The Age of The Connected Traveler: how mobile technologies impact the airline industry

In this insightful guest blog post, Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying gives us his take on the future of airline engagement programsand the importance of mobile technologies.

How will mobile technologies affect airline loyalty programs within the following 3 years?

This is the Age of The Connected Traveler. Airline marketers need to engage the traveler in a specific manner, especially via mobile phones, instead of only on social media and through website and emails. As the travelers become more connected than ever, a strong mobile strategy will allow airlines the ability to gamify loyalty for better engagement and drive goals through instant gratification. And that's why mobile will play a major role in driving loyalty in the next three years.

Mobile will be critical in driving loyalty from the connected traveler, in the age of instant gratification and gamification.

What challenges lie for airlines in this changing environment?

There are many opportunities for airlines to use mobile to build customer loyalty in the Connected Traveler Lifecycle. The challenge lies in identifying the stage that the airline is best able to add value and make a real impression. 

In the Connected Traveler Lifecycle developed by SimpliFlying, the traveler of today goes through four stages: he dreams of a trip, plans the trip, books the trip and finally travels on the trip. At each stage, he is empowered by technology and the ease of mobile devices to influence his friends by sharing information on his social networks. This could amplify the potential contribution to an airline’s bottom line. 

Airlines have opportunities to drive loyalty from the passenger at each of these touch points. They just need to identify their forte, be it in customer service or connectivity to specific destinations, and compete in the right spaces. 

Airlines must understand the Connected Traveler Lifecycle and identify which stage to compete in, when driving loyalty through mobile.

What will the benefits for early adopters be?

The best way to make a memorable impact on the customer is during the time that he is using your service. Virgin America is known for responding to Twitter comments from in-flight passengers. Part of the airlines' marketing efforts even encourages passengers to tweet when they are flying. Such 'in the moment' communication helps Virgin to establish a personal connection with its passengers and paves the way towards stronger customer loyalty.

Japan Airlines released an astonishing 10 mobile applications in 2012 - all of which are interconnected. In the last 18 months, the airline added over 700,000 fans on Facebook alone, and have recently been named the most engaged brand on Facebook in Japan. To airlines that are hesitant about taking the plunge into the social and mobile space, I'd say 'make small bets'. Some will fail, but you’ll gain trust and build a strong relationship with the customers.

Adopting mobile early in the strategy helps airlines build trust and familiarity, both of which are very important in customer loyalty. Start with small bets.