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Author's profile photo Anja Engelhardt

Eat Dessert First!

Do you ever ask yourself why you travel?

If you do, I am sure you wouldn’t answer that it is just to experience the flight. It is also doubtful we travel to simply spend time in a hotel, especially if you happened to have experienced being quarantined in one recently.

We travel for a reason, whether visiting family or friends, to experience a different culture, to have an adventure in a new country, to attend a global sporting event, for a business meeting or conference, or to simply relax under the sun. Whatever the reason, it is the experience that motivates our need to travel and the flight is just one component of the overall trip. Capturing this hidden ‘second’ wallet, provides significant opportunity to offer event tickets, experiences and merchandise, in addition to the obvious need for hotel and other forms of transportation. Understanding the reason for travel could unlock significant value for an airline looking to improve the customer’s digital experience or establish new business models and profit stream by augmenting the core flight offering with experience led shopping.

The pandemic has reinforced what brands and retailers should continue to focus on: enabling people to shop when they want, how they want, and where they want, all the while providing a frictionless experience. What we have also learnt over the past two years, is that automated airline customer processes have been brutally exposed as inadequate, when managing exchanges, cancellations, offering vouchers and refunds.

The challenge is that airline reservation systems were not designed for a digital world where customers instinctively use mobile devices to shop for products and services, place orders, pay using a digital wallet, credit, points & vouchers, arrange for exchanges & returns and manage their account. Moreover, these core reservation systems have a fixed shopping and order flow that delivers a restrictive customer experience, often forcing the customer to start again if they change their mind. Reflecting on our core motivations to fly, it seems a strange question to ask a new customer what airport they want to fly to and from, before they can proceed through a fixed linear buying experience. Imagine a fashion retailer asking a customer who wants a new outfit for a wedding, what shoes they want before they can enter the store! Compare this approach to a modern retailer where the customer is free to dynamically explore the products and services available, constantly trying different product combinations by adding and removing products from a shopping cart. Finally, either completing their order or saving for when they have more time on their way home from work. Its flexible, dynamic and most importantly, customer centric.

Allowing customers to self-serve their order when they want and on a device of their choosing must be top of the digital transformation agenda if the airline industry is to fully adopt a retailing mindset. To achieve a completeness of vision, it is essential the scope extends beyond just selling the offer, to embrace the after-sales services and processes, whilst ensuring that accounting and settlement are incorporated. This delivers improved business agility and allows innovation of new business models, such as offering subscription products and services to be delivered in the knowledge that the end to end customer experience is indeed frictionless across the entire journey.

Consumer behaviour was revolutionised by the digital wave and now these buying habits have been accelerated and solidified by the way society has had to adapt to recent events. Customers expect access to information on demand and want to be in control of the entire ordering lifecycle. Take the time to find out why customers want to travel, because this is the key to unlocking the best customer experience you can offer. Then provide them with the freedom to self-serve how, where, and when they want and gain a brand advocate for life.

See what SAP Customer Experience can offer

Andy Kidd
SAP Industry Principal Travel

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