A “mobile mind-shift” is forcing airlines to revamp their digital strategies, according to a senior industry analyst.
Thomas Husson, vice president principal analyst at Forrester Research, said carriers must become “obsessed” with their customers and search for “mobile moments”.
He told airline delegates at the Amadeus Airline Digital Conference the mobile mind-shift had not only changed the way people communicate but had changed consumers’ expectations.
“We have entered the age of the customer,” he said.
“They have access to pricing, social media tools, the make decisions based on ratings – they can even damage your brand with what they say.
“They are empowered, and the have the ability to buy anywhere, anytime, and the only way to differentiate is by becoming customer obsessed.”
Husson said mobile was not just a digital channel but also a catalyst for business change.
He said airlines would have to reengineer platforms, change processes and evaluate the type of people and skill-sets needed across the business.
“It’s a big investment, and it won’t happen over night,” he said.
“Companies like Nike, JP Morgan and Home Depot having been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this area.
Husson airlines should think about how they can become digital disruptors, citing car-sharing firm Uber as an example of a company breaking a traditional business model in a long-standing marketplace.
“Consider WhatsApp, too,” he said. “It is provided a messaging platform and a better experience than established telecommunications companies like Telefonica and Orange.”
Husson asked the airlines to consider their mobile apps and how they can fulfill traveller demands at each touch point of a journey.
He said it is the ability to anticipate these consumer needs that would set aside the successful carriers.
“If they access your app two days prior to boarding they may looking to change reservation or book a seat.
“If it’s two hours before it could be lounge access, check gate, departure time or upgrade.
“Then onboard, it could be information on arrival times, food orders, movies and Wi-Fi.
“On the ground there are possibilities for baggage and transportation.”
Husson advised the airlines not to get too bogged down in technology, but instead focus on the possibilities to provide value in those digital moments.