I have taken to writing blogs on my recent conferences and it’s a habit I must endeavour to retain. My most recent conference was OpenJaw’s t-Retailing Summit at Kilashee House in Kildare – a few miles outside of Dublin. In my last blog I had some fun with Vueling’s customer service, and although Aer Lingus managed to turn the one hour outbound hop into a four hour marathon the return flight was fine. Ahead of sharing my thoughts on the conference itself, my only passing advice to all carriers is to be truly honest about the reasons for a delay – thunderstorms in the Heathrow area were cited and although there were a couple of minor bumps going up through the clouds, there hadn’t been a very long list of delayed flights on the LHR departure board for other carriers!
Back to the conference itself.
Whilst much of the focus was around OpenJaw’s technology and services, the real push behind the conference is to provide a very genuine and welcome educational thrust on airline retailing by inviting a good range of non-OpenJaw folk to present on key topics. Triometric was invited to talk about, not surprisingly, analytics which I’ll return to later.
I, for one, was curious about the recent GuestLogix acquisition of OpenJaw. It would appear to be a clever marriage of off-line on-board point of sale systems with online direct and indirect channel capabilities joined by blissful data collection and customer ownership around the Passenger Name Record (PNR). With common clients, albeit slightly different stakeholder groups within each, one can readily see why pre-merger GuestLogix and OpenJaw clients could each see merit in the (others’) newly joined up thinking and systems.
Despite a series of excellent case study presentations from carriers, for me personally, the most thought provoking session came for Mark Lenahan of OpenJaw. His presentation, using back of the envelope numbers for a typical carrier, took the audience through a step by step guide on how the retailing of various additional products and services such as flight related ancillaries, hotel rooms, car hire, destination events etc could genuinely drive not only significantly higher revenue but also an increasingly healthy profit margin. All down to better contributions to margin from everything that’s wasn’t the seat on the plane. Food for thought.
Returning to the analytics discussion, it was clear that there will be a strong push into data analytics to support better retailing. Relevance is the key word that came up time and again – it’s about understanding the customer and seeking to provide well-tailored offers when they are close to buying, rather being supplier centric and pushing products because they exist.
This view isn’t new and nor is the data analysis that is now much needed by the carriers as they plan, create and refine their merchandising strategies. Market leading grocery chains and mobile phone operators have long been well ahead of the game. It’s my view that data analytics with the objective of understanding what the customer wants, values and is willing to pay for will be a critical ingredient in separating out the winners from what undoubtedly will be a very competitive push into retailing by all the carriers.
Ironically for me, almost exactly fifteen years ago, I was in Dublin, and in particular Kildare to celebrate the delivery of a successful customer centric data analytics project with the team from Eircom. What a small, history repetitive world we live in!!