Online retail has certainly changed in recent years.
With “digital-only” resellers and aggregators, almost gone are the days when shoppers had to hunt on dozens of sites to find the item they want, figure out which site stocked the item, in the right color, at the lowest price, with the fastest delivery, and the best guarantee.
Today’s consumers have become accustomed to self-service experiences that provide access to relevant content on-demand. Online reviews, recommendations, photos, and interactive videos help nudge shoppers from intent to purchase. Yet, shopping for air travel remains confusing.
Airlines are challenged to create and display offers in ways that are both differentiated and easy to comprehend.
Travelers and travel consultants want one-stop, “apples-to-apples” comparison shopping for all available offers.
Comparison shopping proves challenging for customers
Value in airline retailing remains too narrowly defined in terms of lowest fare. There is an opportunity to expand the definition of value in air travel beyond price by identifying “better” offers that are based upon a traveler’s preferences and trip context, such as extra luggage, preferred seats, meal types, and more.
Creating relevant content is only one half of the retailing equation. Providers must also organize and display tailored content in a clear way that makes shopping efficient and enjoyable. To date, an easy-to-shop airline storefront has been missing.
Comparing Economy, Premium, Fly Anytime, Business Extra, and dozens of other airline-specific fare class names—with all the features, restrictions, and other details they include—has been challenging on both airlines’ own websites and through indirect channels, such as online travel agencies (OTAs), aggregators, and GDS marketplaces such as Sabre.
That is about to change. By early 2020, Sabre will be able to combine its strength in sourcing the absolute lowest fares with the best schedule quality, diversity, and bookability with a new airline storefront that supports efficient comparison shopping.
Managing complexity one shelf at a time
As the travel retailing industry increases in complexity with new standards like New Distribution Capability (NDC), airlines and agencies are thirsting for ways to manage or (gasp!) even decrease this complexity.
That’s where ATPCO’s Next Generation Storefront (NGS) data standard comes in. This standard provides a framework for delivering easily comparable air content and offers.
It seeks to deliver a modern-day retailing experience by providing “shelves” on which travel sellers can display their content side by side. This eliminates the confusion caused by different fare naming conventions from one airline to another and provides better upfront visibility into what is (or is not) included in each fare.
The ATPCO NGS standard defines what products and services fit on each shelf, which an air provider can then display to allow customers to make like-for-like comparisons.
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To understand how the storefront works, consider how products reach your local grocery store shelves today. Delivery trucks pull up to a loading dock with a carefully stacked palette of inventory.
Though the products are all different and come from many different sources, they all go through the same receiving process and are logged into the store’s inventory in the same way.
Once in the store, how those cans of soup, boxes of rice, and packs of soda will be displayed for the best impact on sales and revenue is a matter of merchandising.
- Which products merit the coveted “end cap” position?
- Which apples get Red Delicious placement versus more specialized varieties like Jonagold or Braeburn?
The storefront allows the information on air offers from different airlines to all arrive at the point of sale in a well-defined, apples-to-apples comparison format that allows the aggregator to make common sense of the data.
And now that the site has a single form to deal with, it can decide how to present all the options from the various airlines in a consistent way.
Sabre’s new airline storefront goes beyond NGS standards
Similar to Sabre’s Beyond NDC approach that goes beyond the NDC technology standard to drive value for the entire travel ecosystem, its new airline storefront goes beyond the ATPCO NGSTM standards.
Sabre’s new airline storefront enables additional attribute-based shopping, providing more flexibility in creating multiple offers from different airlines.
After pulling content from multiple sources, the storefront then uses the shelves concept to display it together in a single, consistent view. That way, the customer has easy access to far more information than the fare price to decide which flight best suits their needs—just like they would on other online retailer sites.
The shelves concept is supported by the design of the latest evolution of Sabre’s air shopping APIs, as well as being included in its agent workspace, Sabre Red 360.
Sabre is building on its leading shopping solution - multiple fares per itinerary (MFPI) - which delivers multiple price points per flight option returned, depicting different prices based on fare rules and/or airline products and services offered.
Additional benefits of the storefront include:
- More content for easy comparison shopping
- Modern-day retailing experience providing relevant offers tailored for traveler needs
- Immediate efficiency increases with airlines that describe product attributes with NDC content
- Increased conversion opportunity by allowing customers to understand and choose the “best” offers faster
As a bonus, Sabre’s new airline storefront will integrate NDC offers as they become more prevalent, alongside traditional and low-cost carrier content, to help minimize some of the complexity NDC brings to the industry.
Sabre’s new airline storefront is just the latest example of its commitment to enriching the channel by enabling intelligent retailing for airline products and services.
For airlines, travel management companies, agencies, online travel agencies, or corporate travel departments, Sabre has solutions to support the needs of the full spectrum of retailing, distribution, and fulfillment.
Because for today’s customers, how airfare offers are presented to customers is key to driving conversion and creating value for suppliers and buyers.
So, how do you like those apples?