Sabre Airline Solutions® has released a new whitepaper highlighting the business challenges faced by airlines in the area of customer data, retailing, and personalization. Brand differentiation and personalized sales and service are becoming increasingly strategic areas for leading airlines due to their market share and profit potential. In the whitepaper, Sabre discusses the unique complexities in the industry, analyzes new findings about revenue potential, and discusses ideal solutions for these problems in the market place.

The shopping and retailing behaviors of the customer are relevant at the individual level as well as the market level by looking at multiple customers and running analytics on selected attributes to identify trends and opportunities.

Executing a customer-centric retailing strategy based on a master customer profile empowers the airline to focus on individual customer needs when offering products and managing revenue, in addition to running analytics. If ancillary sales numbers are down in a particular region, O&D or overall product category, alerts can be triggered to identify the trend or root cause of the downturn before it reaches the market level.

For example, before sales of Wi-Fi fell on the Berlin to London route, Charles, Nancy and William declined to purchase the product, defying their historical purchase patterns. With “sense-and-respond” intelligent technology tied to the master customer profile, the airline can be alerted before the issue proliferates at the market level.

In the past, United Airlines would spend time analyzing historical customer data about customers’ choices at the market level to “see what the most successful products were, and market with those [insights] in mind,” said Scott Wilson. “Now we look at who the customer is and his or her propensity to buy certain products,” he explained.

This refreshed predictive analytics strategy has yielded the airline an ancillary revenue increase of more than 15 percent.

The next generation of customer-centric retailing technology will be based on the capability to influence a customer’s purchase decisions and future interests based on past behaviors using predictive inferences. By utilizing a database of master customer profiles and clustering customer groups across multiple dynamic profile attributes, algorithms can be fit to predict customer behavior and meet the unique business needs of an airline.


These types of predictive analytics can be optimized for recommendation engines as well, recommending products to customers based on like-behaving individual’s choices. Amazon has been using this type of technology, called “nearest neighbors” algorithms, for years. Sequencing analytics can also be run to predict, based on the historical purchase patterns and behavior of top customers, who the airline’s next wave of “best customers” might be. This empowers the airline to dedicate resources and strategic focus to those customers when they otherwise might not have done so, injecting the sales pipeline with a sustainable revenue stream.

All of these possibilities are attainable, though it will take best-in-class data and analytics technology to accomplish them. Unifying complex, data-creating system silos is incredibly challenging. Further, the creation of a solution that operates in real time to keep the data refreshed, with native integrations to all of these systems, is even more difficult. Overcoming these challenges is, however, the only way to truly personalize the entire travel journey for the customer. The customer-acquisition, ancillary-revenue and customer-loyalty opportunities for airlines are lucrative and boundless. And, the ability to reinvent the air travel experience with data-driven customer-service engagement and unique, intelligent retail offerings will separate the market leaders from the soon-to-be defunct.

To learn more, download the whitepaper!