Much as the travel industry talks about a utopian vision of the digital future of travel, consumers still want the best fares when it comes to online travel, now and in the future. And they want it without having to hunt on dozens of sites, like now. Is the travel industry listening?
Whether you are a boutique travel agency specializing in niche travel or a global airline serving passengers around the world, harnessing the power of merchandising to deliver the right products or services at the right time to the right travelers is critical to sustained business success.
Retailers in general have made significant strides in merchandising to consumers through carefully targeted strategies. For airlines, merchandising has become a vital tool for showcasing their unique offerings, selling more products and services, and keeping their brand top-of-mind among travelers.
A recent Amadeus study, “Thinking Like A Retailer: Airline Merchandising” examines how today’s airlines are evolving. Specifically, the report found that retail-minded airlines are highly focused on:
- Creating merchandising offers that deliver value
- Personalizing offers to traveler preferences and interests
- Carefully considering the impact of service and price
- Enabling merchandising via mobile devices
Merchandising matters because it also plays a vital role in the overall traveler experience, including customer satisfaction and loyalty. Travelers seek the products and services they want, and shop and purchase based on what they value. Merchandising is not only changing how products and services are being offered to travelers, but it is significantly impacting the travel experience itself.
Redefining value for travelers
As airlines continue to offer various fare families and bundled service offerings, travelers will experience a more simplified, transparent and relevant shopping and booking process. Retail-minded airlines are changing how they present their offerings, to ensure that their value is clearly defined and they are easy to book. To achieve this, carriers are engaging visualization tools, user-friendly interfaces, value-added bundles and timely “push” message notifications. Bundled services offer options focused on travelers’ preferences, as airlines are better utilizing traveler information and knowledge to offer customers options that best suit their needs.
The best customer offer is one that is targeted and highly personalized. As airlines are learning to capture and use collected insights, travelers can expect to benefit from a more targeted and personalized experience.
Anytime, anywhere retailing
Today’s traveler lives in a digitally-connected world. Airlines are recognizing the importance of demonstrating their offerings to travelers across multiple devices, while understanding that the majority of travelers still prefer booking their trips using PCs. Although smartphones are unlikely to replace PC usage entirely, travelers will increasingly welcome notifications and trip-relevant information from suppliers on their mobile devices to make shopping and purchasing services — such as seat selection, cabin upgrades and meal/beverage options — easier to book.
This growing adoption of mobile has led airlines to look for new and improved ways to better merchandize their services in a timelier, personalized manner via context-aware emails and push notifications. In the study, 76% of travelers said that a context-aware email could entice them to make a purchase. As push notifications continue to become more intelligent both travelers and suppliers will reap the benefits of offering services consumers want, when they want them most.
The study shows that the best time to reach a traveler about ancillary services is during the booking stage and 48 hours before departure. During these times, travelers are receptive to offers such as restaurant vouchers or in-flight services including Wi-Fi during either of these stages in their travel journey. And two days prior to departure, travelers begin to focus on airport parking, transfers, luggage and other trip logistics and therefore likely welcome promotions about services that could help make their trip more convenient or comfortable.
Time spent at the gate and soon after boarding a flight are also prime merchandising opportunities, as travelers are very approachable and likely interested in terms of making these types of purchases.
A traveler-centric approach is critical for airline merchandising efforts to be truly successful. As airlines deploy merchandising strategies, they must assure their approach delivers value to the traveler. With the wealth of data at their fingertips, airlines are armed with the knowledge in place and tools they need to offer travelers the highly personalized experiences they deserve.
This content is created collaboratively in partnership with our sponsor, Amadeus.