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How airline eCommerce can leverage iOS (and Android) releases

Apple and Android are neck-and-neck when it comes to innovative evolution, and every operating system update generates a blaze of publicity. This competition is great news for the consumer, while at the same time raises the bar for all smart mobile tech providers.


The other good news is that this also helps dramatically speed up the delivery of a feature-rich mobile platform, focused on engaging your customers. Generally speaking, the constant flow of new features is designed to make the user’s life easier:  personalising  experiences, prompting suggestions, and auto filling fields. Mobile phones and apps are now heavily customised to their owner’s preferences, and in many ways, have become an extension of their owner (for many of us, temporary loss of our mobile is akin to losing a limb).

Take for instance biometrics authentication such as TouchID in iOS. Biometrics authenticates users based on pre-programmed fingerprint data, facial scans or voice recognition, converting it into digital information the device can verify and interpret. The mobile learns to recognise its owner.

Although these new features are primarily geared towards making the user’s life easier, they also present airlines with opportunities to better connect with passengers. Through efficient application of these features, your airline app can be used to increase sales of ancillaries simply by making your passenger’s journey more pleasant and tapping into the shortcuts they already use on a daily basis.

Make payments super easy

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If ever there was a time in the chain of sale where you want the least amount of barriers, it’s those micro moments when a customer is teetering on the brink of a buy. The more hoops they have to jump through, the bigger the drop off. This is when native mobile functionality really shines through.

According to Apple’s own research, ‘Developers that have implemented Apple Pay best practices have doubled their checkout conversation rates, substantially reduced checkout time, increased customer loyalty, and increased purchase frequency’. Android offers a similar digital wallet functionality allowing users to store digital copies of credit cards on their device. No more punching in 16-digit codes and other obscure credit card number sequences.

Once enabled, the user’s phone can be used to make payments using virtual shopping carts or in-app purchases. Nowadays, the entire process has evolved further and the verification step requires little more than a quick thumbprint scan.

Touch and go

Think about your passengers in the crowded airport, standing in a queue and loaded down with bags, all the while trying to type a password one-handed onto a little screen without dropping anything. Compare that to a simple swipe of the thumb. Biometric authentication (TouchID in IOS) is a perfect example of smart mobile tech evolution.

Stressed out passengers also mean new revenue opportunities for airlines. Busy airport terminals are the perfect place to push out a relevant, timely notifications about enhanced services, such as an upgrade for priority boarding, through your airline’s mobile app. The prospect of expedited boarding is especially attractive to queuing passengers, but as the line lurches forward they don’t have the have time (or free hands) to fumble around to input their password, navigate to the app and redeem the offer. A simple fingerprint swipe could have closed the deal, but instead the moment passes and the opportunity is lost.

Biometric authentication is one smart mobile tech solution that is capable of making your customer’s journey less stressful with the added advantage of increasing your airline’s eCommerce revenue. According to Apple, 83% of iPhone 5S owners were using TouchID within 10 months of the technology becoming available.

Lock screen widgets and apps without apps

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Your regular passengers are already familiar with the process of checking in online and printing their boarding passes at home, but it’s time consuming and possibly one of the reasons they downloaded your app. By integrating Apple Wallet (formerly “Passbook”) functions into your own app, it’s possible to download digital boarding passes into iOS. Wallet will also detect the flight departure times and automatically present the boarding pass on the lock screen of your passenger’s phone. This gives them instant access to their paperwork without having to log into your app – they simply present the QR code on-screen at security.

With the release of iOS 10, Apple introduced the concept of ‘rich notifications’. Instead of a basic alert appearing on the user’s lockscreen, they are presented with key in-app functions that reduce the time taken to access information. A rich media alert can be sent to the user’s phone using an image, advising of traffic problems, or presenting a map with an alternative route for instance. Even something as basic as highly visual flight status updates, or departure gate numbers, could be sent via your app and appear on the lockscreen without the passenger having to unlock their phone.

This instant access to context-aware rich notifications increases opportunities for sales of highly relevant, highly targeted ancillary options. Juniper Research suggest that revenue from mobile context and location services will top $43.3 billion in 2019, underscoring the importance of context to mobile sales.

Google have taken the idea of functionality outside apps even further with their Android Instant Apps concept. This  promises users the full app experience without having to first install the app. Acting as a bridge between traditional web apps and full mobile apps, Instant Apps make specific features of the app available, so users can access basic functionality like boarding passes. Users then have the choice to download the rest of your mobile app for the full brand experience.

Android Instant Apps remains an emerging technology, but developers should seriously consider how it can be applied  to provide a truly responsive, rich experience to travellers - and to keep them engaged with your brand at each step of the journey. The ability to provide a “teaser” of your app will be an important tool for driving downloads. Just remember that you must actually have a mobile app first to entice them with.

Even if you stick with basic lock screen functions, these basic widgets will make your customer’s journey slightly less problematic.

As travellers become quickly accustomed to these conveniences and doing things through their mobile devices, it becomes a new norm. Assuming your customers are on board with this technology, is your mobile app capable of capitalising on it as well? If you can keep track with traveller expectations, you can use those smartphone capabilities to drive conversions.


Innovations – less big-bang, more drip-drip

The mobile technologies used by your customers on a daily basis are the obvious source of innovation inspiration. With new mobile OS updates rolled out every year, you can consider more incremental growth driven design, rather than having to reinvent the wheel.

Your airline website is subject to a constant cycle of tweaks to improve conversions, and your mobile app should be treated the same way. Forward-thinking airline brands have already realised the importance of mobile to their travellers and are investing in apps and features that increase engagement and reduce friction - effectively applying what they already know about boosting web conversions to the mobile space.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the features and functions described here are available via mobile devices (incl. Tablets and wearables) and not on desktop/PC. The web may provide outstanding functionality, but it cannot compete in terms of the contextual opportunities presented by mobile - and this is where your mCommerce efforts have the greatestpotential to soar.

Successful mobile eCommerce will mean combining your own ingenuity with available operating system features to power up the purchasing process and improve your travellers’ door-to-door, personalised experiences. Done correctly, these enhancements will increase opportunities to sell more flights and ancillary services alike to mobile-dependent travellers.


To learn more about mobile trends in the travel industry - and what your competitors are doing with apps - download your free copy of the Mobile Travel Trends Report for 2017 report today.

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