Last week’s Airline Distribution conference hosted by UATP in Miami was a successful event for the CellPoint Mobile team and it was great to see the turnout of airline and travel execs from around the globe.
I had the privilege of taking part in a panel discussion along with Jörg Troester of Hahn Air and Julie Kyse of Expedia, moderated by Seth Cassel of EveryMundo. We spoke at length about the airline customer journey, how it’s evolved in a digitally connected age, and how airlines can avoid the fragmentation and inconsistency that makes for poor customer experiences.
At CellPoint Mobile, we believe that airlines should think of every stage of the customer journey as an opportunity for increased revenue and increased customer satisfaction. With this approach, airlines’ investments and improvements in digital channel technology to create streamlined paths to purchase and more seamless customer interactions become natural priorities.
What should those priorities be? Mobile and digital channel technology investment can pay off for airlines in the search & discover phase by facilitating real-time inventory information, as well as in the areas of personalization & engagement, where a history function that tracks past purchases can inform new inventory presentation and packaging. Digital and mobile technology can also have an outsized impact on optimizing the path to purchase (making it as fast and easy as possible to finalize a sale), loyalty integration, and ensuring that the customer experience is consistent across all devices.
This is important not only in terms of customer satisfaction – though our panel agreed that inconvenient, overly complex digital experiences are incredibly frustrating for consumers and often lead to abandoned transactions – but in terms of ancillary revenue generation as well. And as global ancillary revenue now accounts for 10.7% of total airline revenue (compared to 4.8% in 2010), airlines cannot afford to neglect this area of their business.
Without the right technology solution (or solutions) that provide an ancillary-rich, seamless booking and travel experience to capture revenue from the customer at every stage of their journey, airlines are leaving significant money on the table and potentially handing their customers over to other brands.
Payments Are Personal
Another customer journey aspect that our panel focused on was the importance of supporting mobile payment methods that consumers prefer. Travelers increasingly expect that their mobile and digital experience for air travel will work the same way it does in other retail environments, and that includes simple and fast omni-channel payments. In fact, 17% of consumers would abandon a booking if they had to re-enter their payment details with a company they have booked with before.
In other words, supporting alternative forms of payment (AFPs) are a must for airlines. Alipay and WeChatPay are dominating the APAC payments landscape (WeChatPay already has 1 billion users, Alipay has 600 million) and quickly becoming crucial to western markets as well. And the big mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay are growing substantially faster than traditional card-based payments (although Apple’s release of a new payment card product this week signals that it’s hedging bets – but more on that in a future post).
With support for alternative forms of payment, airlines can stop leaving money on the table by increasing ancillary revenue from existing customers and attracting new ones by making it easy for them to pay for any transaction throughout their entire journey.
In fact, airlines need to focus on streamlining all aspects of the travel transaction, including booking, ticketing, and payments to reduce friction throughout the customer journey. This goes beyond the direct digital booking channel and across all customer touchpoints the airline controls – post-booking, check-in, onboard, and destination marketing communications. To put it very simply, airlines need to make it as easy as possible for travelers to spend money.
And the good news is, they can.
You can learn more about our payment solutions here and how our partnership with UATP makes it easy for any UATP member airline to implement new AFPs in weeks instead of months, and start delivering a more seamless journey for their customers.