I was talking to a friend of mine who has become quite well paid and famous for taking someone he was passionate in, and concentrating on it. And in the same vane, I’ve decided I want to focus on Airline Innovation, something I hold dear to my heart.
The first idea I want to elaborate is bookings for one. When I say bookings for one, I’m really focusing on market segmentation and understanding our customers. So let’s think of some typical single travellers:
- A Solo Traveller on their Overseas Experience, going to a specific location but not really knowing anyone;
- A Business Traveller on a regular travel excursion, who isn’t really looking forward to travelling;
- A Solo Traveller heading somewhere for personal or family reasons, and is thinking about things other than travelling;
- A Solo Traveller heading on an impromptu holiday or quick get a way, and is really excited about the whole experience.
So we’ve created four personas. Let’s flesh these out a little more.
Our Solo Traveller on their Overseas Experience (OE) is called Lisa. Lisa’s 18, and from Hull, England. She’s on her gap year between high school and university and has decided to head to Australia and New Zealand. While everyone wants to head to Australia, she’s decided to head to New Zealand because she knows a New Zealand exchange student here, and has heard the weather here’s great!
Well let’s think about what she cares about:
I’m heading to New Zealand, but I don’t know much about the place. I know some family there, and I’ve seen roughly what to do in Rotorua and Queenstown, but I’m a little apprehensive about what to see there, do there, and make new friends there.
Awesome, thanks Lisa.
So as an airline, what can we do to make Lisa’s experience a great one with us?
- What if we knew about other people around Lisa’s age and demographic that are also flying to New Zealand? Perhaps we could get these people to get in contact with each other and share their experiences? While some airlines allow customers to talk to each other on the plane, that’s not a great place to break the ice. Perhaps we could create a community site to say to Lisa “Hey, you’ve told us you’re heading on your OE to New Zealand. We know of three or four other people who are doing this as well on your flight. Would you like to be able to talk to them to share your experiences and feelings with them?” Of course there are privacy implications to this, but what we’re really trying to do is link strangers together who are sharing similar experiences. This happens in backpacker dorms and Internet forums throughout the world, so why not shift that to our site where our knowledge of the customer can provide a better experience than some other forum?
- Another aspect of travelling on an OE is building up to the experience of the OE. There’s a lot to think about and plan for. Perhaps we could contact Lisa occasionally over a long period of time (maybe as soon as she registers as doing an OE) and help her plan and build up the experience? We could tell Lisa about getting ready for visas, great things to see and do, things to look out for, planning for safety, useful things to take over, things she’s likely to see on the plane, and great deals from our partners for items that’s going to make her experience better. This way the airline becomes more than just a transportation service, it becomes a travel experience. In addition, we can create really good deals with partnership companies that provide value to Lisa by giving her the opportunity to purchase items that would suit her destination, and also provide those partnership companies a really strong channel with which to sell their products. It’s win-win-win for everyone.
Alright, let’s look at our business passenger. His name is Jarvis, and he’s an Accounts Executive. He’s 30, and hails from Vancouver Canada. He’s a regular business class passenger, but as the recession has hit, corporate travel has now shifted towards Economy Class. He travels a lot, has an Airpoints account which is regularly accessed, and is well versed with airport lounges.
Well let’s think about what he cares about:
I’m heading to New Zealand on a business trip. Third time this year. It’s such a long journey, I’m really starting to get sick of it. Getting to the airports so early, killing time shopping in duty free, I just want to be there, and to get on with my job. The whole travel experience is just another part of my job.
Well at least Jarvis is honest.
So as an airline, what can we do to make Jarvis’s experience a pain-free passionate experience?
- Acknowledge that Jarvis does a lot of travelling with us, regardless of the particular class. So perhaps we need to create a frequent flier programme for people who do a lot of economy class flying, and create them a ‘business class-lite’ experience. Perhaps we could remember that Jarvis’s favourite meal is Hawaiian Pizza and let him know in advance that we can make sure we have this available for him on his flight.
- One other industry that has a lot of similar competitors is telecommunications. One method they use to reduce ‘churn’ or customers swapping from one carrier to another is by creating a secret value for each customer called ‘retention’. This value increases the longer a customer sticks with a carrier, and the more a customer spends with that carrier. That retention account is then used to spend rewards on the customer, such as random upgrades to business class, or priority seat selection, or a special one off discount, or perhaps even two for the price of one.
- Another method telecommunications carriers use is long term contracts with penalties for breaking them. If people are commuting, perhaps we need to consider commuter discounts, which allow people to book 10 or more flights for the same time over a recurring period, such as a week, or month, and then provide them a value discount, or a free upgrade, or a better selection of entertainment, or better food, or a free upgrade to a Skycouch, or some other reward method to say, you’ve paid in advance for 10 flights. For committing to us in advance, we’ll reward you as such.
Next lets consider the reluctant solo traveller. Her name is Shanti, and she is coming to New Zealand to visit relatives who moved here a long time ago. She’s not really keen on flying, and doesn’t enjoy it a lot. This is her second flight overseas, and has taken a while to save up for this. She misses home.
Well let’s think about what she cares about:
I’m heading to New Zealand to visit the relatives. I haven’t seen them in ages. It’s taken me quite some time to save up for this, and I’m unlikely to do this again any time soon. I wouldn’t consider myself in a tourist sense, really just someone who wants to see my newborn nephew.
A challenge for an airline is to connect with this passenger. So once again, what can we do to make Shanti’s experience a memorable experience?
- Shanti is a reluctant passenger focused on the end goal, which is meeting the relatives. But perhaps we can interest and excite her on other things she could see and do on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. If we know roughly where she’s going to be, and for how long, perhaps we could tell her about experiences she could do within the timeframes she has available? If she’s told us of her interests then we could find those experiences in another country to really say “This is the time to go and check out these things to experience what the world has to offer”.
- If we knew Shanti’s food and entertainment preferences, we could make sure that she had something familiar on her flight, so that she finds the flight comforting, rather than focusing on any particular negative experiences such as the crowds of the airport.
- Do we know where Shanti is ultimately going? She might be going to a destination that is served by a competitor, and not one served by us. That’s OK, as long as we know that, then perhaps there is information we could tell her about her destination, or how to get there, or connections she needs to make to make her experience relatively stress free. Airports and travel is a stressful experience for people who aren’t used to it and fear it – correspondingly we must provide as much information and reassurance as necessary to make sure that the experience is as painless as possible. Perhaps we need to provide more information or even a concierge service that guides people through airports?
Finally, there’s our impromptu tourist, Ben! Ben grabbed a super cheap discount flight at the last minute. Ben’s a guy who watches Grabaseat religiously, has a bit of cash available, and a bit of annual leave at work. In other words, Ben’s flexible, and ready to travel anywhere with a day’s notice.
What’s on Ben’s mind?
I love travelling! I love the experience of planning travel, of thinking about the destination, of going through customs, and most of all, sitting in that seat, and feeling the acceleration of the plane and knowing we’re taking off and landing in some exotic destination. I don’t really care where I’m going, I just want to travel!
That’s awesome Ben! So how can we as an airline make Ben’s experience even better?
- Ben’s a person who is highly comfortable travelling, and researching. Perhaps we can give Ben lots of insider information about some of the best things to do to where he’s going with a limited amount of time, or on a certain budget. By coupling with local businesses in that location, we could provide Ben with a local experience better than what he could discover himself through his own research, which saves Ben time, gives those companies a new customer, and ensures that Ben sticks with us for his random flights. Win-win-win.
- We could create a special type of standby fare to a random destination for when seats are available, which should work for a traveller who is more interested in the travel experience than the destination. That way we can steer passengers from popular to less well known yet just as interesting and engaging destinations. This way we can better balance our load to various destinations, including increasing revenue to less profitable routes.
- We could provide a destination online that allows Ben to easily look at other people’s travel experiences to that location, and share his experiences to others who are interested in going there. That way we get a community of interested people who all have one thing in common – their love of travel and of that destination.
- We could provide Ben with some incentives or rewards for creating content that we could use in promotional or marketing materials, essentially turning passengers into brand ambassadors, all for a lower cost than a formal marketing campaign.
So to summarise:
- Solo travellers are an important part of the market to focus on;
- We can create communities to make travel a more social experience to solo travellers;
- Each solo traveller has different wants and needs which must be catered differently;
- Small improvements could make all the difference between a customer choosing our airline, or our competitors;
- Making personas is a fun experience and great for brainstorming!