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Show, don’t tell: How airlines can meet flight shoppers’ needs


The monumental shift to true airline retailing is happening right now. Airlines have made significant investments to differentiate their products in the market to meet traveler expectations.

However, this investment is not enough if the flight shopper is unable to recognize the differentiated travel experiences throughout their shopping journey. Commoditized shopping experiences focused solely on price and schedule continue to have negative effects on conversion rates, branded fare upsell, and ancillary attachment rates.

Flight shoppers’ expectations continue to evolve as they demand a better, more customized shopping experience. They want to understand their options through visually compelling offers that allow them to personalize their travel experience to best meet their needs. Plus, by meeting these consumer expectations and demands, an airline can also immediately improve its financial performance.

The time is NOW to transform to true airline retailing: Here’s the proof

In its most recent Board of Governors Report from the Annual General Meeting held in June 2022, IATA discussed continued progress toward true airline retailing and what that looks like for the entire airline industry.

Travelers want to see beyond the fare and schedule. They want to understand value and have choice and control over their flight experience. A price is not just a price, and it is no longer the most crucial piece of information to a flight shopper. Consumer research has shown a clear demand for more visuals, more transparency, and more choices.

IATA’s findings were further validated in McKinsey’s article: “Six secrets of profitable airlines,” where they reinforced that customers no longer shop for flights based solely on price and schedule.

Attributes like Wi-Fi availability, in-flight entertainment, seat details and maps, on-time performance, and even environmental impact affect a customer’s decision to purchase a ticket. Richer information and content are being shown to customers, helping them feel confident and satisfied about their purchase.

Alongside both IATA and McKinsey, ATPCO’s 2022 Annual Flight Shopping survey further validated the idea that flight shoppers expect more than just a price to make a purchase decision.

The results were obvious—80% of flight shoppers are more likely to book a flight with targeted visuals that effectively merchandise flight options over commoditized displays focused solely on price and schedule. They want visuals of seats, entertainment, sustainability efforts, and more.

And while a visual experience is clearly in demand for flight shoppers, it is also vital for airlines looking to realize the value of their product investments.

What does airline retailing transformation look like?

Customers want to visualize what they are buying before they buy it—this is what true airline retailing looks like. Showing rather than telling a flight shopper what their flight experience will be is the leading concept behind this transformation.

Customers are looking for choice and control and need to know what options are available to them. They want to tailor their experience to fit their unique needs. This type of selling creates a more cohesive, in-control feeling for the customer, and unlocks value creation by putting the customer experience first.

routehappy content booking experience visual

Consumer mindset has shifted to expect a modern booking experience that is fully branded with visual images and descriptions.

An essential component of this movement to true retailing is merchandising. Merchandising is “how” airlines are presenting these offers to customers in ways that resonate with what they want. It is the first step in differentiating and customizing the value of their unique offers.

Up to this point, many airlines have focused on offering more products to stand out among competitors and differentiate themselves, but there has been little emphasis on how they are presenting (merchandising) all these new options—or what their customers actually want and need to see. Ultimately, customers need to visually understand the differences between various products being offered. That is where Routehappy comes in.

Routehappy: The power behind modern airline merchandising

Routehappy enables modern airline merchandising. It offers immediate benefits by accelerating airline return on product investments through visually compelling imagery. Consumer satisfaction improves by meeting and exceeding their shopping experience demands.

routehappy content video visual
Video and 360 tours provide a more modern shopping experience—helps inform cabin experience, upsell and even complement ancillary sales.

Whether it is branded fares, premium cabin experiences, or ancillary services, Routehappy is the key to enhancing airline retailing. It is essential for unlocking powerful presentations of products.

routehappy content visualVisuals help customers clearly see the value of unique offers that more easily resonates and helps them visualize the flight experience.

By integrating Routehappy into your shopping experience, airlines can increase conversions and revenue all while creating the customer experience their consumers are craving. Start using Routehappy today to create the shopping experience your customers demand!

A version of this article first appeared on Phocuswire 16 August 2022.

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Ellen Lee

About Ellen Lee

Ellen brings more than 20 years of experience in airlines and hospitality to ATPCO.

Ellen started her career at American Airlines and Delta Air Lines in pricing and revenue management. At Orbitz, she helped to found the company’s business plan and eventually served there as Vice President, New Ventures & Business Development.

Ellen co-founded G2 SwitchWorks in 2004 with ATPCO CEO Alex Zoghlin, building a low-cost, feature-rich online travel distribution platform. Since then, Ellen held senior leadership roles at ADARA, Hyatt, and Alterra Mountain Company.

She holds an MBA in Marketing and International Business from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and BS degrees in Economics and Finance from Marquette University.