For one of the most unpredictable industries in the world, airlines have had a spell of good weather.
2017 年，航空运输业连续三年实现了超过其资金成本的回报率，而据国际航空运输协会 (IATA) 预测，在2018 年，这一良好势头将继续延续下去。
2017 was the third consecutive year the air transport industry generated a rate of return that exceeded its cost of capital, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects 2018 to mark the fourth.
在亚太地区，航空业发展势头不断增强。据估计，亚太地区航空公司 2017 年的净利润高达63亿美元，净利率达 2.9%，在所有地区排名中高居第二。
In Asia Pacific, the growth story continues on an upward trajectory. Asia Pacific airlines are expected to generate a net profit of $6.3 billion in 2017 for a net margin of 2.9%, the second highest among the regions.
Home to three of the top five fastest growing passenger markets in the world ? China, India and Indonesia ? this is truly the region to be.
But the good times are not without some dark clouds. Infrastructure constraints could hinder growth if not addressed by all stakeholders, competition continues to put downward pressure on profit, and rising fuel prices will be watched closely.
On the flip side, I see a deep hunger for innovation in this region. In my conversations with airlines here, Digital Transformation, Merchandising and Disruption Management have been top of the agenda.
Many are embarking on turnaround transformation initiatives, driven by a real will to address competition but above all to improve the customer experience.
Indeed, I would argue that the impetus to achieve that is greater here, as the Asian market expects and demands the high service levels that Asian airlines have come to be known for.
But it will take reinvention, transformation and a greater focus on customers than before.
Finding the sweet spot
Unlike brands outside the aviation industry, airlines have for a long time been able to compete without needing to intimately understand their customers.
Before the emergence of low-cost airlines and their early adoption of sophisticated marketing techniques, consumers didn’t always have a lot of choice in terms of who to fly with, or how they could buy an airline product.
但今天，情况已有所不同。尽管如今旅行的人数比以往任何时候都要多，但实则其中 50%至80% 的乘客并非经常出行。在日益饱和的市场中，客户忠诚度也难以捉摸。
But the story has changed today. And while more people are travelling than ever before, the reality is that 50-80% of them are infrequent travelers. In an increasingly saturated market, loyalty can prove elusive.
最近，新加坡航空公司与 Grab 联合推出奖励积分兑换计划，亚航BIG忠诚度计划推出电子商店在线购物平台，这些都是航空公司探索创新方法以赢得并留住客户的典型例子。
The recent Singapore Airlines and Grab tie-up on reward points conversion and AirAsia BIG Loyalty’s eStore online shopping platform launch are examples of airlines exploring creative ways to win customers and keep them coming back for more.
But the crux of the challenge lies in working out what customers truly value at the moment they are making that all-important purchase.
In our recent report, ‘Embracing airline digital transformation’, we introduced the ‘product vs service vs convenience’ axis.
We found that more than price alone, the value for each traveler lies in the sweet spot where they feel that the balance between product (“It’s a long flight ? I want as much legroom as possible”), service (“I want to feel like my holiday has started as soon as I step on the plane”) and convenience (“I need a direct flight; I don’t have time for a stopover”) is achieved.
56 percent of travelers said the entire package was important to them, while only 26 percent valued the lowest price the most.
It’s worth noting that depending on their particular reason for travel and unique situation, the equilibrium between these three elements will shift.
For example, a new mother travelling with a baby is likely to be very focused on the service experience. However, that same mother travelling for business will value convenience much more, e.g. flight time, ease of booking and distance from the airport.
For airlines, identifying that sweet spot for each individual traveler every time they make a booking, and being ready to respond with relevant offers that will deliver something of value to them, then and there, will be critical to winning the customer over.
To deliver this the airline will need a range of building blocks in place:
A strong omni-channel digital marketing strategy；Vast amounts of data enabling them to understand the individual traveler；Merchandising strategies designed for core customer segments and personas；A clear understanding of their brand and brand proposition.
Owning data is only one part of the equation ? all airlines have massive amounts of data. The winners will be those who can integrate it and use it effectively across the business. To do that requires Digital Transformation.
Airlines need to rethink their businesses from the ground up
We have entered the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ ? the era of datafication, constant connectivity and digital workforces.
The reality for airlines today is that they are not competing with each other, nor are they competing with what existed before.
In this era, they are competing with every other aspect of the world customers live in: smart appliances connected to the ever-growing Internet of Things; apps that let you get exactly what you want, in a single swipe;
以及登录 Netflix 或亚马逊帐户，便可即时获得根据您的偏好而定制的高度相关内容等等。
and logging on to a Netflix or Amazon account and instantly being presented with highly relevant content, tailored to your preferences.
Harnessing the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution requires Digital Transformation ? not an end in itself, nor a means to modernize isolated functions, but a journey that will challenge airlines to rethink their business from the ground up.
In fact, many airlines already have a clear vision and design for the customer experience of the future ? what they may not have is the technology, processes or the right skill sets to implement it.
Cultural resistance, legacy technologies and operation silos are real barriers. Yet change must happen.
Silos must be broken down to enable a new level of data-driven collaboration across all airline functions, with people, processes, technology and culture working in tandem.
Only when they are able to look at the same information and work collaboratively towards the same goals, can the entire airline including flight and ground operations, marketing, sales and customer service come together to deliver a more unique and seamless customer experience.
And this must start at the top, with leadership showing real commitment to drive real change.
What’s clear is that it won’t be long before airlines run out of runway to prepare for changes that are either already here or looming on the horizon.
The good news is that many airlines are already embarking on their Digital Transformation journeys, though at varying stages and at different paces.
There’s a real drive to put customers back at the heart of everything they do, and we believe there’s an opportunity to see Asian airlines lead in this area.
Virtual reality, augmented reality, chatbots and biometrics, which were once envisioned only in movies or prototypes, are now among the rising tech trends that have the potential to further reshape the customer experience in coming years.
Blockchain technology can also help airlines interact with partners such as hotels, cars and tours in real-time during the pre- to post- flight to enrich the overall traveler experience, such as upgrading a hotel room or providing an airport transfer.
Whatever new trends emerge, ultimately it all boils down to putting the traveler at the center of everything we do.
The road ahead is full of exciting possibilities. And in knowing the customer, pursuing collaboration internally and externally, and investing in the right technologies, airlines can take flight and be at the forefront of this digital revolution.
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编辑 / 李丹丹
来源 / 经济日报（记者陈颐、朱琳）