Sabre Airline Solutions has partnered with industry voice Skift, to create a trend report highlighting the business and technology challenges faced by airlines in the areas of traveler digital experience, personalization, and retailing. This is one of a series of articles taken from this report.

Kulula.com, a South African airline, upgraded its digital channels and introduced a new mobile app which has significantly improved the airline’s digital relationships with their customers, and the efficiency of its operations.

The mobile app allows for content on schedules, policies, mobile check-in, weather and flight status. It was a simple extension to their customer self-service that took place on their website. While it’s a simple application, it has helped in driving more people to check-in on-line. This has resulted in better customer satisfaction as those that don’t have baggage don’t have to queue, as well as the process efficiencies at the airports with fewer people to deal with at the counters.

Kulula’s ancillary services are currently sold through the website, but the airline is considering offering ancillaries to customers in future through other touchpoints after the adoption of IATA’s NDC distribution standard, both with partner distribution channels and by expanding the points along the journey that the airline’s app offers with supplemental products and services to customers. NDC roll-out will, in the future, assist the airline’s ability to make ancillaries available to other distribution partners.

The mobile customer journey

The airline’s motivation to introduce ancillary sales processes in its app is in large part due to its observation that its customers are increasingly mobile. The stats are all pointing in the direction of providing an effective platform that allows customers to interact with our business in a multi-device enabled environment. Iain Meaker, Executive Manager for commercial distribution for Comair Ltd., a unit of Kulula.com:

We are working hard to get this completed as soon as possible. It’s predicted that in South Africa nearly 50% of online e-Commerce purchases in 2017/18 will be from mobile.

From his own experience with the implementation of a customer-centric retail strategy of Kulula, Iain emphasizes taking the time to clearly identify and understand the problems passengers face and the potential solutions to those problems.

He also notes the importance of having strong partners for the systems’ implementation who can help define and deliver a solution which meets those needs. Planning, he says, must be thorough and will involve an iterative process of trial and error to identify weak spots in the system and correct them.

"Always keep the customers’ needs in mind and develop the user interface with an understanding of your customers’ requirements, not losing sight of what elements will assist in effective retailing. If you're not thinking about how to personalise and deliver appropriate products to the right customers, then you may need to reassess your approach. Customer relevance and recognition creates a connection that certainly encourages customers to come back.” 

Defining a mobile strategy

Kulula is currently rolling out an entirely new responsive application that will cater for any device that customers might be using. It will initially cover the full spectrum of airline products. The airline has benefited by selling unbundled ancillaries on its website, and believes offering key services along the journey could further increase sales and improve customer service.

Products like seat pre-purchases, discounted extra baggage, priority boarding all help customers in accessing specific preferences up front help with overall satisfaction. Giving customers access to these at all possible interaction points in an easy and simple interface is key to closing the loop. While the roll out is only beginning, it’s proven to be a substantial change and upgrade to the airline’s current selling processes.

The airline expects that by selling ancillaries on-the-go, the new design will increase customer’s uptake on booking offers and ancillary services. In doing so, Kulula will be able to bundle ancillaries, discount them for specific flights and come up with specific ancillary bundles for different audiences or segments of passengers.

To achieve this successfully, Kulula is working closely with their technology partners to develop a customer-centric approach in how and what they will sell to each of their customers. Subsequently, Kulula will also be able to offer products based on a customer profile and specific customer attributes.

Download the trend report here.