Some of the best example of customer-centric digital systems built around building customer memory are found outside the aviation industry, in digital retail.
Think of Amazon’s ability to remember each customer’s orders and product views then correlate a purchasing trend not only to make related product recommendations but also to send tickler reminders of commonly purchased products which may need replacing.
The company has invested heavily in the smart application of customer data to turn a very impersonal retail presence–developed with no brick-and-mortar or personal interactions at all–into a very personal space which not only makes the sales process smoother for the company but also more pleasurable and efficient for the consumer. The strategy also encourages additional purchases by remembering abandoned cart items, triggering suggestions based on discounted items which have previously been purchased, an sending timed requests for ratings which help boost the product to other customers, creating a sense of customer community and lending credibility to the brand.
Do we see Amazon spending large sums of money with social media teams to respond to customer complaints or push products? These things are not necessary because Amazon anticipates service disruptions and automated systems update customers before they get a chance to be disappointed. The design of the retail platform itself raises awareness of new products tangentially related to the individual customer buy-ins, fitting their lifestyle preferences as reflected by their previous product selections. And, of course, Amazon earns plenty of press with technology experiments (whether they’re effective or not doesn’t really matter) which keep the brand at the forefront of a public conversation on the future of retailing.
Airlines have invested heavily in social teams to address customer complaints and to push brand messages through creative campaigns. They have also invested in physical spaces, hard assets, and customer-facing staff. In addition, they’ve developed highly complex systems to manage flight logistics. These are turned-in for operational efficiency, and for crisis response, not tuned-in for customer relationship building and brand definition.
It is a curious juxtaposition of digital paradigms because, in many ways, the two: Amazon and airlines share a common retail space. They are both transporters, one flying other companies equipment (until very recently) and the others with impressive fleets all their own.
By considering the digital retailing techniques of Amazon, and capitalizing on well-established in-house strengths, airlines could easily stand out in the consumer memory as an invaluable lifestyle need and always first-choice provider.
Customer-centric systems will support this transformation and offer airlines the same quality of retailing and service efficiencies which have made Amazon a strong first-choice global retailer. Timing couldn’t be better.
As air traffic grows over the coming years, air travel will become a common need for many, and airlines will need to develop more efficient ways to manage their interactions with those millions of flyers. Responding to complaints via social media just won’t be good enough. Eliminating the need for this responsiveness is far better.
We spoke with airlines which have launched their own customer centric digital systems to find out what works best and what they would further improve. We also received insights from a psychologist of UX and systems design on the best way to drive engagement, building a desire to purchase.
We’ll look at ways customer-centric design succeeds and review a viable path forward from anonymous bulk selling of destinations, services and ancillaries, to personalized and optimized bespoke retail. We’ll identify those moments when customers are not only more likely to opt-in, but also more likely to be delighted by the airline’s engaged awareness of their travel circumstances, and the airline’s willingness to offer solutions when they most are needed.
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