From researching destinations to booking flights, everything about the modern travel journey can now be done at lightning speed via mobile.
Travelers are relying more and more on their personal devices for advice and planning, and prior to making the trip, they’re anticipating all manner of pain points. Mobile has the potential to be the chief mitigator of stress for the traveler since it’s the thing they have in their possession at all times. The delivery of timely promotions or solutions that add value to the customer experience will have a positive effect on the airline’s bottom line.
It’s on the day of travel where mobile comes into its own
The 48-hour period prior to departure is a key timeframe for engagement in the airline ancillary sales pipeline. Approximately 30% of travelers will buy enhancements to their journey if it assuages any anxiety they feel about compromises to their comfort. However, it’s on the day of travel where mobile comes into its own.
Matching the ancillary to the moment
There are many moments and opportunities for engagement along the travel journey. An airline’s ancillary strategy will depend on individual factors such as: whether it’s legacy or low-cost, long- or short-haul, and if they have a premium brand offer. Choosing the moments of engagement wisely are a precursor to a successful airline ancillary strategy.
More opportunities to engage with customers, coupled with downward pressure on headline ticket sales has created many opportunities for ancillary offers. Chief among these is enhancing revenue streams, while simultaneously providing exemplary customer service.
We recently carried out research aimed at uncovering traveler needs and behaviors on the day of travel. Interviews and diary studies were conducted with both business and leisure travelers. The study included a mix of both inbound and outbound travelers, and followed them from booking through to departure and return.
Apps accounted for 57% of all mobile travel bookings in the first quarter of 2016
Source: Travelport ‘Evolution of Mobile in Air Travel’
By presenting information that is specific to the traveler’s trip in the right context, at the right time, airlines can personalize the customer experience. Upgrades and upsells are initially rejected as extravagant at a distance from the need state (e.g. express security, taxi transfers, meal deals) have more immediate appeal more when a customer is mid-trip and desperate to save time and stress.
Based on this research, here are our recommendations for leveraging real-time engagement via mobile.
- Night before
Travelers are preparing for the journey at hand; checking in, researching the destination, packing what they need and making sure their documents are in order. They’re researching their journey to and from the airport. To help with the customer experience and improve mobile engagement airlines could send a check-in prompt and offer paid seat selection. Journey planning advice, transport offers, and destination promotions are all potential ancillary upsells at this stage.
- Day of travel & arrival at airport (6 hours prior to departure)
Conservative estimates of the amount of luggage needed for a trip are frequently overshot. Even after a ruthless repack, bags can still be overweight and bulging at the seams. Those traveling with a baby could be forgiven for forgetting to book their stroller into the hold. Now would be the time to send a gentle reminder and an offer to add extra luggage and outsized baggage. For the business traveler heading off to deliver a presentation at an international conference, the offer of a VIP upgrade to premium seating and lounge access might seem irresistible before their hectic schedule kicks in. Priority boarding and security fast pass are also appealing once travelers arrive at the airport only to be met by bustling crowds.
- At the airport - landside
Travelers are on auto pilot. They’re tense, they know they need to pass through security and they may even need to check-in. They’re probably a little fatigued and impatient. Everything is focused on getting through security so they can relax, browse in shops and have a cup of coffee.
To help alleviate stress here, airlines could offer speedy check-in and bag drop if necessary. They might also offer fast-track to get security checks over and done with as efficiently as possible. Push notifications alerting travelers to flight delays and changes might seem like being the bearer of bad news. However, customers will appreciate that airlines didn’t keep them waiting and wondering. While this won’t drive ancillary revenue it will help to improve the overall customer experience, which is inevitably good for your brand.
- At the airport - airside
Now it’s time to relax… the hassle of security and check in is far behind. Until it’s time to board their flight, passengers now try to fill the vacuum of time that has suddenly opened up before them. They might spend it browsing the shops, having a meal and calculating the walk time to the departure gate. Ancillary offers here center around helping them pass the time. Offers of airport coffee discounts, WiFi purchases or inflight entertainment can be pushed out.
Just over 45% of users opt in to receive iOS push notifications -
therefore they have to be adding real value to be effective
Source: Travelport ‘Evolution of Mobile in Air Travel’
- Arrival at destination airport
For international travelers, getting through immigration is the next stage of the journey. Notifications of wait times are helpful since they may have transport waiting to collect them on the other side. Keeping lines of communication open will help travelers plan and in turn, keep stress levels under wraps. Then it’s time to locate the baggage carousel with their flight number. Again, promptly supplying this information shows empathy; customers have just completed what can be a stressful and emotional event. Once they have collected their bags and orientated themselves in the terminal, opportunities to offer ancillaries resurface. For example, discounted fares with a taxi or land transport partner when they realize they can’t face the public transport they had thriftily planned to take. Tickets for events and tours are also an option.
25% of travelers are open to receiving offers after their trip
Those returning home are already thinking about their next trip. Now is the time to cement your airline and its exemplary customer service offering. After all, with timely alerts and open lines of communication throughout, the journey really wasn’t so bad, was it?
Conclusion: The power of Push
Push messaging engines offer personalized, contextual and timely offers that help drive ancillary revenue. The results of greater engagement are mutually beneficial to both the travel company and the traveler. Relevant, occasional messages that inform, rather than straight-up sell, are key differentiators between valuable interactions and nuisance messaging.
Platforms such as Travelport Engage use the travelers' passenger name record (PNR) number as an identifier to provide targeted messages that are relevant, accurate and trustworthy. Beyond the PNR data, airlines can go one step further and utilize technology such as iBeacons and geo-fencing. These generate alerts and push messages based on the customer’s position in the airport terminal.
Clients who have implemented Travelport Engage [contextual push notification engine] have seen over 50% increase in average mobile revenues for a given day as a result of using push notifications as part of a campaign to promote new routes or special airfares
Source: Travelport ‘Evolution of Mobile in Air Travel'
Research has shown that travelers will pay for additional services that ease the discomfort of flying and alleviate day of travel stress. Fears about getting to the airport on time, lengthy security queues, uncertainties about flight take-off times, gate locations in unknown airports, making flight connections and lost baggage are all common pain points for travelers.
Using a dynamic set of predefined, trip specific business rules, airlines can create targeted and personalized messages that are specific to each stage of the traveler journey. Matching the ancillary to the moment of need is key to adding value that will please your customers, heightening their propensity to engage and ultimately, purchase.