Retailers outside of the travel industry verticals have evolved the way in which they sell products and services, and now consumers expect airlines will merchandise in the same way.

Airlines must focus on becoming better retailers, according to Sabre Airline Solutions’ executive Dana Jones.

The chief marketing officer was addressing more than 300 airline commercial planning professionals at her company’s AirVision global conference in Vienna.

“Some of the best retailers in the world are amazing at targeting the right customer, at the right time, with the right product,” she said. “Sure, it sounds simple, but it is actually very challenging. Some of the best airlines already demonstrate a sound understanding of their customers. They know what the consumers’ intent is, and how to personalise that transaction. They are able to sell ancillaries in an integrated manner.”

Jones cited Disney as the benchmark for any business wanting to optimise their total revenue potential, saying the U.S. company knows how to get consumers to reach for their wallets and purses.

“Disney is phenomenal when it comes to revenue optimisation. It provides opportunities to spend at every turn, offering choice and value. Airlines need to look at its example and its methods in order to understand customers at a granular level. That will allow them to shape demand. It’s challenging, but getting it right drives revenue.”

Finally, Jones advised delegates to get to grips with predictive analytics if they want to achieve a competitive edge in their marketplaces. She told airlines to ask themselves about how to better understand customers and become amazing retailers.

“Being able to target at the right time with the right price takes a lot of knowledge and data. Not just structured data about their trips, which we already have, but unstructured data, such as social media, that can be mined. Big data techniques can enrich your structural data. It will put you in a much better position to understand insights and become the best marketeers.”