As an Airline, which Retailer are you like?

On the 18-20th June, airlines at the Air Transport IT Summit will be reflecting on how IT can help them boost their profitability and efficiency, and bring about better ways of working. As Chair of SITA, the air transport provider, I will be host at the Summit.

Among the many topics, ancillary sales will be one area under scrutiny at the event. With the airline industry as a whole just about achieving profitability in tough conditions – including slowing economic growth and rising oil prices – ways of boosting revenues through retailing are clearly high on the industry’s agenda.

I believe there are real opportunities here for airlines. Ancillary sales are claimed to have delivered as much as 5% of global airline revenues in 2012, according to estimates from IdeaWorksCompany. At the same time, 100% of airlines now have a presence online in the ‘virtual high street’, selling through their web sites, according to the Airline IT Trends Survey by SITA and Airline Business.

So many airlines are focused on ways of increasing retail revenues. In addition to the web, airlines now have new passenger systems, big data, social media and other new technologies at their disposal, which can enable them to become much more effective air transport retailers.

What do I mean by this?  Airlines will be able to make personalised offers to passengers, presenting an array of additional products and services that can be bought and making recommendations to customers in ways similar to Amazon and other retailers. There are opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell every time a passenger interacts digitally with the airline. Harnessing social media and big data will also enable airlines to look beyond their immediate loyalty programmes and target other potential customers with customized smart offers.

But I have a word of caution. While the technologies are definitely there to enable increase retail activity, airlines need to be sure of what their customers will or won’t find acceptable when they receive a targeted offer. There are boundaries. So before you embark on this journey of ‘retail enablement’, as an airline find your retailer analogy and ask yourself: which retailer are you like?

The topic will be discussed in detail in the next issue of Air Transport IT Review, to be available at the time of the Air Transport IT Summit.  

You can join the conversation on the Linked In ‘Air Transport Information Technology’ group. 
http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=4443272&type=member&item=240648445&qid=55bb10fc-c497-42ef-a981-8dd3d6f31719&trk=group_most_recent_rich-0-b-ttl&goback=.gsm_4443272_1_*2_*2_*2_lna_PENDING_*2.gmr_4443272.gde_4443272_member_240648445.gmr_4443272

And you can follow this year’s IT Summit at #ATIS2013

About paulcoby
I am CIO at the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. I was Chair of SITA - the airline solutions company owned by the Air Transport Community - for 11 years. I am also on the Boards of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Pets at Home. Previously I was Head of BA Services and for 10 years CIO at British Airways. I am interested in Roman and Military History. The views expressed are entirely my own not my employers.

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