Digital Commerce has come of age

December 10, 2015

Digital commerce is how business gets done. The old tropes, what we once called ecommerce or online, and even stalwarts such as the "internet booking engine" indicate legacy thinking; the channel to the consumer is digitally enabled, the consumer is always connected. As such, how we present, manage and message the consumer has fundamentally changed.

According to eMarketers Forecast 2015 the current digital commerce market is valued at $1.6 trillion, growing at circa 25% per year. Of this travel represents $500 billion spend. It is estimated that in 2017, 3.5 billion people will travel, of which over 40% will conduct travel via a digital device. It is estimated that by 2034, travel as a category will increase to over 7.3 billion travelers.

Airlines have executed or are in the process of executing strategies to take on direct digital ownership of their website, mobile bookings suite and kiosks. These channels represent the 40%+ covered above. How do they go about capturing the remaining channels?

With this in mind I wanted to share some of Datalex’s thinking, and how Datalex is evolving its products with the goal of enabling airlines to embrace all of their potential digital commerce channels.

 

Brick and Mortar Innovations for Travel:

First, let's look to traditional, brick and mortar channels. Who is embracing digital commerce as a competitive advantage rather than as a tool to move away from physical space?

In his article Amazon can be stopped, John Bajorek of WD Partners highlights how we see incredible innovation orientated around simple concepts. Physical location is maximized to be a show room, a direct, social and tactile experience of the product brand, focused on maximizing value and conversion. Digital commerce is leveraged to transcend stock rooms, eliminate queues to pay, taking on delivery, recommendation and brand loyalty via in-store wifi and apps.

The key concept here is the revolution of high-touch environments and physical locations, while maximizing digital commerce capabilities, giving a competitive edge over Amazon.  For the airline this extends to the call center, the airport and the sharpest of sharp ends: the onboard experience.

 

The Call Center Digital Channel:

At Datalex we are delivering a new model for the call center experience centered around the customer to drive greater engagement, more conversion opportunities and leveraging digital commerce to address calls quicker with less systems training.

We observed a number of interesting trends at traditional airline call centers:

  1. The tools used by the call center were powerful yet slow, and struggled to present the same range of products as the airlines’ own websites (bundles/cross-sell/promotions).
  2. The customer was connected to the airlines’ digital experiences during the call, and in many cases the customer had parity access to fares and products, diminishing the value of the call center.
  3. The call center staff complemented their systems with an always-open view of the consumer facing website as a guide to offer, pricing and context in serving the customer.

The new Datalex Call Center product shares in the innovations traditional retailers are making. We leverage the airlines’ current consumer-facing technology to provide parity, speed and coverage of the airlines’ products. In addition the physical presence of the agent enables new super-user type functionality such as access to up-sell, ability to waive fees, override fares, manage discounts and perform low-level reservations processes, all via the simple web/app interfaces.

Our preliminary market tests show training times reduced from weeks to days with reduced call handling times (up to 80% in some cases) with the benefit of increases in call conversion and revenue.

 

The Onboard Digital Channel:

Extending the same themes again we are addressing the shortcomings of the current bevy of commerce tools employed by the airline onboard. Again we found that traditional systems, while "automated", were essentially offline, detached from how the consumer interacts with the ubiquitous commerce capabilities presented on their apps and websites.

The current tools were transactional in nature, with limited insight to the consumer, and little to no concept of the overall trip, journey or lifetime relationship with the customer.

The Datalex Customer View and Persona products give unparalleled access to the consumer’s history, reservations and intent, focused on extending and improving the onboard experience. The value driver here is leveraging the high-touch, personal environment to both inform and guide the airline staff to deliver a 1:1 experience, enabled by digital commerce.

 

What's Next?

There is no going back, digital commerce is how business will be done. The connected experience will be leveraged to allow retailers to reinvent and drive competitive value to their customers as shown in the examples above. At the center of this the airline must employ an omni-channel digital commerce engine to leverage the opportunity, and retire siloed/transactional systems.

At Datalex we are ready to embrace the airlines’ needs to develop greater affinity with the customer by extending the commerce suite to all channels, allowing the airline to control how much of its product can be tailored, based on audience, presence and service.

Are you ready?

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