Ai Editorial: Content is vital for merchandising, are airlines ready for it?

First published on 2nd February, 2017

Ai Editorial: If airlines aren’t able to deliver content that covers apps, sites, social channels, IoT devices etc., then they are falling short of displaying their own product aptly, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta


Airlines generally tend to struggle to make the most of their core offering when it comes to displaying images, videos etc. This means airlines are falling short of optimizing the investment being incurred on refining the overall product and shopping experience. And with this gap, they are also potentially missing out on revenue optimization, say selling of air ancillaries.

Are airlines matching content with the intent of the customer? Are airlines equipped to handle opportunities emanating via artificial intelligence, robotics and automation? Not really.

So where is the problem when we talk of management of content?

One area that is being discussed even in the other sectors is the limitation of traditional content management.

Airlines need to look beyond web publishing, and rather gear up for publishing that covers apps, sites, social channels, IoT devices etc. One also needs to support global, multilingual content at scale.

Keeping pace with technology

The pace with technology evolves increases expectations, brands are expected to be ready, and that’s what we, as travellers, expect from our favourite airlines, too.

In this context, content needs to gear up for mobile-first approach, artificial intelligence etc. For instance, chatbots are being trained to respond to queries. Now if a traveller is sitting at the airport, about to board the flight in next 30 minutes, intends to ask a question around what’s going to be served during the 7-hour transatlantic flight and is even willing to pay for a certain dish, can the chatbot show the image of the dish if its available? How much to pay for it? It is definitely possible today. Chatbots and AI can provide convenience and value to travellers via real-time recommendations (say links to purchase options or opt-ins that could lead to purchases). If bots are improving upon the experience, then content that is being shown is an integral part of the whole effort. Even chatbots should be equipped to automatically serve content in the format – aptly suited for a user’s device, right?  

“Headless” CMS

The limitations of legacy content management systems (CMSs) typically are - being browser-first, page-centric, on-premises set up etc. Traditional CMS products were set up as a coupled CMS. As for the coupled versus decoupled web CMS architecture, in case of coupled architecture authoring and delivery are on the same set up. While the initial setting up is simple, there are challenges that are being highlighted with the coupled approach. Scaling up is one issue. Also, since content is normally in a database schema (CMS code is tightly connected with templates and custom code) intended for use on the site, it can make integration and migration arduous. Plus, software complexity is more since the code base features both authoring and delivery concerns. Also, being on the public server raises security issues.

In this context, headless CMS has been in news.

Such systems pave way for editing, storing, and management of content but put away the design and delivery of the same content to a distinct offering. Here API makes the content available through any channel and on any device.

E-commerce companies are evaluating content-as-a-service through microservices and APIs. It is being underlined that headless CMS marks the evolution of the CMS architecture. Headless is being termed as an answer for content for multiples screens, and the list also includes devices such as smartwatches. Also, headless CMS allow developers to choose whatever front-end user interface technology they would prefer. Organizations can better manage application lifecycle without any interference of CMS code. Another advantage that airlines can consider is the fact that a decoupled architecture is beneficial for those digital assets that need high levels of availability and performance, for integration with third party business systems etc.

Don’t ignore customer experience

However, it needs to be highlighted that there is balancing act that needs to be managed, when we talk of headless or coupled.

As a specialist in this arena, Sitecore underlines that organizations need to be careful with the impact on customer experience (CX).

In a recent blog post by Sitecore, it was highlighted that even as headless CMS can result in freedom while finalizing on a front-end user interface technology say for an app, on the flip side the CX end up being decoupled as well.  This would limit the ability to personalize that experience, or answer real time with pertinent content, or even test and optimize and manage forms and market in context of user interactions.

So how to go about headless CMS?

Sitecore asserts that such architecture should be used by “digitally mature” entities that are capable of managing “customer experiences in context of how users interact with your brand”. Further adds, it should work for those “whose digital properties are personalized, who regularly test and optimize those experiences, and whose organizations are set up to be customer-centric.”

Then only one should expect to manage the balance between contextualized digital experiences and standout app user interfaces.

Overall, airlines need to evaluate possibilities with the cloud-first headless CMS approach.

Content management, be it for going for an architecture that supports delivery of content for emerging technologies and all devices, adopting personalization rules that tailor a site content based on visitors’ profiles, or monitoring how content is performing, without navigating to a separate web analytics system, is one key area that is demanding action in a swift manner.

This way airlines can get better with their overall e-commerce plan, and target improved revenue generation from both their core products and ancillaries.


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


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