The past few months have been a roller coaster for airlines and travelers, as well as for the entire travel ecosystem.
What’s certain is that the world digitized faster than anyone anticipated. Research shows that as a result of the pandemic people “have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks”. As a marketing professional in the airline space, I can’t help but seize the opportunity for airlines to take back ownership of digital selling, and boost passenger confidence and demand by revamping their digital channels (website and mobile).
In this blog post I want to look at how airline execs can maximize the ROI from airline digital retailing. The 5 steps below are the result of years of research and experience in the digital travel space that PROS and Diggintravel combined to launch the Airline Digital Retailing Academy. Here is a sneak peek I summarized for you. If you want to deep dive, I recommend you consider joining the Academy. It is a true learning experience (learn all about it from this video), plus there is a certificate.
- Start with the Fundamentals
Digital retailing is not equal to doing eCommerce. To quote industry analyst Henry Harteveldt “a good retailer carries the products that fit its brand and that its customers want, makes it easy for the customer to pay, and are profitable products to sell”. But how do airlines know what their customers want and are willing to pay for when everything happens on the digital devices and only a percentage of the people searching actually end up booking a flight? Well, there is no short answer to this question. But the fundamentals of retailing are a blend of the disciplines of eCommerce, digital marketing, product & UX development, optimization and innovation, and ancillary sales. Airlines need these functions to work together and deliver a digital selling process that repeatedly delivers digital growth. Hear what Iztok Franko has to say about the digital growth formula:
Now let’s move to the next step to explore how to repeatedly optimize the digital selling process.
- Adopt Digital Optimization
Yes, digital selling is a process. A data-driven recurring process of experimentation, research and analysis that repeats itself with the goal to optimize the learning. It can touch upon all the phases of the traveler’s journey from inspiration, through to flight search, booking and post-booking. The fundamental approach is in the constant optimization. Airlines can optimize the digital experience, the content they present, how and when they present it, or all of this. Iztok has dedicated an entire module in the Academy to the framework for airline digital optimization. Here is a short recap of how applying this framework and using the airline digital optimization maturity model can help airlines identify the gaps and be better at digital retailing:
- Put Data in Action
In the previous paragraph I mentioned an important aspect of digital retailing – it must be “data-driven”. Without data, running any experiments is like shooting in the dark. Airlines need actionable data to guide their experimentation efforts in order to deliver meaningful optimization. And all experiments are only as good as the data insights they are based on. Airlines have traditionally always had data, something I discussed a while ago with Serdar Gürbüz from Turkish Airlines (take a listen to the conversation here). In travelers’ digital-first world airlines can make use of the endless volumes of data indicating customer intent, rejection and purchase, and make the most of it in how they offer their products and services to passengers. Hear what Boštjan Kožuh, the Academy instructor on the topic of Data & Analytics, has to say about the Airline Booking Funnel KPI Framework:
- Understand the Customer
One thing that makes data very powerful is when you combine it with customer insights. But to get valuable information about what travelers want and don’t want, airlines need to ask the right questions. An answer whether someone likes or doesn’t like your website or booking experience will not help you understand why. User research is a discipline that helps gather feedback from the users by asking quantitative and qualitative questions to fuel true customer insights about what works and what doesn’t. It does a reality check for the airline product or design and if they meet the expectations and desires of travelers. Amanda Stockwell, who is a UX Lecturer on LinkedIn, has spent years deep-diving into the topic, hear some of her thoughts on UX research for agile teams:
- Build Digital Products
And the cherry on the pie – your digital product. Regardless if it is your flight booking flow or introducing a new ancillary product, your airlines want to deliver an intuitive user experience that guides travelers from start to finish and converts. No piece of cake I’d say with many airlines launching innovations across their website in a matter of years. Agile product development is what top digital retailers embrace in order to drive growth and stay on top of their markets. Airlines should be no different, with digital transformation being accelerated in the context of recovery. During the Academy, Mike Slone, who leads Travel Retail at PROS, will take your learning journey through the fundamentals of product development and help you with real airline examples for digital retailing. One of the essential components that guides agile digital product development is the customer journey mapping. Hear what he wants to tell you about it:
Excited to learn more? Find our all about the Digital Retailing Academy for airlines here and register to take your digital retailing skills to the next level.