Retailing for recovery: Messaging dos and don'ts
As an industry and as individuals, we’re coming to terms with the changed priorities and new conditions that we’ll face for months or even years to come. We are watching government and industry task forces start to build global cooperation and align on standards, strategic priorities, and policies to enable a safe return to air travel. Meanwhile, travel is cited as the uppermost missed leisure activity across countries, age groups, and income levels, according to research into consumer sentiment. Yet, despite a desire to travel:
- An average of 33% of consumers anticipated spending “a lot less than usual” on travel, while 23% anticipated spending “somewhat less than usual” in a survey covering Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US.
- 86% of travelers are either very or somewhat concerned about getting the virus while traveling.
- The percentage of travelers that now view it as safe to travel internationally has doubled, but is still only at 12%, according to research carried out by Skyscanner over 27 and 28 May 2020.
Creating customer-centric messaging
How can we work together to prepare customers for the new requirements placed on us all, without overwhelming them logistically or emotionally? How can we attract travelers back onto airplanes, while acknowledging that the experience is likely to be both less familiar and hospitable because of service changes?
Do: Educate travelers as far in advance as possible about the changes that will affect their journey and all new requirements. Be clear whether quarantine restrictions are in place, masks will be provided, and if so, for free or for a fee. Describe service changes, such as different meal and beverage availability, and let customers know whether cabin baggage is permitted. With UPAs, you can provide the ability to target this information by origin and destination, subfleet, route, length of flight, and more.
Do: Communicate the steps being taken to keep everyone safe. Explain them as simply as possible being mindful that too much medicalization could cause some people to switch off. Using icons or infographics can help keep messaging easy to absorb.
Do: Highlight changes that benefit customers such as free seat selection, free drinks, or no charge for additional baggage, and be sure that your amenities and pricing data is updated to reflect these offers.
Do: Recognize that customer needs and comfort vary by region and demographics. Shifting disease patterns may result in fluctuating optimism or anxiety levels. Relevant, personalized and targeted messaging will help build trust.
Don’t: Confuse or anger customers by making promises that may be hard to keep, such as the provision of free masks or empty middle seats.
Don’t: Underestimate the added stress and confusion travelers are likely feeling in this new world. Showing that you understand and care can help customers feel more ready to take on the challenges of traveling.
How ATPCO Retailing can help channels and airlines communicate complicated changes quickly
Throughout the cascade of changes over the past few months, communication from airline to flight shopper has needed to pivot at speed. We’ve supported this agility for airlines and channels in a variety of ways:
- Ensured integrity of our Amenities. As airlines drastically altered their food and beverage offerings for hygiene and security purposes, the published changes often varied from the actual on-board food product. By proactively working with several airlines, we’ve ensured our amenity data matches what the airlines deploy for accurate passenger communication on sales channels. We continuously research and refresh Amenities to ensure their accuracy, but always welcome direct updates from airlines.
- Created and published Reassurance UPAs for over 100 airlines, for free. Reassurance UPAs encourage travelers to book by explaining cancellation and rebooking fee waivers, build trust by describing cleaning protocols, and educate with important information about new processes such as quarantine, required PPE, or fever screenings.
- Continued to provide simplified communication of fare benefits and restrictions. UTAs (Universal Ticket Attributes) simplify the communication of ticketing rules that airlines file with ATPCO, such as advance change or cancellation, or checked and carry-on baggage allowances and fees. Clear and accurate information helps customers to shop and minimizes unnecessary stress.
At a time of many unknowns, two things are certain: there remains an underlying desire to travel, and travelers want and need to be able to trust in airlines’ duty of care. Airlines and airline partners who can demonstrate leadership in this domain as true champions of their passengers' wellbeing will bolster traveler confidence, build brand loyalty, and help pave the way for a long-lasting recovery.