Aviation Festival Recap: Bots, AI, Personalization All the Rage to Drive Ancillary Revenue and Better Passenger Experience

Posted by Robin Hopper on September 19th, 2017 | Blog, Conferences & Events

 

I spent 3 interesting days at the Aviation Festival in London last week where this year the promoted theme was “Business Models, Technology, and Innovation for the World’s Aviation Industry”.

I have to admit that my first day had me worried when the keynote speaker was Dave Carroll of United Breaks Guitars fame which is now almost a seven-year-old story. While it was comforting to be transported back to my marketing automation and social media roots, it didn’t seem like much had been learned in seven years when he introduced his latest Sorry Song.

That aside, the event seemed to have good C-level representation from a lot of airlines, and while there were 5 conference tracks – AviationIT, AirExperience, AirRetail, Low Cost Airline Congress, and Aviation Marketing and Loyalty – the recurring themes were consistent across all of them.

Aviation Festival Key Learnings

Of the talks that I attended, here are a few topics that kept popping up and really resonated with me:

  • Build vs. Buy: While it remains to be seen how well this gets executed, the CEOs all talked about how they needed to lean on tech companies and vendors to drive next level digitalization/innovation rather than trying to build internally.  
  • Passengers’ Digital Channels: While airline mobile applications were still discussed, there was much more attention given to other digital channels as they realize the challenges of reaching consumers in an app when they only travel once or twice a year.
  • Big Data, AI & Personalization: No surprise here, but big data (and breaking existing data silos), artificial intelligence, and personalization managed to make their way into almost every presentation. Buzzword bingo aside, expect this to be the biggest area of technology/innovation investment over the next 2 years as airlines look to leverage data to improve passenger experience.
  • Go Digital or Bust: Emirates CEO, Tim Clark, emphasized that this focus on data and technology has to go beyond just lip service stating that “data and technology has to be at the center of any airline business now to increase share of wallet; either you do it for real or you perish”.
  • Netflix & Fly: Netflix’s presentation made it pretty clear they have eyes on the space and their Netflix Onboard (along with the supporting Netflix marketing weight) could be disruptive to the IFEC world.
  • Here a bot, there a bot, everywhere a bot: Bots – particularly as a disruption management tool – were all the rage.  They dominated the talk track and owned the round table breakout sessions.

Of course events like this are important data points that help inform the Guestlogix strategy and roadmap. In the interest of transparency, a couple of  key takeaways for us included:

  • Our investment in an open architecture can play an important role in not only helping to break the data silos, but to bring that data directly to passenger-facing staff.
  • As we expand our capabilities beyond “once-the-doors-close” onboard retail, laser focus on the day-of journey remains job number one. There are so many things that happen during the day-of journey that can be improved through the choice and personalization our new platform delivers – focusing there will help ensure we drive the most value for airlines.
  • The parallel task of educating the market about how choice and personalization during that day-of journey not only impacts customer satisfaction but does so while driving more revenue. Watch for a whitepaper on this topic in the coming weeks.
  • Our longer term roadmap needs to address the challenge airlines have with consumers’ mobile app fatigue and bring onboard retail to additional channels.

Now… with Aviation Festival in the books, the next stop for me is APEX EXPO in Long Beach, September 26-28th (you can see my full list of upcoming events here). We’ll officially be unveiling our new platform and will be demoing it live! If you’re attending, make sure you swing by Booth 1045.