By Julie Baxter

Suppliers are navigating a route to greater onboard personalisation by focusing on specific passenger types, and now data specialists are revving up to further refine those profiles, says Julie Baxter

The onboard industry is on a mission, and the mission it seems is personalisation. As passengers seek out greater control of their onboard experience, experts are falling over themselves to tell us just how and why you can, and must, tailor your product to ensure every passenger feels they are unique.

Give them the tools to reimagine your product, let them design their own experience from your portfolio of offerings, and treat them all as individuals, recognising their personal style and motivations.

Nice talk, but honestly, just how easy is that going to be. Just how personal is all this personalisation?

Buzz this year launched what it calls the world’s first personalised amenity kit – offering Delta One passengers the chance to add a monogram to their TUMI kit in-store, post flight. A nice touch for sure but with over eight million people flying every day the truth is it’s never going to be quite that personal for all of us. It is much more about identifying our type and defining market segmentation.

Just your type

Amenities specialist Formia, working with consumer behaviour specialist Professor Dr Michaela Merk, has identified four key traveller types. The aesthete (arty, fashionista types), the explorer (adventurous traveller), the modernist (keen to try new and niche products) and the advocate (healthy and eco-friendly). It aims to create amenity kits that best match these types, and presents its portfolio in away that helps airline buyers align with brands best matched to their passengers’ profile.

LSG Group has also focused in on three key traveller types or lifestyles as a way to more clearly present the onboard experiences its teams can offer. Each type demands a slightly different type of food offerings and presentation for every touchpoint from buy-on-board through to luxury.

The personas reflect differences in style and personal needs (curious or self-determined) as well as the societal values (authenticity, sustainability, trust). They include a classic male favouring Business luxuries while working and Premium Economy for leisure; a ‘natural ‘n’ local’ focused female and a hybrid male looking to be for inspired across Business and Economy.

This segmented approach helps onboard procurement teams get a handle on what to offer to their airline’s demographic, it makes some assumptions about certain types of people and responds with bundles of options that could suit.

It brings the passenger profile to life but increasingly it is not about genuinely ‘knowing’ your passenger but about the relentless harvesting of digital data.

Data profiling

Gategroup has unveiled its big next step on this journey by unveiling a partnership with predictive analytics company Black Swan Data and Panasonic Avionics to develop a retail platform utilising passenger data. The data will allow it to predict the types of orders passengers with a specific profile will most likely request, and use that information to offer a more personalised passenger experience. We are not talking about taking every individual’s personal data – with all the privacy issues that could stir up – but rather profile data such as age, sex, nationality, route travelled, frequencies of travel etc.

The results, which will get more reliable as more data is gathered, will enable carriers to have a more reactive pre-ordering menu and identify, and sell, more of the retail products passengers actually want.
Passengers can order food and duty-free products, entertainment and destination products via their personal electronic devices through a stand-alone app that can be built into an airline’s own app.

The platform is currently being trialled by a couple of airline partners with the full platform expected to be rolled out by the first half of 2019. It reaches customers across all the touchpoints of the journey so they can pre-order, order during the flight and re-order favourite items at home post-journey.

John Moriarty, chief retail officer, gategroup says: “From an airline point of view, the platform allows them to improve the passenger experience. It’s more tailored and provides a more specific offering. If you know your passenger, you can predict what they want, and reduce wastage. Many partners have expressed interest in this. We’re very excited.”

The group’s design company deSter, plans to use this information too and has launched the first ever bespoke amenity kit service through its Harmony brand. The passenger will get options through their e-ticket and end up with a comfort kit tailored to their needs and journey. It also offers a new Travel Buddies retail concept with themed kits to fit certain profiles: the ‘Get it Done’ kit for business travellers, the ‘Grab Some Sun’ kit for holidaymakers, the ‘Keep it Tight’ for the health conscious. Olaf Menschel, gm at Harmony says: “We’re seeing choice for onboard meals so why not amenity kits? Harmony is specialised in making curated concepts but we have to understand what the customer wants before they come onboard and that’s all about understanding the profile of the customer.”

Personal shopper

LSG Groups’ Retail inMotion is forging ahead with efforts to personalise the onboard shopping experience through its retail management software, Vector. This captures and processes payments on board, and runs data analytics to ensure optimised products and services offered. It will drive a new buy-on-board offer for Etihad where Linda Celestino says: “We will now be able to push the boundaries of personalisation even further by evolving our proposition to provide wider choice and allow guests to truly customise their journey with us.”

Curated content

And there are new ways to provide more personalised IFE choices onboard too. Spafax, has a new data analytics platform designed to provide insights on passenger viewing habits. Henry Gummer, Spafax vp entertainment, explains: “Airlines can see at a glance the number of times a movie has been viewed, what each view costs it, what language it was viewed in, and which titles perform best on certain routes or in certain cabins. These analytics help us understand how different demographics engage with content and from this we can build a content strategy for very specific demographics. By harvesting data communicated via social networks too we start to understand exactly what to provide for each consumer. If we understand how they behave onboard, we can offer tailored recommendations.”

By using social network tools such as ‘liking’ content, airlines can engage with passengers further, enhancing the profiles via fun questions, comments and interactions which will fine tune the understanding of what content passengers want.

Thales has announced a new platform called Inflyt 360 which allows an airline to prepare the experience they want for passengers, on the ground. Offered at three levels: Core, Avant and Prestige, the platform can shape content to suit users and introduces targetted advertising to passengers without inhibiting the experience.

Steve King, ceo Black Swan Data sums it up when he says: “Artificial intelligence is able to continually reassess passenger data to help improve the product. It’s the start of making a passenger’s experience much better. •