2017 Predictions: An Exciting Year for Airports
The end of 2016 saw several challenges for the travel industry with a rise in crude oil prices prompting a hike in fuel charges for the first time in two years alongside an increase in employment costs for many airlines. However, as we move into the New Year, airports are looking forward, focusing on advanced technologies to improve passenger experience and meet increasingly complex service expectations. 2016 was awash with technology buzzwords such as Big Data, but what do the latest developments in technology really mean for airports in the year ahead?
Big Data, Big Deal
With much data in the hands of the airlines, airports still have work to do to get up to speed with other industry sectors. Software tools such as Rezcomm’s travel and parking solutions are invaluable in streamlining passenger experience, and in providing an opportunity for data capture. Travel and parking integrate seamlessly into the airport website, offering a straightforward, attractive customer interface. This data can be used to offer a personalised customer experience, essential in today’s high-expectation market place. Benefits range from ancillaries and upselling through knowing the customer demographic to providing a smoother time at the airport. For example, data can be used to predict queues, meaning an airport can plan resources to keep lines short. If a long wait is predicted at security, more security staff can be deployed.
The App That’s Not an App
The mobile market is saturated with apps. Getting an app onto a customer’s phone is now almost redundant due to lack of frequency of use. However, it is more important than ever that the customer receives the right information at the right time. Passengers expect a personalised experience with push notifications and flight and airport information at their fingertips. The Progressive Web App (PWA) bridges the gap between mobile and large format systems, providing the convenience of an app without necessitating a visit to the App Store for a download. A PWA uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like experience to users; it’s a website built using web technologies that acts and feels like an app. This not only matches user expectation, with mobile overtaking fixed Internet access as long ago as 2014, it saves on the cost of running a separate website and mobile app.
Artificial Intelligence - A No-Brainer
Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and machine learning are no longer futuristic; they’re here and they’re developing fast. According to research firm Markets and Markets, the AI market will grow from $420 million in 2014 to $5.05 billion by 2020. Marketers will use AI as a source of valuable user information, enabling the most effective personalised marketing campaigns. Chatbots foster intelligent conversations with users about anything from online booking to itinerary status. KLM Airlines’ chatbot even allows users to request their boarding pass through the Facebook Messenger App. And according to Gartner, specialists in market research, "The more advanced techniques move beyond traditional rule-based algorithms to create systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously.” As with data collected through other software systems, it is important to implement a CRM system such as that offered by Rezcomm to use the data for optimum results. It’s what you do with it that counts.
Another technology being snapped up by the travel industry is the voice-powered search. New tools such as Amazon’s Echo device allow customers to use voice technology to do anything from ordering groceries to booking a flight, the main benefit to Amazon being that Echo makes it incredibly easy to buy stuff, especially from Amazon. Increasingly, user expectation of mobile devices is more voice based, but this will require airports to educate customers to provide the right responses. Voice based interactions can’t be structured in the same way as other forms. However, it is clear, typing text into tiny boxes is a thing of the past and passengers expect airport mobile interfaces to keep up.
AI, most familiar to science fiction fans in the form of robotics, is not new, but the rapid pace of advancement makes this an area to look out for. Geneva Airport launched its first trial of a customer service robot in 2013 and in 2015 KLM launched trials of its game-changing Spencer robot at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. As we move into 2017, LG has just released two robots, one designed as an airport guide and another specifically to clean airports. Feed your boarding pass to the Airport Guide robot and it will tell you how to get to your gate and when your flight will depart. It can even respond to your voice, tell you the weather at your destination, and offer directions in English, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese or Korean.
Virtual reality (VR) offers passengers the opportunity to try before they buy. Again it’s not a new idea: Marriott Hotels was marketing honeymoon holidays using VR in 2014. Immersing customers in the sights and sounds of a destination can significantly boost sales. More recently, airlines Lufthansa and Delta have engaged VR to allow customers to experience different cabin classes.
The biometric market is growing, and with rising passenger numbers and concerns about security, biometric scanning provides a popular solution. The market for biometric systems is growing fast. According to research firm MarketsandMarkets, it’s expected to reach $24.4bn by 2020, with travel and immigration identified as the leading application markets. The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) passenger projections calculated 7 billion people flying by 2034, twice as many as the 3.5 billion in 2015. One way to meet this challenge could be the complete automation of air border control by using face-scanning software. Concerns over data storage and personal privacy have yet to be resolved, but biometric technologies continue to develop, looking to strike a balance between a smooth passenger experience and infallible security.
Smart Baggage Solutions
Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will become much more common. Already in use at Hong Kong International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, 2016 saw the technology rolled out by major international airline, Delta, who have announced a $50 million investment in RFID at 344 stations throughout the globe with more to follow. This technology falls under another buzzword, Internet of Things (IoT). RFID offers benefits for passengers and airlines, with increased operational efficiency, fewer departure delays, reduced costs and greater customer satisfaction.
As we step into the New Year, advances in technology are not likely to slow down any time soon. Why not speak to Rezcomm today and find out what we can do to help you maximise your revenue potential and customer relationships.