With 90% of airline travelers looking to use their mobile devices pre-, during and post-trip for activities that involve flight searches, booking, updates and boarding passes, airlines must be prepared for the on-the-go passengers they hope to reach in a huge market.
Many airlines are making foundational moves into the mobile era with a focus on connectivity and in-flight entertainment and apps that provide basic information or services, such as flight schedules, fares and connectivity.
But this first-level approach should be the stepping stone toward a broader retail mentality among airlines for all ancillary transactions, and a broader definition of ancillary.
Airlines should extend their thinking beyond selling more legroom, overhead bin space or a day pass to the airport lounge. A typical journey involves so many touchpoints beyond the airport or aircraft, so why aren’t more airlines pursuing more opportunities to cater to their passengers' need for seamless, secure, on-the-go transactions from their mobile devices throughout the journey, at home, in the airport, at their destination?
Mobile commerce and payment innovation offer airlines an important and still largely untapped opportunity for new revenues. Airlines’ embrace of a retail selling mentality, supported by new mobile technology, can also bring them closer to their passengers.
Airlines need to give passengers reasons to turn mobile wallet use into an ingrained habit. The most functional mobile commerce solutions are those that focus on core tactics:
Turn lookers into bookers. Airlines should use a process (with incentives, if appropriate) that facilitates the conversion of interested consumers into paying passengers.
Improve acceptance of secure payment transactions that are free of slowdowns, delays and re-entry of the same data into different platforms for the same purchase.
Support a range of alternate payment methods and digital wallets including Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, MasterPass, Visa Checkout, Amex Express Checkout. Airlines that make it easy for passengers to buy directly from them will see passengers seek out those airlines first.
There's very little legwork required, either. Today's traveler is already accustomed to relying on mobile devices for everyday activities, whether booking a ride-share or shopping on Amazon from a smartphone. These other industries have raised the innovation bar, and many airlines find themselves in a constant state of catch- up.
To ensure long-term success, airlines must build up their e-commerce technology platform, sharpen business ownership of key processes related to customer experience, and adopt a proactive “retail” selling mentality to capture the true revenue potential of mobile commerce and payment innovation.