Airline apps and customers. How to turn one night stands into meaningful relationships?

The developments of technology engages the evolution of new channels through which companies are communicating with their customers. The use of a channel can not only affect the revenues and cost structure of a company but also drive customer engagement (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

One of these channels is mobile devices. The growing importance and the role of these devices in our lives are also changing the consumer behavior. By the end of 2016, 51.8% of travelers who book trips digitally are expected to book a trip through mobile, rather than desktop (Bouman, 2016). This shift to the mobile is a huge opportunity for an airline industry.

Many of the airline companies already have their own app that is meant to make the customer journey pleasant and easy. The app of the airline can lead the customer through the whole journey. At the travel day, it can provide information on the flight, give a countdown for the flight departure. To improve in-flight experience, the app can allow the customer to order food or drinks through the app or request assistance. Apps can also allow to receive live updates on checked in luggage. After the flight, the app can provide relevant discounts and offers based on customer information on the future trips (Hector, 2016). It all is related to the actual travel process.  Some travelers download the app, use it for their flight once or twice and then they delete it. The question is – how can airlines use this channel to engage with customers in between the times they actually need it?

First of all, the app has to be relevant for the customer, it has to be easy, simple and it has to solve a problem. For example, United Airlines offers Uber services via mobile app enabling travellers to use the app throughout their entire travel experience (United, 2014).

There are many other ways how an airline can make the app more relevant for the customer. Apps can improve the storytelling (Bouman, 2016). Price does not always work as the only reason to book the flight. Storytelling content gives user a reason to open the app. We talk about not only company’s content but also user generated. Predictive App integrations is another way how to keep the customer to the app (Bouman, 2016). If the travel is booked three months in advance then the app connected to personal Facebook or calendar, could send push notifications on helping to plan the trip and activities. It would work as a trip planner.  An airline app also can add value by helping more customers at the same time to plan the activities. For example, a group of friends could use the app to decide and plan the accommodation, activities, tours etc. It would create  a network effect (Bouman, 2016).
To improve the engagement with the customers through a mobile app, airline companies need to think beyond the borders. For an airline app to be relevant for the customer in between the travel process, it has to add an extra value. It has to solve a problem, inspire or in any other way be useful.


References:

Bouman J. (2016). The big missed opportunity for travel apps: consistent engagement between bookings. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from https://www.appboy.com/blog/travel-app-marketing-needs-consistent-engagement/

Hector J.F. (2016). Rethinking your mobile app is the secret to direct customer engagement. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from http://www.theappbusiness.com/blog/rethinking-your-mobile-app-is-the-secret-to-direct-customer-engagement

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management.Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Uniteed. (2014). United Airlines the first airline to offer Uber service via mobile app. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from http://newsroom.united.com/2014-08-20-United-Airlines-the-First-Airline-to-offer-Uber-Service-via-Mobile-App

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