My colleagues recently had the chance to speak at the IATA AIR Symposium in Rome, Italy and there were several panels about the need for airlines to become retail-like organizations that meet travelers on their own terms, using digital technology to fuel personalized experiences across channels. Their feedback about side conversations at the conference was not surprising to me: transforming an airline into a retail savvy business is proving daunting for most of the industry.
Clearly, it’s time for the industry to become hyper-relevant—not just talk about it or wait for the industry to set a standard. Consumers are ready for it, and they now expect it. Six out of 10 travelers will switch providers if their current provider is not providing a relevant experience.1
Our research also indicates that travel companies that are pushing down the path of hyper-relevance simply are worth more than those who are not. Look at online travel agencies: Booking.com has a higher equity value than Delta, American and United combined; Expedia’s equity value is [greater than] $18B.2 The value from disintermediating your customers is massive.
In working with our clients, we see that investments in digital experiences and hyper-relevance pay themselves back faster and greater than investments in assets. Such projects have shown internal rates of return greater than 100 percent. With that much money on the table, it’s time to invest in the brand and long-term relationship with the customer rather than prioritizing one or two more airplanes.
Here is how to get started achieving hyper-relevance, not just talking about it:
Learn from “your” customers. Airlines must have knowledge about consumer behaviors and preferences to be able to identify which interactions are highly relevant. But how? The way to learn about customers is not the CRM of old. The average consumer journey can yield about 900 data points about that consumer—insights that can inform us about how to better market to that consumer and deliver a hyper-relevant experience.
By harnessing behavior-based as well as psychometric customer segmentation techniques, the organization can design, market and sell hyper-relevant services that matter most to specific classes of customers.
My colleagues have developed a platform that makes it easier to gather information and push interactions through all touch points and build a bedrock of hyper-relevance. The platform gathers data on the success of marketing strategies as well as service and sales indicators from all touchpoints, generating insights and providing the ability to interact for revenue management, customer, sales and marketing.
They started by building a 360-degree customer profile and then overlaid a customer de-duplication module. We worked together to build customer-specific segmentation and predictive models for sales using advanced analytics. We then layered on top the ability to build and push services back to customers.
Take a “platform” approach. Hyper-relevance requires the ability to interact with the customer when they want and need you. Consumer expectations and preferences are evolving every day as leading global companies evolve their services, so airlines must be able to act nearly as quickly. This is not about building new web pages and .com portals that take years. Instead, the focus should be on driving an agile release culture through your digital business.
No airline or travel company will be able to achieve this alone. The organization’s technology foundation should be modular and equipped to adapt as partners change, or the technology supporting the platform evolves. It will be important to work with an ecosystem of partners that include large technology partners who have the systems integration knowhow, but also smaller agile partners who can deliver leading-edge solutions at speed.
Think like your customer. One of the major perks of the airline business is that most employees rarely buy their own company’s products: They are not airline customers. Being hyper-relevant means delivering the services and experiences that your consumers want. If you aren’t going to buy your own product, at least start by imagining your customers’ needs and working back from there.
Here is one small and autobiographical example: Traveling families feel a great amount of stress and are often running behind. A hyper-relevant airline would see the ability to ease the customer’s state of mind with services that matter to reduce stress levels. Imagine a family of four travelling with small kids, both mom and dad should receive a text alert that the gate has been changed for a flight. If the family is running late and hasn’t dropped baggage off, the airline’s app could send an offer for priority security and boarding for a small fee. The airline seizes a revenue opportunity while the rushed family buys peace of mind that they will make it to the gate on time.
Countless other examples abound…. Hyper-relevance is here, and those who seize the opportunity will be the leaders.