Airlines that provide a fully personalized experience to their customers throughout the entire traveler’s journey will create a differentiated offering in a generic marketplace.
NB This is a guest article by Derek Birdsong, a product marketing manager for Sabre Airline Solutions.
Facilitating a personalized dialogue with the traveler during each phase of the journey requires seamlessly integrated technology that operates in near real-time. And mobile is a convenient and effective avenue that can be used to facilitate that personalized dialogue.
“Third-party mobile apps are not optimal due to internal airline systems ‘still speaking a different language,’” David Cush, president and chief executive officer of Virgin America, said in a report published by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
However, a bigger challenge than system integration across the full journey is for the carrier to actually see the traveler's full journey.
A 360-degree view of the customer provides the insight that allows airlines to offer a unique, personalized experience based on the customer’s past behaviors, interactions and stated preferences.
These preferences and behaviors can then be used to predict, and ultimately influence, the customer’s future buying behavior. Aggregation, analysis and the ability to respond in real-time to the data is needed to create this personalization.
“The challenge is making that data come alive, so we get a better picture of the individual customer,” Jeff Foland, United Airlines’ senior vice president for Marketing, Strategy and Technology also told the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Roughly a terabyte of customer data is floating around at any given time within a large carrier’s system. The velocity, variety and volume is growing not only as airlines scale but also as consumer technology continues to evolve.
Structured data has been rising at a significant but predictable rate ever since reservations and check-in systems came online decades ago.
Conversely, unstructured data - such as campaign responses, customer relationship management data, agent interactions, shopping analytics, buying behavior patterns and, of course, social media data, has grown exponentially in recent years.
But the cost of storing and processing data has dropped. A lower cost barrier effectively gives the green light for airline leaders to begin aggregating and responding to their customer data.
With at least 20 disparate data sources within most airlines, and some larger carriers housing 50 sources or more, a single, comprehensive view of the customer is highly complex. An abundance of talent and a variety of skill sets is needed to build a system that compiles all these customer data points into a single system.
The problem with trying to collate data from disparate sources into a legacy system is that each integration is a cost, while the system demands constant attention in order to carry out its limited capabilities. The solution has to be a seamless customer data environment that relates all systems - shopping, reservations, check-in and others - to each other.
Seamless technology using a central data hub, connected with the airline’s reservations system, could merge all the data-creating systems into a comprehensive view of the customer, making airline system integration a problem of the past.
Airlines could then start to put in place the business rules to make personalization of the customer experience possible.
Despite the complexities, it is possible to summarise the airline customer data challenges as follows:
data is critical for decision-making, but is is often segmented in multiple silos and disciplines, making it difficult to access
there are multiple systems involved, with large databases, making it difficult to maintain point-to-point integrations
synching all systems and process in real time and within the context of a traveller's journey requires a seamless system
unstructured data growth from sources such as social media, CRM, shopping analytics, NFC and GPS and buying behaviour patterns.
Sabre is hosting a digital discussion with airlines and analysts, with the agenda covering: the state of the industry and customer data; airline data pitfalls and complexities; the value of customer experience and personalization; and the potential of personalized retailing.
Click here to register for the Livestream discussion
NB This is a guest article by Derek Birdsong, a product marketing manager for Sabre Airline Solutions. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative. Feel free to email Derek about any of the points raised in the piece above at firstname.lastname@example.org.