Just how important is personalisation for an improved passenger experience in the modern airport world?
International Airport Review interviews CHRISTINE FALZON, Business Development manager at ICON and discusses personalisation, technological solutions and how the aviation industry can better embrace new technologies. It’s no longer passenger experience… it’s now seamless travel.
The more we work with airports in Europe, the more we realise the necessity of crafting a solid passenger experience based on consistent and repeatable processes. In fact, we strive to place passenger experience at the very heart of the operating models we develop.
Making the experience personal is the element of differentiation which allows some airports to shine over others. Digital is undoubtedly transforming this sector and we can personalise messages, services and products in a way that was not possible only five years ago. We know that passengers take seconds to digest and decide on marketing messages or informational items. Personalisation allows us to increase relevance of the message and thus increase the propensity to convert the passenger into a customer within those very precious few seconds.
Done correctly, personalisation improves the customer’s engagement and builds loyalty with the airport while reducing acquisition cost.
How might digital solutions be essential to achieve this?
Digital gives us three new dimensions: scale, depth and reach. Scale since we can process huge volumes of data in real-time and provide instant personalised recommendations to all passengers at once. Depth since social media or previous use-patterns allows us to understand the inherent interest patterns that each passenger displays – subsequently we can craft experiences that suit them. Reach since with the plethora of digital channels available today we can touch our passengers wherever they are in a human way and can take decisions based on their location, emotional state or other factors.
At a very basic level digital also helps us understand what matters to our passengers and what doesn’t. Through advanced customer analytics we can track each step in the funnel and re-engineer it to be more effective and offer more value. Indeed, innovation in this section is achieved through a better and deeper understanding of the passenger’s feedback.
More specifically, what is ICON doing at present in this respect?
Our mission is to re-connect, in a meaningful way, the airport and its passengers. There is no single way to do this however the approach often consists of these clear steps:
- We gather as much behavioural data as possible to provide us with “digital signals” about the present consumer behaviour. This allows us to identify any gaps between the activity and the desired positioning.
- We articulate needs and the appropriate digital response to them. We think of needs as triggers and responses as messages. Thus, we develop libraries of messages matched with triggers and understand that messages may be personalised – on the fly.
- We link the digital activity to operational processes within the airport to ensure that our activities are repeatable, sustainable – and most importantly – drive value.
- We implement advanced analytics to ensure we’re checking the inputs and outputs of our service in real-time and can tweak when necessary. And we automate all business processes which can be re-designed to rely on artificial intelligence rather than human management.
Through these steps we have engineered multiple service lines including apps for wearable devices, way-finding systems, personalised flight-updates, better crisis management tools, fully automated smart parking systems, indoor gesture-managed screens, micro-location sensors, artificial-intelligence bots to take part in the customer service process and better buy-before-you-fly systems.
On a more general note, do you feel the airport and aviation industry is slow to keep up with new technologies?
Airports offer a great opportunity for innovation and digitisation. However, this should not be seen as a single task-layer but rather as a tool to gain strategic advantage. “Digital” therefore cuts through all the vertical processes of the airport and lifts them to a new level. Unfortunately, most airports still don’t have a digital vision and take daily disconnected decisions which treat specific operational requirements rather than create new cross-functional digital solutions.
There are exceptions. Some smaller airports are more agile and innovate more boldly. They are not complacent and experiment with digital. Often airport Boards need more exposure to digital transformation to understand its strategic importance. Likewise, digital skills are often missing at executive level, which make it critical to choose the right partners to assist in this process.
How might this reticence be resolved?
When the digital agenda is not deeply part of the airport’s culture, transformation is slow and often painful. We live in a world with reducing margins and soaring customer expectations thus airports which are rooted in the analogue world tend to create a deep chasm between themselves and their passengers.
Reticence is reduced by vision. A well-thought digital vision provides a compelling landscape which a Board can understand and endorse. It needs to be realistic and grounded in commercial requirements that rely on establishing quantitative metrics of growth.
Reticence is reducing by championing small, interactive projects which return immediate value. Innovation needn’t be inherently risky. It can be practical and process driven with clear governance rules and parameters. Successes are celebrated and any failures are considered as an opportunity to improve. This agile approach ensures that there’s an evolution of the business and technical model selected which will generally require dynamic adaptation due to the constant shifting of the value chain.
Reticence is reduced by simplification. Airports often revel in unnecessary complexity. It’s focused on the “easy” – how can an experience be simplified, clicks reduced, steps shortened? While the burden of legacy IT systems is perhaps the most common airport spectre, it is a mountain worth climbing.
Airports don’t easily reinvent themselves; however, their ability to do so, at least in the digital sphere, will greatly affect their chances of driving value. Our experience suggests that understanding the great potential which digital has to offer and positioning the customer at the centre of the journey is a sure way to start.
The interview was originally seen on the International Airport Review site.
Christine Falzon is the Business Development manager at ICON – a Software Development and Digital Marketing company focusing on digital transformation solutions for the airport and aviation industry. With over 15 years combined experience within the travel, hospitality and technology industry, Christine’s key focus is to identify business requirements, put forward creative ideas that add tangible business value to customers and ultimately, guide customers to the right technology solution that can improve passenger experiences, increase productivity and efficiency, while remaining focused on achieving a consistent high return on investment and growth.
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