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.

Attempting to personalize a traveler’s journey is automated guesswork without comprehensive data about that individual. For too long, technology has been unable to empower airlines with a full view of their customer. The combination of transactional, operational, social, behavioral and many other data sources with real-time relevance will be the key differentiator for airlines. Using data to drive uniquely targeted customer offers has shown an ROI of 22 percent or higher for some airlines. Leading airlines such as Southwest, United Airlines, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America have been early movers in the utilization of a master customer profile to power their personalized customer experience and retailing strategies.

“A holistic view of the customer needs to be considered,” said Stéphanie Joly, head of online experience for SWISS International Air Lines. “It’s essential for an integrated online experience, which requires a common understanding and interdisciplinary cooperation.”

This “master customer profile” is the key piece needed to become a customer-centric retailing airline. Many airlines are not able to identify customers if they are not part of their loyalty program. Ideally, a master customer profile enables this ability by creating full profiles for all customers, not just loyalty program members.

What is a master customer profile? Ideally, a 360-degree view includes the exhaustive list of attributes about the customer. This begins with descriptive attributes such as contact information, demographic and psychographic segments, interests, and stated preferences. The value of the customer is also important. A full and accurate view of a customer’s lifetime and potential value would source data such as total revenue, contribution to margin, ancillary purchase history and loyalty-program information.

Additionally, airline’s interaction history with the customer has relevance. From one-to-one agent and call-center interactions to social-media updates and flight-status changes, a live feed of interactions keeps the airline informed on the current status and satisfaction level of the customer to tailor his next interaction appropriately to that situation.

Social media’s influence on brand preference and purchase decisions continues to grow as well.

“Wherever there is an interaction, anything in public that a customer says about your airline should be incorporated into their customer profile, because what people tell their friends about you still has a big influence on purchase decisions,” notes Henry Harteveldt.

Finally, 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.