First Published on 15th February, 2017
Ai Editorial: Airlines have shown that genesis of digitization lies in digital transformation. This can boost loyalty-related initiatives in a big way, provided airlines exhibit enterprise-level readiness, Ai’s Ritesh Gupta
When any airline prepares for digitization, the ambit of knowing the customer is going beyond interactions that take place with an environment owned by the airline.
It isn’t easy for sure, but yes, it is being asserted that if airlines (or any business) intend to foster loyalty or sustain it, then customer experience isn’t just about interactions with a brand.
If we talk of airlines, it is heartening to know the kind of effort that is being made - Allegiant Air pursuing ways to engage loyalty program members during the non-travel phase or Malaysia Airlines attempting to keep track of daily purchases by coordinating with online retail partners, via co-brand cards etc. Airlines have shown that genesis of digitization lies in digital transformation, as depicted by flydubai. The carrier has chosen not only relook at their IT architecture, but also refining their API connectivity to offer a connected, seamless experience.
And of course all of this needs to be taken further with enterprise-level readiness.
Then only any initiative, be it for one related to data, analytics and content management, can have direct impact on loyalty.
Here we assess some of the initiatives:
· Data collection and integration: If digitization is about knowing and serving customers, then the initiative wouldn’t yield results if one can’t garner data from all disparate sources. There is a need to look at all acquired data in one place. Specialists recommend an audit of data sets, finalizing of a data model, evaluating mapping of data, and if all of this is consolidated via one dashboard, then it can lay strong foundation. How can one reap benefits? For instance, rather than ending up with “messaging overkill”, an airline can tailor messages as the booking funnel or preferred channel. Also, if we talk of artificial intelligence, bringing data together and integrating it is must. A central hub for data makes AI run efficiently - personalize, automate decisions, and analyze customer behavior. Just as AI is propelling the functioning of autonomous cars, robots and smart appliances, it can enable airlines to work on intelligent conversations across all of their devices.
· Gearing up for new experiences: Any new customer-facing execution should run through relevant teams, and has to be purpose-built for enterprise requirements. Take the case of chatbots. They are omni-channel – can be set up where passengers already are (Facebook Messenger, mobile app etc.). Right from automatically recording and categorizing message successes and failures to ensuring how messages between users, bots and all enterprise systems are secured and exchanged in real-time to assessing the accuracy of conversation, every minute detail needs to be understood in a swift manner. This level of enterprise-level readiness is must for every interaction, every experience – relatively old or new.
(On another note, airlines can also look at applications of such initiatives to improve their operations. For instance, the prowess of business intelligence can strengthened further by adding alerts and report delivery via a bot. A notification for a decision-maker via a bot, without the need to log into the BI system, can be quite useful).
· Assess sensitivity of any new initiative: The idea of turning any consumer gadget, accessory or wearable into a payment device is luring. Turning any Internet connection into a commerce experience is exciting, but don’t forget that security of smart devices is still being questioned. Data breaches remain a big threat, and if IoT devices aren’t safe enough, then fraudsters will have avenues to potentially go after credit card numbers, login credentials, and personal details.
· Build on efficacy of a proven channel/ touchpoint: Email id has proven to be a unique identifier, and travel marketers are looking at emails featuring item-level ecommerce receipt data. From online and offline receipts to travel itineraries and brand preferences, the inbox is becoming a go-to source for business intelligence Armed with rich, detailed data, airlines can attempt to understand where consumers are transacting, when they are buying, what they are buying, and how much they are paying.
· Learn from what doesn’t work: The value of non-converting data can’t be undermined. Say a user visited a website, and left the site at some point. This user is being followed with retargeted ads, but didn’t convert despite showing early promise. Was there is anything wrong, say any unmet need, during the course of the booking flow or user experience on the website? Was the creative of retargeting enticing enough to get the user back on track? Non-converting data can help in areas like waste ad spend, frequency capping etc. for a marketer. Also, assess areas that the ad tech industry hasn’t found a solution for. For instance, overcoming limitations of dark social traffic channels. Dark social is when people share content through private channels such as instant messaging programs, messaging apps, and email.
· Delivery of content: 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.
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