2016 saw personalization and ancillaries gaining traction as airlines have realised their importance in conversion and revenue generation. Let’s look at a few airline technology trends we predict will become stronger in 2017 –
- Artificial Intelligence
Without a doubt, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest airline technology trends in the travel industry. The most obvious example to date of AI in action is the chatbot. Travel chatbot technology has been used to develop software that can work as travel agents. Chatbots can store and learn user preferences and suggest trips based on that data. Chatbots can also be designed to solve a specific tedious purpose to save time and manpower. For example, chatbots can be used to reply to specific texts or requests from customers like finding the cheapest flight or the shortest route or fares related to the class that they have frequently travelled in. They can also be trained as in-house assistants in an airline call centre that can reply to common texts and requests of users and suggest specific flight deals in advance based on a customers travel history. With the advent of more advanced machine learning, chatbots are evolving to a point where they are able to reply to complex queries in real-time and in a conversational tone not unlike a human interaction.
The confluence of these technologies is where AI gets to be really really powerful. Coupled with machine learning and predictive analytics, AI has the potential to influence multiple areas, from personalised online interactions and marketing intelligence to revenue management and ticket pricing.
- Big Data
- Big data can be used to learn customers’ preferences in real-time as well as in advance based on their purchase history, travel itineraries, search tendencies, and more to offer tailored deals and promotions. This not only increases the conversion rate but also keeps customers glued to a brand as offering carefully selected deals based on their travelling history as well as wishes on specific occasions makes customers feel important and increases their chance of staying loyal to a brand. This data will also power the right offers and interactions with customers from the airline loyalty programs.
- In the operational perspective, big data can be used for predictive analysis, like pre-empting when a delay can occur with a particular flight based on air traffic data, weather information and historical arrival details, and in-turn communicate the right information to customers. Data can do wonders when used correctly and airlines, in fact the entire travel industry, is realising its importance.
- Big data can also be used to calculate the right ancillary products to upsell to customers based on their historical purchases like extra baggage, premium meals and seats and more.
Big data can contribute to revenue increase as well as the growth of ancillary revenue per passenger.
Automation is a proven method to provide a faster and more convenient experience for customers. It can be used to simplify and increase efficiency of work where tedious manual processes are involved, from a brand, marketing and operational perspective. In the airline industry, automation can help with
- Tracking Brand sentiment
- Automating campaigns based on user searches and history
- Intelligently targeting users based on the origin of visit – web, mobile, other.
- Ticket processing and revenue opportunities
- Baggage drop and tracking up to the point of the destination
- In-flight services with digital menus and meal request off the seat.
Automation is already occurring on a large scale in the airline industry, for example, Swiss International Airlines is one of the many airlines that are now offering automated check-ins. The ticket is sent directly to phone allowing customers to skip the ticket processing line. All that the customers have to do is board the plane.
- Internet of Things (IoT)
Gartner estimates there will be 25 billion connected devices by 2020. It is obvious that customers would want all their data on their phones for their convenience and airlines are soon realising this trend. For example, Delta Airlines is using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) luggage-tracking technology to give real-time updates on baggage status which has eliminated the loss of baggage issue which was most common in the industry. Tracking passenger location in the terminal off ticket embedded with RFID is not far away. IoT will be used to generate more benefits for airlines and their customers in the very near future. The possibilities are infinite.