COVID-19 has made an impact on all industries, but none more so than the airline, travel, and hospitality sectors. It’s been in crisis mode since March 2020, with many airlines seeking and receiving bailouts from governments, restructuring their businesses, and doing what they can to stay afloat. Financially, it’s been predicted that airlines should expect to reach 2019 levels of revenue again in 2024, and that’s only the first of a long list of effects the pandemic has had on the industry.
Consumer behavior has changed irrevocably. This means airlines also need to seriously change the status quo, and adjust to new consumer expectations, like insights into new safety and hygiene measures especially when it pertains to handling food, and timely information on COVID requirements through the mobile app. By responding to shifts in consumer behavior, airlines should be able to look beyond the effects of the pandemic and adapt to the long-term realities of COVID-19, and boost their businesses in a post-pandemic world.
Though the bottom line for airlines has been shattered this past year, now is the time to invest more, not less into IT infrastructure and digitalization. According to McKinsey, airlines are spending about 5% of revenue on IT. By investing in digital transformation, airlines will then get the benefit of more user data, which will enhance decision making. So while investing in digital transformation may require a cost upfront, it yields a significant payoff.
At Swrve we work with global airlines to elevate customer experiences to be more relevant, contextual, and personal. We’ve seen our customers create deeper relationships, drive more operational efficiency, and increase ancillary revenues. In this article, we’ve outlined trends we see happening in 2021, and some proactive solutions airlines can take to strengthen their business.
Adapting to New Consumer Behavior
Airlines need to be aware that the old way of doing things, simply won’t cut it anymore. Consumers will be hyper-vigilant around hygiene and safety measures for the foreseeable future, and will actively seek ways to alleviate any contact with machines, people, tickets, boarding passes, and more. Airlines should think about the digital customer experience and how they can use it to create better journeys for their customers taking to the air. This is where the mobile app comes in—by utilizing this channel effectively, airlines can react in real time to changes, adjustments, and in-app consumer behaviors to deliver experiences that surprise and delight both in the airport and on mobile.
Contactless Check In
Keep your customers from sanitizing their hands every 15 minutes while they wait to board your flight and introduce contactless technology into every step of the customer journey from check in to boarding.
Inform and Delight
Shift from telling customers “It’s safe to fly” and instead outline what your airline is doing to keep them safe during their travels. Have you installed HEPA filters on your aircrafts? Are masks still required in flight? Let your travelers know what you’ve done in advance of their trip to ease any pre-flight nerves.
Airlines can go one step further and outline quarantine and/or vaccine requirements for traveler’s destination airports.
Gate changes, delays, baggage information, and boarding passes can all be held and updated through the mobile app. And in a post-pandemic world, this should become the norm. Use your app to deliver information relating to the customer's flight, tips for navigating the airport, access to lounges to avoid crowded waiting areas, etc.
Boost Ancillary Revenue
Move the needle on your airline’s bottom line by increasing ancillary revenue with experiences that are valuable to your customers. For example, offer travelers a fast track through security or priority boarding to avoid waiting in long lines.
Don’t let customers forget their travel plans. Send a targeted message to users reminding them to complete their booking when a browse, search, or cart is abandoned in the app. At Swrve we typically see a 41% engagement rate with messages that are timely and targeted, with an increase in bookings as a direct result of the message.
What’s next for airlines? It’s going to be a few years before airlines can expect to see revenues return to what it was in 2019. But instead of simply reducing costs, airlines should think about how they can create the most desirable customer experience to encourage travelers to choose their brand when booking their next trip for business or leisure.
To learn more about these use cases, schedule a call with one of our experts now.