Ai Editorial: Experience optimization - key to gaining share of wallet

First published on 7th February, 2017

Ai Editorial: A series of initiatives – account personalisation, machine learning driven recommendations, tracking every interaction etc. – can pave way for experience optimization and in turn ancillary revenue generation, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta


Garnering a major chunk of travellers’ wallet, be it for them buying an airline ticket from or using a co-brand credit card for various transactions, is like putting pieces of a puzzle together.

If we talk of airline-owned touchpoints, the business challenge or the puzzle that is being sorted should be able to aptly serve the passenger, right from inspiring them to the post-journey phase.

Just focusing on transactions isn’t going to be enough. The focus needs to be on experience optimisation – which would essentially mean working out the right content for each visitor every time they visit on or their app. And this can’t only be transactional in nature, rather should span across the end-to-end traveller journey across key touch points such as servicing, delivery, disruption management plus ticketing and fulfilment.

There are quite a few positive initiatives in this context, for instance, account personalisation. And, yes, there are hurdles, too, that result in a gap in experience optimization and dissuade passengers from buying at all.

·          Account personalisation: One area where progress is being made is speedy bookings and swift flight check-ins on airline-owned platforms. This is being enabled by passenger-focused technology, one that speedily directs users to content that would make an impact or possibly a favourable action from users. Ryanair took an exemplary initiative last year, one related to account personalisation. This way the carrier chose to enable passengers to share their travel preferences by setting up a personal profile, and saving passport details etc. The users can also store their payment information. Such initiatives are bound to make trip planning, booking and even servicing simpler, more efficient. In the case of Ryanair, the carrier asserts that the scale of its application is exceptional, capable of managing over 105 million or so users. Of course, digitally-savvy airlines or retail companies today are focusing on managing data, and this includes data from that is within an organization and also from outside. So if personalisation platforms, moving ahead with progressive profiling of their customers, can act on data in real-time, then it would push experience optimization to a new level altogether.

·          Capitalizing on technology for conversion: Be it for early stages of the booking funnel i. e. when a passenger isn’t sure of where to go or removing usual pain-points when a user it about to book, technology can play a vital role.

- If we talk of finalising a flight itinerary, it could be adding context to personalise the experience when an anonymous visitor is exploring an airline website. So what if the booking flow comes alive when website users shares their interests, favourite activity etc. and the airline ends up offering an itinerary based on personalised destination recommendations. This also means relevance is added to ancillary retail products. Ireland-based start-up LikeWhere is offering such capability via their location recommendation engine, which is backed by a matching algorithm built upon  geo-data-mining and machine learning processes. And this is connected to the user interface of an airline’s website or mobile app. The company asserts that the flight is not the consumed product, the destination is.

In another judicious of machine learning, the intelligence derived from it can also ease off strict rules that force even legitimate customers to identify themselves at the time of payment. This multi-layered verification, which if same for all buyers, can increase complexity at the time of the check-out. Rather if machine learning can spot a group of buyers and term them as low-risk before they even make a purchase, then this would help in improving upon the conversion rate.  

·          Content optimization: As we highlighted in one of our recent articles, 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. Content needs to gear up for mobile-first approach, artificial intelligence etc. E-commerce companies are evaluating content-as-a-service through microservices and APIs. It is being underlined that headlines 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.

·          Emotional engagement: Today travel companies are counting on eye-tracking and facial-movement technology to assess what and where people look at and why in order to refine design and functionality of their digital platforms. According to Expedia, such initiative pave way for more nuanced understanding of what users want and how to move them from browsing to booking. In case of Expedia, user experience researchers use electromyography technology to document minute changes in the user’s facial muscles. The findings are being augmented with eye-tracking, more visual and verbal clues etc. The resulting data eventually paves way for product development decision-making.

·          Tracking every interaction, even on non-branded touchpoints: It is incredibly tough to assess the real experience of travellers since they are also engaging and responding to the experience in the non-airline environment. Imagine you are non-loyal flyer, who has had a bad experience with an airline. You Tweeted about it, wrote on Facebook, wrote an email and eventually the airline called you to sort out. Say after a week or a month you are planning your next booking, and you access airline's site and mobile app, do you think it is possible that you are going to be greeted with a personalised message as you are looking for tickets on the same airline's website/ app?

There are various technologies available for user tracking, but it is quite challenging to link actions seen on social media to a CRM system that will enable the web experience to be different the next time the user visits.

You can only drop a cookie while users are on your own website or a hosted forum that your company sponsors. Also, there could be a great deal of privacy and access issues. As of now, be it for hotels or airlines, the sum of all interactions isn’t being analyzed, and till the point it happens, there would be a gap in experience optimization.  


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 

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