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NEWS Last modified on December 9, 2015

personalisation, biometrics and trust will shape the travel experience of the future – new survey

A new travel survey claims that many consumers will be hesitant to adopt futuristic technologies and quick to dismiss traditional customer experience strategies.

The findings, based on the feedback of new Boxever survey of more than 500 airline customers, seem to contradict the way the aviation industry is going in terms of increasingly looking to implement new technologies that improve the customer experience and differentiate the airline brands.

The issue, according to Boxever’s research, is that many airlines are overlooking the most basic elements of brand adoption: personalisation and trust.

In fact, when asked about frequent flier programmes, only 28% of travellers surveyed believe that being a member leads to more personalised service and a better customer experience.

Even more alarming for airlines, the survey says, only 43% of millennials are members of frequent flier programmes today, and just 22% of all passengers said they care about whether their preferred carrier is offered when they are making travel arrangements.

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“Tactics that were once viewed as a must-have, such as a loyalty programsmes, are losing effectiveness because they fail to put the customer first,” says Dave O’Flanagan, co-founder and CEO of Boxever, a predictive marketing and customer intelligence company for travel providers.

“It’s become increasingly evident that winning and losing customers today and in the future hinges on earning trust and creating personalized and memorable experiences that more directly meet the needs of today’s travellers.”

According to the survey, beyond loyalty programmes, as airports and airlines consider where and how they can improve the travel experience, understanding consumer interest around new technologies and approaches is critical.

When asked which futuristic technologies and offerings would improve the travel experience:

  • 57% said in-flight cabins and seating arranged by function, such as specific areas for family, business, sleep and entertainment
  • 55% identified biometrics – such as the use of fingerprints and retina scans – for check-in, security and boarding
  • 38% said self-driving cars that drop travelers off and pick them up at the airport
  • 36% identified travel websites that use advanced intelligence and predictive technology to automatically book flights and travel based on an individual’s needs, schedule and preferences
  • 31% said robots that automate the check-in, security, boarding and customer service process

“Today’s travellers care a lot more about the actual experience than the technology powering it,” says O’Flanagan.

“It doesn’t matter how advanced or futuristic airlines and travel providers become. At the end of the day, what truly matters is creating personalised, one-to-one experiences for each and every customer – across all channels, and at every stage of the travel lifecycle.”
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Biometrics: Adoption challenges on the horizon

While airlines, airports and governments continue to look for new ways to integrate fingerprints and facial recognition into the security, customs and boarding processes, it may take longer than expected for travellers to get on board with the idea.

According to Boxever’s survey, fewer than 50% of passengers said they’d trust airlines with fingerprints for identification purposes.

Security is a major concern when it comes to biometrics. But, perhaps most alarming for airline executives, is the news that for many travellers the resistance goes beyond security.

For the survey reveals that many passengers don’t trust airlines to handle sensitive and personal data like fingerprints, 49% of them stating that they doubted that the use of fingerprints would actually improve the travel experience.

However, Boxever found that the story changes when travellers are assured that the use of biometrics would expedite travel processes, enhance security, and improve the overall travel experience.

In that case:

  • 64% of travellers would feel comfortable using fingerprints to get through security lines without the use of other identification
  • 61% would use fingerprints to check-in for their flight
  • 54% would ditch the boarding pass and use fingerprints to board the plane
  • Only 33% would feel comfortable using fingerprints to pay for goods and services

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The inflight experience

From Uber and Lyft to Airbnb, the sharing economy is taking over the travel industry, and it’s only a matter of time before the inflight experience starts to change.

Looking 10 years out, more than 20% of travellers believe that an Uber/Lyft approach to air travel would improve the travel experience. 

While the complexities of setting up an Uber/Lyft-like arrangement for air travel are obvious, in the near term, Boxever claims that it’s more likely that the sharing economy will first impact the inflight experience through service sharing.

In fact, nearly 40% of travellers would consider partaking in inflight services if offered by other passengers in their flight.

And of the passengers that expressed an interest in inflight shared services, Boxever found that the most in-demand services would be massages (68%), manicures and pedicures (37%), business networking (27%), haircut/beautician services (23%) and technical/job training (18%).

“Advancements across mobile, digital and analytics present tremendous opportunities for airlines and travel retailers to improve the end-to-end travel experience, compete more effectively, and earn consumer trust and loyalty,” enthuses O’Flanagan.

“To stand out, travel providers need to deeply understand their customers’ preferences and expectations, and deliver meaningful experiences that establish trusting relationships and keep travelers coming back.”

For the full survey results and a look at consumer sentiment toward the future of travel, the full report can be downloaded at: Change is in the Air: Airlines and Travel Retailers Challenged to Answer the Call for Convenience, Customization & Trust in Travel – Today and in the Future.

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