NB: This is a guest article by Mike Benjamin, CEO of flight information company FlightView.
If airlines have been hitting the mobile snooze button, wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee stats highlighted last week should have them jumping out of bed.
Thereâ€™s no denying the power of mobile for airlines â€“ as an information hub, a revenue generator, and an effective brand and loyalty builder. But too many airlines are only leveraging mobile as a customer service tool â€“ and are leaving significant revenue potential untapped.
And with Gartner forecasting 645 million smartphone users by 2012 and 665 million media tablets in use by 2016, the alarm thatâ€™s sounding for mobile strategies and potential mobile revenue is only getting louder.
Mobile as an information hub
Consumers want information and expect easy access to it â€“ thatâ€™s no shock. And with over half of smartphone owners accessing travel-related products, services, and related content from their phones â€“ delivering actionable information is a must for every airline.
The top airlines â€“ like United Airlines, American Airlines, Lufthansa, and British Airways â€“ are going beyond the basics, and offering their customers valuable information such as frequent flyer miles.
Around the corner, mobile apps will display an aircraftâ€™s previous flight information so a passenger knows when to better expect its arrival at their gate. The goal: add enough functionality and content that the airlineâ€™s app becomes the one-stop shop for all planning and day-of-travel activity.
In one place, passengers should have access to ticket, hotel, and rental car bookings, online check in, flight reservations, loyalty accounts, real-time flight status and notifications, weather forecasts, in-flight details, and terminal maps with lounge information. Another critical feature: one touch dialing to the airline, so contacting customer service is less of a hassle.
Mobile as a revenue generator
Offering a multi-channel customer experience is ideal â€“ but how can mobile make airlines as happy as their customers? Leverage the channel as a point of sale.
Seat upgrades, the extra checked bag, day pass to lounge, on-board food â€“ the convenience of mobile reduces the customer effort required to buy the extras.
By pushing ancillary services straight to a passengerâ€™s phone prior to takeoff, airlines are becoming proactive in generating ancillary sales. Accepting a seat upgrade is much easier with the push of a button, as opposed to a walk to the customer service counter and a 30-minute wait in line.
Mobile as a brand and loyalty builder
With mobile, passengers get a level of personalization that is unavailable from a website or common-use digital display.
Apps allow passengers to save data, customize preferences and avoid having to wait on hold for customer service. While not many airlines have taken advantage of it yet, mobile also provides a channel for targeted marketing and interactions with frequent fliers and high-value customers.
The goal is simple: provide your most frequent customers with personalized and targeted attention.
Airlines can also leverage mobile to differentiate themselves to loyal customers by providing mobile incentives. Inviting frequent fliers to the lounge (or a higher-level lounge) and pushing out other perks (like restaurant and shop coupons) when there are cancellations and delays can keep a high-end customer loyal.
Social integration has proven to be an important brand-builder.
Every month we see how airlines are using Twitter to listen, handle customer service issues, and push out information.
By including social integration capabilities in their apps, airlines can generate free visibility with every tweet and status updates that blasts the airlineâ€™s name out into an individualâ€™s social network.
Mobile strategies are innovating the ways airlines interact with customers and generate additional revenue. By supporting their customers with technology â€“ airlines are not only opening the door for higher margins, but creating a reason for customers to stay loyal.
NB:Â This is a guest article by Mike Benjamin, CEO of flight information companyÂ FlightView.