< PrevNext > The Journey Starts When You’re Flight Shopping By ATPCO CCO Jonathan Savitch / January 24, 2020 Share While boarding a flight, I typically try and figure out the reasons my fellow passengers might be traveling. The personas seem endless: operations people, lawyers, unaccompanied kids, traveling families, business-savvy road warriors, snowbirds, etc. Clearly, we each have specific preferences but here we are—together in the same cabin and flight. While I love the universality of that experience, I also wonder: Are we bound by common preferences or just limited by the options of price and schedule? I think we’re at an inflection point in 2020; decommodification of air travel is finally becoming a reality. This naturally starts with the way in which airlines present and sell products to individual travelers. There are, of course, the myriad ways we pick bags and seats. But beyond that, I expect we’ll see broader offerings around Wi-Fi, meals, lounges, boarding, seat selection, mileage, booze and who knows what else. But all that depends on travelers even knowing that a given product exists during the shopping experience. What I find most common walking down the jetway is that almost all those personas are just then learning about the customer experience. Only while boarding the aircraft do they learn about in-seat power, Wi-Fi, food and the rest of it. This is our market failure: How could we optimize the price or bundled offer without presenting its value during the shopping experience? And, just as importantly, how will we do that quickly and compellingly? As things stand, our industry seems fixated by price optimization at the expense of rich, comprehensive and comparable shopping displays. That’s our 2020 inflection point and my prediction is that this year will mark the moment when pairing price with picture—figuratively and literally—is commonplace. This isn’t new. All related industries have tackled this problem to create a shopping experience where individual consumers wade through options and eventually answer the key question of “this is the right experience for me at the right price.” How do they do it? The heart of product design is to create a product that is mass-bespoke for a statistically identifiable segment. That may sound like a contradiction, but it’s not. It means that a given product design and associated marketing campaigns are targeted throughout the shopping journey, from consideration set (e.g. multi-carrier search results) to the fulfilled product choice (e.g. confirmation page or referral link). Air travel is no different and the personas I saw in line are probably universal. The key here is going from airline brand level (banner ads of aircraft for a destination) to the flight level (morning coffee and breakfast on that NYC-ORD flight). That evolution means targeting shoppers with photos and messaging which communicate the actual passenger experience for that specific flight. If Amazon and Lowes can do it for a $2.00 box of nails—showcasing 10 photos, product specifications, and 100 user reviews—surely we can do so for a $400 flight. Beyond that, we need to bring clarity so shoppers can compare like for like. We’re way past the old cabin designations and I don’t mean just premium economy. All the key attributes—seat selection, boarding, baggage rule and seat attributes—need to be available and shop-able. Eventually, a shopping channel should know my own preferences and display the ones that matter to me in my road warrior persona. My “Dad shopping for the kid” persona should, by definition present a different recommendation. Getting there is, as cliché as it sounds, a journey. Our industry now has the technological pipes to decommoditize flight shopping. We now need airlines, channels and technology providers to take advantage of them.