We are witnessing a "coming of age" for airlines and their associated approaches to MarTech.
We’ve spent some time in recent months collecting insights from our global client roster (the world’s most innovative airlines) and from being in the customer’s shoes on a regular basis.
So, it’s safe to say we know a thing or two about travel and the technology driving customer experience excellence within the industry.
Here are our thoughts...
A.I. will finally overcome the hype
Artificial Intelligence has long been the ‘next greatest thing’. So much about it has been said, speculated on and promised. But has it so far lived up to the hype?
Our experience suggests that many organisations are still playing at the edges, using it to add bells and whistles to customer communications.
Rather than getting bogged down in the "shiny and new" lure of AI, 2018 should be the year when airlines and airports think more practically about the business value of the technology.
They should first focus on putting it to use to deliver true personalization by getting the basics right.
Inflight will become rocket science
First class "suites". "Zero gravity" reclining flat beds. Virtual windows for middle-seat passengers. Welcome to a period in aviation when where the war for ever-better inflight experiences leaps to the next level.
Airlines competing to deliver the very best – or the most unique – experience for their customers is nothing new. This is a ramping up of an old story.
But, as we’ve watched this airline arms race gather momentum, we can’t help but wonder how many of these innovations are borne of consumer demand.
Innovation can be exciting and the airlines that get most value from it next year will be those who respond to what their customers really want to think and feel when they step into the cabin.
GDPR will drive growth… for the enlightened
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming in May to Europe and many are already counting down the days with trepidation.
Change is on the way, and the cost of failure – fines of €20 million or 4% of turnover await those who don’t deliver – is causing headaches.
But airlines could choose to turn the expectations brought by GDPR to their advantage.
It presents an opportunity to clean out their data cobwebs, join the dots along their entire customer journey and get full 20:20 vision of how customers are interacting with them.
With a capable customer data platform in place, progressive airlines will do more than get their GDPR ducks in a row – they’ll be primed to deliver better, more personalised customer experiences (and an uplift to their bottom-line).
Bleisure will become big business
Tacking on an extra night to an overseas business trip has always been an attractive prospect, but stars are aligning to make it not just a win for employees (and their partners) but for employers too.
Until now however, it’s remained a relatively untapped trend.
Airlines looking to exploit what is essentially an entirely new segment – and a massive opportunity – will only be able to capitalise on it if they’re able to identify when "bleisure" is happening and act on it in real-time.
Blockchain will move beyond the buzz
It’s the disruptive force that has the potential to revolutionise the industry, and it’s called blockchain.
Blockchain’s potential is huge, and we’ll probably have to wait for years to see precisely how it will deliver on it, but airlines are already experimenting.
This will accelerate this year as airlines search for ways to streamline payments, make luggage tracking and travel identification more secure, and better integrate services across travel partners.
The long-term potential of blockchain is such that these early-experimenters will steal a march on their competitors.
A new era of airline and airport integration will take shape
Airlines and airports haven’t always seen eye-to-eye – and they’ve not always trusted each other.
As the opportunities presented by a joined-up approach to improving customer experience have come into focus, those relationships have started to repair.
Collaboration will increase in 2018 boosting revenues, reducing costs and improving efficiencies for airlines and airports alike.
Voice will come of age
Voice is the latest technology to stir consumer imagination – it’s forecast that it will command half of all searches by 2020.
But what does it mean for airlines?
We are seeing further forays in the space, particularly in sales and support. But how voice best adds to the travel customer experience is a question yet to be answered.
As always, the solution lies in providing useful content and services designed with the needs of customers in mind.
Airlines whose voice services are useful but remain an invisible and seamless part of the customer journey will have got the formula right.
Devalued loyalty will see power swing towards customers
Loyalty programmes have always sought to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with customers.
Today’s problem: members feel trapped, wanting to look at other options but resenting the idea of having to build up miles again from scratch.
We will now start to see airlines playing with the tried and tested loyalty formula, enticing other carriers’ seasoned passengers by fast-tracking their elite status.
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In a move that will further hand power to consumers, the emergence of Blockchain is poised to shake loyalty up further allowing members to share points or exchange miles for cryptocurrencies.
Only those loyalty programmes with the ability to offer truly personalised deals will be compelling enough to retain their status.
We’d love to know if you agree with our forecast, and do let us know if we’ve missed any.
* This article was originally published on the Boxever blog.