaching the gate, and then interacting with the personnel at the gate as if no request was put in.

 

“Our recommendation is not to start with offer management, rather with order management. Whenever we work on a transformation plan with an airline, we advise to start with order management, take existing data, put into order management system, take business intelligence out of it and use it in offer management system. So when the loop is closed, an airline not only offers the right offering to the passenger, but can also track what is happening to “orders”,” explained Khairallah. “So yes, airline can offer what to buy, and when there is an “order”, one can track what happened to the services. 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.”  

So be it for changing ticket at the airport or information related to boarding being disorganized at times, such issues would be sorted out. Or even dealing with issues such as no information about the lost bag for few hours at least. So changes or answering queries in real-time would become a possibility with this central source of truth. And by indexing central repository that features relevant information, a passenger comes and shares the name at a touchpoint, and that is enough to service in the best possible manner – by being aware of the current flight, current order, servicing needs etc. The last interaction, be it for self-service kiosk or a customer service agent, is clearly documented.   

All of this would be a welcome change. As Khairallah aptly puts it, the individual gets lost in today’s technology.

So then how to get closer to the passenger? Business traveller also travels as a leisure passenger, and could be the same person, and accordingly the service level would be different depend upon the travel – say with family vs. as an individual. Identifying the same at the time of shopping, booking etc. And with today’s technology this is not possible. Today the data that airlines have is minimal. If it is via airline.com that is fine, otherwise data belongs to a 3rd party.  

The objective needs to be - know more about the passenger, and as they order more and more, the goal is to analyze and get close to offering something that would match their intent and they would probably buy – akin to what Amazon specializes in. “This isn’t ready yet in this industry (among airlines) today. This calls for a change in strategy,” explained Khairallah. “But many airlines are already focused on integrating NDC strategic concept into their thinking, their systems development for the next few years in order to meet that goal. They want to know the passenger, how to make the best offer – a passenger shouldn’t be scrolling 50 offers, first few should be enough, simply because they know you. This is what we care about, what passengers care about. This is a long-term process. It would call for changes – the way pricing is done, the way you think about merchandising, creating bundles, packaging your products, about how the passenger is ordering, paying for the same, how your vendors are being paid…it’s an end-to-end solution that has to be presented, and then airlines chart out their plans for transformation (doing it in a phased manner) and ensuring all systems are in place over a period of time." Of course, in case of a “smaller” airline the effect would be “faster”. Relatively bigger airlines would call for lots of people to be retrained, lots of systems to be changed.   

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Ai Editorial: Sales and servicing, chatbots are doing it for airlines

First Published on 27th April, 2017

Ai Editorial: A chatbot needs to be set up with a well-defined objective, and bots come to life when purpose, utility, tone and context are all an integral part of the experience, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Are chatbots stepping up airline productivity and garnering incremental revenue?

Yes, and even the slightest of progress is a welcome change.

Consider the utility of an official Twitter handle or Facebook business page. If a passenger intends to check the availability of a window seat (say after the check-in) , the social media staff can acknowledge the request but wouldn’t be of use to check the same or even pass this information to the staff at the boarding gate! In this context if chatbots are justifying their tag of being `always available’ in a short span of their existence, this needs to be applauded. A passenger wouldn’t really care whether chatbots are able to access a PSS for an update or a booking that seemingly staff handling Twitter can’t. But as long as the purpose is being served then the utility of chatbots, which are pre-programmed interactions that allow users to communicate with them, is coming to the fore. 

Progress

Chatbot technology garnered loads of attention last year. Some respond to very specific commands, while other use artificial intelligence and can comprehend a language. If chatbots are about “conversationalising” code, paving way for humans to interact with machines using natural language, then it isn’t really a breakthrough. So why so much buzz? It’s the sheer popularity of messaging apps, with over 3 billion monthly active users among top 4 messaging apps at the end of last year.  Of course, automated text-based travel reservation conversation is only effective if the chatbot understands the query completely, but there is optimism at this juncture.

“Similar to the way Uber brought the idea of ‘everyone’s private driver’ to the world, chatbot technology allows the idea of ‘everyone’s travel concierge’ to come to life,” said Jonathan Newman, commercial director at Barcelona-based Caravelo, who presented this week at Ai’s Airline Merchandising Conference in Palma de Mallorca.   The company recently introduced a transactional chatbot (via Facebook Messenger), Vale, for Mexican carrier, Volaris.

Newman asserted that “omnichannel” isn’t as relative as it was in the past. He said brands need to acknowledge the fact consumers expect be “engaged with at any time, at any stage of the journey” through their preferred device. “Bots have a natural home in the billions of monthly users of messaging apps and with the API economy, they can now be powerful: they can do stuff,” mentioned Newman. “In essence, what we are talking about is a change: a change from one-to-many to one-to-one.  Airlines can personalise a little, but without AI, without an ongoing conversation to learn from, customers and airlines can’t realize the value of true personalisation.”

Utility

Newman said chatbots have moved on from limited utility or benefits to digitization of customer service, as well as encompassing one-click transactions. “No reason why chatbot can’t take an order for a meal in an aircraft, or convey whether the flight is going to be on time or not etc.,” he said. 

A traveller might leave the airport but his or her journey continues. As I checked in to my hotel here in Palma de Mallorca, it was Google Allo that presented me with an option to download or explore things to do. Why cant airlines deliver value about anything that is related to travel, and more so when an airline played an integral part in my journey? “How many of you here have had an airline suggest to you a restaurant while you are on your trip?  Or an experience that fits with your personality? Why should airlines retailing capability stop when the passenger lands?” said Newman.   

Newman also demonstrated how a booking can be completed in less than 30 seconds!

At the same time, Newman added that it is vital to look beyond transactions, rather allow users to  self-serve, to get relevant notifications etc. “...to be properly assisted means (like in any shopping environment) they will come back,” he said.

Also, one needs to ascertain various aspects in order to fully capitalize on the prowess of bots, especially related to the objective of such initiative:

·      Is it to sell existing inventory and services? 

·      Is it to search low fare inventory?

·      Is it to add ancillaries or allow customers to make changes to existing bookings? 

·      Is it a guide for activities or to find out useful information to reduce the call centre volumes?  What does your bot allow the customer to do? 

“Without utility, there is no bot: without a clearly defined purpose and well-articulated set of capabilities, users are left frustrated when their expectations are not met. Customers are more likely to come back into the channel if they can do more than just buy: by allowing them to self-serve, to get relevant notifications, to be properly assisted means (like in any shopping environment) they will come back,”  explained Newman.

Bots identify keywords in the users input and then access a database to give a predefined response or do a predefined act. According to Newman, training is key.

He  mentioned that training bots to identify, contextualize and then relate desired intents with all probable outcomes take effort and time. “We, humans, learn about each other via conversations. A chatbot drives this in a more expedited, scalable way.”   

Travel is fun, and may be the personality that comes from the bot could be about friendliness. Specialists also point out the response time shouldn’t be too quick or too slow, so every aspect is being scrutinized minutely.

“Your brand is what customers see, but your persona is who they talk to.  Your persona is integral to a successful chatbot and representative of every employee within your brand. This is your one opportunity to have an agent that encapsulates the essence of what your company stands for,”  underlined Newman.

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Ai Editorial: “Where is Palma de Mallorca?” the airline doesn’t know, Google knows it!

First Published on 25th April, 2017

By Ritesh Gupta, in Palma de Mallorca

 

The tag of “laggards”  isn’t a nice one, but airlines aren’t willing to move on.

Whatever keeps this industry the same or changing at excruciating slow pace, the traveller wouldn’t care as carriers keep falling short on several counts. It isn’t even worth comparing - a human interaction at a touchpoint owned by the airline vis-à-vis a digital interaction that is initiated by an entity like Google, the latter winning you over for sheer timing,  usefulness and the overall tendency to delight you time and again.

Travelling is fun – the joy of meeting new people, observing cultures/ local nuances, tasting food, exploring unique activities etc. Every touchpoint is an opportunity for airlines to augment the essence of travelling by understanding the intent, preferences, and this doesn’t always call for taking “heavy lifting associated with data”.

Let me cite an example.

I travelled from New Delhi to Palma de Mallorca via Frankfurt. A brief, one-minute interaction with the airline staff  at the New Delhi airport as I embarked on my journey wasn’t thrilling. “Palma de Mallorca, where is this place?” Well, the lady, who knew both the languages that I speak, was pleasant, but few words that she muttered didn’t add any value. May be not many Indians travel to this Spanish destination via Lufthansa, but if your airline takes passengers there and if you decide to speak, make it worthwhile.

15 hours later, I check-into my room. A notification pops up on my mobile screen, not from Melia Hotels where I am booked. It is from Google Allo, enticing me to explore Palma! As I open it, the colors are vibrant, graphics are refreshing, the content is useful,  and the timing isn’t bad either. The interaction was enough to leave a mark, unlike the useless interaction at the airport as I embarked on the journey. Even the hotel provides the free Wi-Fi access, but doesnt take it further as for enjoying the stay or exploring the place. Why hotels and airlines struggle to initiate a decent interaction - be it for the staff or the digital assets they own. Yes, the hotel home page opens when a user access the Internet, but that isnt enough! 

 

There is plenty to learn from this simple experience, and airlines need to change fast:

Be prepared, understand travelling pattern with the brand: I travel Lufthansa quite often, from the same airport. I have searched itineraries a number of times from one IP address, same devices time and again. I have also left comments on Twitter, Facebook etc. about my experiences with the airline and the staff has even given me call from London in the past six months to understand and resurrect what went wrong!  In an age when enterprises are talking of 1st party data, 2nd party data and 3rd party data, the sum of all interactions plus readiness to highlight the quality of your product (be it for human interaction or digital asset) needs to stand out. Otherwise major ecosystems such as Google will continue to find a way to understand me, and airlines despite owning the product, would only come across a mundane component of travel.

Be smart, go for real-time data: “Big airlines can do it, provided they are willing to do it (act on real-time data),” said a source, referring to the likes of KLM, Delta, British Airways, Lufthansa etc. Airlines have to ensure their “systems talk to each other”, a passenger’s request or any information obtained gets updated in real-time. For instance, if a passenger makes a request during the course of the journey, and the team responds on Facebook, then why can’t this request to be fulfilled?

Do away with business processes that are still based on the paper-based workflows that were developed and perfected over the 50 years before the digital revolution.  We have ended up with digitalization of processes that are fundamentally unchanged from the analog process, which while does represent an improvement in efficiency, is still quite a way from optimization in the digital age. The reality is, there are just some things that the legacy systems cannot do because they were never designed to. 

Be where a passenger is likely to be: Passengers are on Facebook, Whatsapp, WeChat etc. and these avenues are evolving. Leverage the power of APIs and find a way to serve passengers on these independent platforms. Yes, a move such as activation of search chatbot on Facebook Messenger is kind of presence that a brand needs. “Some of the airlines with the greatest ability in this area are the ones that run their own systems completely and can do whatever they want to do with it.  The problem is, there are very few airlines in the world that either want to take that level of involvement or can afford to do it,” a source told me recently.

Airlines can’t ignore the fact entities like Google, Uber, Alibaba, etc. with massive valuations are already thriving on data. They might or might not own the actual product, but they are capable of driving experiences. They are becoming increasingly adept at that, and the simple reason is:  ability to serve their offerings with outstanding accuracy, maximising their operations while engaging directly with and owning their consumers. They have leveraged technology to unify their end-to-end operations. Airlines have to fine their own niche, working on a blend of serving travellers via their own platforms and also 3rd party platforms via a collaborative approach (facilitated by  ability to interoperate with other enterprise solutions regardless of technology or platform).

Airlines have their own set of challenges – regulatory, security, labor relations, etc., but change is mandatory now. If 3rd party ecosystems or apps know too much and airlines just can’t get the basics of digital world right then they will remain laggards in the race of experience optimization.

Can’t wait for discussions here at Palma de Mallorca to unfold!

 

Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this week. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017;

 

Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

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Ai Editorial: Cart abandonment email is evolving, are you?

First published on 20th April, 2017

Ai Editorial: Automation, personalisation and data-driven marketing in addition to certain basics such as content and timing are lending a new dimension to the abandonment email initiative, writes Ai's Ritesh Gupta

 

You are shopping for your next trip, finalise a flight itinerary, eventually can’t decide and are about to leave the site.

Just then you are given a chance to save the itinerary or a visual pops up that entices you to wrap up the booking, but you decide against taking an action.

After six hours, you receive an email, a reminder about your booking. It is based on a certain travel product bought in the past, your latest search and also acknowledges the fact your birthday is coming up around the same dates you were searching for a flight! You end up booking this flight sooner or later. The efficacy of data-driven automation, a luring video, timing etc. resulted in a conversion.

Such cart abandonment or checkout abandonment recovery is critical for travel e-ecommerce brands.  

As much as companies are trying to keep in check the abandonment rate, the fact remains that the average conversion rate (0.75% - 3%) remains an issue.

Yes, factors such as average order value and comparison shopping do impact travel shopping, but a lot is at stake when a traveller decides to move on or delays the decision to book.

In this context, follow-up emails based on-site browsing behaviour and abandonment has proven to be a strong weapon in lifting up the conversion rate.

Status of shopping “abandonment”  

In its recent study, Diggintravel.com, a content platform for travel marketing, assessed the efficacy of shopping cart abandonment emails, and evaluated 20 airline websites, 10 hotel and OTA websites, and 10 car rental websites.

 

 

“More airlines should do shopping cart abandonment, as more than half of the tested airlines don’t use it at all,” shared Iztok Franko, founder, Diggintravel.com. Buying a travel product is an intricate process, and once a traveller has considered airline.com, then airlines need to scrutinize the purchase funnel. And abandonment email can keep them “alive” in the process, says Franko. As for the study, he said Virgin Atlantic stood out among airlines, rentalcars.com in general among the travel websites.

How to keep interest “alive”?

Several pieces of a puzzle need to come together while crafting an email, and it might take only a couple of seconds to either revive that booking or be left in the lurch again.

“Ones (those airlines) that do it shouldn’t do it as a “one-and-done” process, but measure and optimize it as any other e-commerce process. Meaning test frequency (most send 1 email only), timing, subject lines, images, call to actions…,” explained Franko.

Here are some steps that are propping up the initiative:

1.    Automation: Email marketing is being streamlined via enterprise-level automation. And cart abandonment is an integral part of this. Simplicity is coming to the fore via the way emails can be designed (opting for a template, user’s cart details from website or a digital platform, timing etc.), how to manage a sequence of abandoned cart reminders, and even ensuring that in case a traveller has completed the transaction before the email is sent, then this user isn’t sent a reminder to get back to the buying process. Of course, emails can be sent depending upon whether users meet trigger and sending criteria or not.

The workflow optimization is must – based on the digital (or online + offline) activity of the shopper, personal details etc. It also needs to be ascertained whether automated needs to be avoided – for instance, in case of sending a personalised email to loyal customers who have abandoned a cart. How to deal with them? Can automation really help?

2.    Being data-driven: As we highlighted in one of our articles, it is time for airlines to go for a platform where relevant data is centralized, structured and connected. The vision is to making every touchpoint, channel an asset, deliver precise passenger communication etc. So work out a mechanism for real-time updates – enterprise-level information, funnel analytics, in-app analytics etc. So how to use contextual data, in real-time for cart abandonment email? How to base it on email eye tracking tests or predictive intelligence layer? How to count on machines for content matching?

Also, the whole effort of abandonment recovery needs to be blended with data around a user wherever applicable.

“They (airlines) capture the search data, but then process is pretty static. Apart from the rare cases (Virgin) most have static workflows of one abandonment email. The opportunities are much bigger here, as most airlines collect a lot of data (number of passengers, seasonality, trip type - business/leisure, gender, age…) that could be used to personalize and make emails more relevant,” recommended Franko.

3.    Making it work: Be it for what is being shown in the subject line or the main copy to the device for which email has been crafted to the timing and frequency of the delivery – all of this is being constantly being tested. Of course, there is a need to understand the performance, and there are basic metrics for email abandonment that airlines should measure and benchmark against - emails sent, open rates, click-through-rates, recovered carts - conversion rate, average order value of recovered cart.

Few tips that have worked:

-       A certain level of exclusivity or immediacy can help.

-       Do highlight the product/ itinerary browsed or added to the cart in a way that it lures ones to book it or take certain action. Place it at the top, should garner the attention once email is opened. An insipid mail won’t serve the purpose. Rather take the conversation to the next level – say showcasing the product via a charming image, a useful video etc.

-       The user abandoned a travel offering and isn’t interested in it. Combat this by cross-selling related products.

-       Specialists recommend inclusion of two call-to-action buttons – one above the cart content and one below.

   “Airlines could do different things to understand abandonment reasons. To begin with having detailed analytics in place to understand booking paths and drop-offs. Additionally, site tracking tools, user testing sessions, interviews, on-exit surveys, etc. could be used to identify reasons,” said Franko. According to him, most mistakes include –

-       Not using customer data to personalise messages;

-       Abandonment emails not being “mobile-first designed”; not clear call to actions and missing deeplinks to proper offers;

-       Not optimized display (subject and other) for Gmail inbox  

As a parting message, Franko recommended that one should look at abandonment emails in a vacuum. You need to have your booking journey mapped and decide which abandonment you will address with email, which with remarketing. Communication on emails should be in-line with the website and other communication so customers “feel” abandonment emails as part of the overall user experience. Additionally, you should have analytics and at least simple email automation in place to monitor the performance of these campaigns.

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Seamlessness in travel via marketing cloud, go for it

First published in 18th April, 2017

Ai Editorial: Failing to connect identities or being unable to understand context based on cross-channel behavior? You are probably missing out on delivering “seamlessness” i. e. a relevant offer or attending a query wherever, whenever, and whichever way the passenger prefers it, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta   

 

There are big gaps that exist today when we talk of experience optimization in the travel industry.

One can’t ignore the fact a traveller has numerous avenues to interact with an airline – it could be an interaction with the airline staff at the time of check-in, and then an interaction with a chatbot via Facebook Messenger before boarding the flight. And if these two interactions are about an enquiry for an in-flight offering, then how can airline respond to the sum of these interactions in the time left to board the flight or during the course of the flight? There are several possibilities:

·          The airline doesn’t initiate any conversation post two interactions. The passenger follows up with the airline – at the gate, or say in the aircraft with the air hostess.

·          The airline has means to follow-up, could be based on one interaction or ability to respond only via certain touchpoint. It could be automated (say a mobile app notification) or staff can service the request. But there could be a possibility that full information about all interactions isn’t in the picture even as you are being attended.

·          Airline has possibly all systems connected and capturing interactions. So if the airline is capable of managing streaming data and related data intelligence is passed on for a contextual interaction, across any touchpoint, during the course of the journey, then the passenger would have a seamless interaction. So even for the case above, the airline is capable of capturing the audio of the conversations and runs speech-to-text and tone analysis (doesn’t send any sensitive data to the cloud), and can categorize passenger as “happy”, “satisfied”, “annoyed” etc. for immediate or future interactions.

Seamlessness – it’s about the passenger

Seamlessness is what makes the journey enjoyable. And when any organization can understand the intent – be it for a click made on a digital platform or conversation a passenger had via any touchpoint – then only airline would be able to respond, and in doing so, delivering aptly during that moment catapults the performance of the brand.

Seamlessness would mean responding to move initiated by a traveller – could be the readiness to pay for a Wi-Fi package while interacting with a chatbot or looking at the picture of an in-flight meal on the airline app and paying it in the aircraft using a digital wallet. Further, in a proactive manner, even anticipating the same and coming up with a relevant offer wherever, whenever, and whichever way the passenger prefers it.

Key to seamlessness - marketing cloud

As much as airlines are being advised to focus on extracting data from their existing systems, and making the most of the same, time has come to look at every aspect of data, content, analytics, technology etc. to get closer to delivering a “seamless” experience.

In fact, airlines have to offer “value” via all touchpoints.

There are several aspects that come together to capitalize on every interaction.  

Every experience counts: Airlines need to ensure they are easy to deal with. At an enterprise level, there has to be the ability to scale up and deal with the unstructured nature of today’s passengers’ cross channel interactions. So even as a traveller is meandering between email, web, mobile apps etc., airlines, like most organizations in other businesses, struggle to avoid inevitable latency, not being able to deal with what customers are looking for.

Being data-driven: It is imperative for airlines to collect, store, analyse, and visualize big data on cloud. Data has to be reliable plus handling of data sets is also critical. In this context, data transformation is necessary to ensure data from one application or database is understandable to other applications and databases. Next up airlines can count on data to dynamically bundle and unbundle services and products to create a personalized offer for the passenger, be able to dynamically price that offer or offers specifically for that passenger, and present it through any sales channel that the passenger chooses. (Of course, processes in place today will not support the goal, at least not through every channel.  In order to achieve this level of personalization, every piece that goes into creating that offer must reside fully within the airline’s control every step of the way).

Understanding intent: In addition to connecting identities and behavior across different channels, specialists like IBM are capable of sharing “near real-time events” for a possible pertinent action.

Marketing automation: Software has made areas like campaign management easier and faster. How to go about managing numerous air and, non-air ancillary products that are to be offered over multiple channels in hundreds of campaigns to millions? Organizations need to act and showcase precise image or a video that travel shoppers require for their decision-making. So cloud-based automation can facilitate better marketing performance via efficient handling of email marketing, lead management, and mobile and social engagement. In doing so, airlines can streamline the workflow, social monitoring, content management etc. So it is worth assessing how cloud-based digital marketing is paving way for:

·          capturing right leads

·          personalised interactions in near real-time

·          working out relevant email content

·          interacting with on-the-go users, optimizing push notifications, app messages etc. and capitalizing on connected devices

As for mobile, managing communication isn’t just through text, push, and mobile web, but now mobile wallets, too, are there to be catered to. Accordingly, airlines have to configure and establish business rules for mobile marketing programs.

Automation alone isn’t sufficient, similarly, only cross-channel marketing or understanding of intent is enough. Everything needs to come together, and the prowess of a marketing cloud needs to fully leveraged to ensure every interaction is meaningful in terms of value offered, and it should result in seamlessness irrespective of the stage of the journey.

 

Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

Ai Editorial: Boosting merchandising strategy via “streaming” data

First Published on 12th April, 2017

Ai Editorial: Can dynamic data, being generated on a continual basis, help in selling an air ancillary? Airlines need to delve deeper to handle such data, processing it on the fly, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Acting on data the moment it is generated isn’t really new, but airlines, as an industry, haven’t seemingly made significant headway in this context.

Let’s first summarize the terminology that is being used in handling dynamic data being generated on a continual basis, be it for human-generated comment, photo etc. or machine-generated data in real-time. Real-time stream processing is all about an incidence or a number of events recorded in a collection of fields, then there is steady flow of data, and eventually the capability to evaluate the same.

Stream processing entails ingesting a series of data, and incrementally bringing up-to-date reports and statistics with arriving data record.

Airlines need to be spot on with their ability to handle real-time data integration and streaming analytics. They need to add context to streaming data - the result could be capitalizing on an up-sell opportunity, for instance, when a shopper is on airline.com. or even handling critical functions like fraud prevention, crisis management etc. Are carriers capable of responding to critical events in time, in-context, be it for improving upon the journey through customer service or even monetizing via selling of an ancillary? Not really.

“Events” - that aren’t mundane 

Seamlessness is what makes the journey easy and enjoyable. And when any organization can understand the intent – be it for a click made on a digital platform or conversation a passenger had via any touchpoint – then only airline would be able to respond, and in doing so, delivering aptly during that moment catapults the performance of the brand. But being data-driven doesn’t end here. More than predictable action (for instance, check-in or conversation at the airport counter), what is equally important is responding to an occurrence that can happen as per the discretion of the passenger, something that is tough to fathom.

Big data and analytics that come into play can be further explained in two components:

In an ideal world, all the customer-oriented systems that airlines operate need to be in sync. This would mean capturing all activities related to a passenger’s journey, right from the moment they made the booking till the point they give their feedback about how all of it went. The story that data can tell about a passenger shouldn’t be missed out on – one system might indicate that a family of three passengers booked their journey (so could capture information related to transaction etc.) plus there could be a repository of data about the same passenger that indicates what this passenger wrote about say on a social platform (a word of praise regarding the in-flight meal) etc.

·          If everything is streamlined, here analytics could be about working out predictive analytical models to discover travelling preferences, new patterns of interest etc., based on chronological/ past data, which can feature data collected from event streams as well as other stored information. So looking beyond the purchase funnel, how about coming up with actionable data related to what a passenger enquired about on the day of travel? Can this enquiry be turned into an offer at the time when the same passenger shops for the next flight?

·          A pertinent facet that can make or break the experience is about in-stream analytics i. e. acting on data as events are happening. For instance, last year, during one of my trips to Europe featuring a connecting flight (via SWISS and Lufthansa), there was a mistake on the part of SWISS when it came to allocation of the seat. Both the airlines acknowledged it via Twitter and ensured the matter would be prioritized at the boarding gate. And the staff at the gate had no clue even after exchanging of tweets with both the airlines spanning over two hours! Clearly airlines tend to miss out on data that is important. What’s the point in having resources meant to serve passengers or core product, air ancillary or non-air ancillary inventory – say a seat on an aircraft or in-flight meal – if that can’t be served or even sold when the passenger is willing to pay for it.

Preparing in an earnest manner

At a time when people, places and things are increasingly getting connected, airlines need to dig deep and focus on preparedness for event stream processing:

What would it take to connect, decode and comprehend streaming data? Enterprises won’t be able to live up to the expectations of travellers if they don’t act on streaming data from transactions, social feed, Internet of Things devices etc.  As Amazon explains, data needs to be processed “sequentially and incrementally on a record-by-record basis or over sliding time windows, and used for a wide variety of analytics including correlations, aggregations, filtering, and sampling”. Also, organizations start with collecting system logs and elementary processing, and eventually perform advanced data analysis such as ones featuring machine learning algorithms.

What’s the benchmark for response time? Airlines need to address issues related to managing massive volume of data and yet responding at lightning speed. If a traveller is indicating that he is willing to pay for access to lounge while being at the airport, but isn’t able to find the way out, then can the airline help him out? What if the traveller fails to reach, and ends up changing his decision?

How to act on apt data? It is imperative that airlines ascertain in real time what data is of value, and filter out the irrelevant data. The value of streaming data needs to be optimized in conjunction with traditional batch data, by combining legacy systems with new streaming platforms. Batch processing can be done to work out arbitrary queries over diverse sets of data, and scrutiny of big data sets. Airlines can assess the efficacy of a hybrid model, working out a real-time layer and a batch layer.

 

Are airlines capitalizing on dynamic data? Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us

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