Kulula.com, a low-cost-carrier unit of South Africa-based Comair Ltd., has strategically upgraded its digital channels, and it has recently introduced a new mobile app that demonstrably improves the airline’s digital relationships with customers, as well as the overall efficiency of airline operations.
“The mobile app we introduced was a simple extension to our customer self-service that took place on our website,” said Iain Meaker, Comair’s executive manager for commercial distribution. “It is a simple application that allows for content on schedules and policies, as well as mobile check-in, weather and flight status. It is purely a supporting application for servicing. So while the app is straightforward, it has helped drive more people to online check-in. This results in better customer satisfaction as those who don’t have baggage don’t have to queue, as well as process efficiencies at airports with less people to manage at the counters.”
Kulula’s ancillary services are currently sold through its website; however, the airline plans to offer future ancillaries to customers through other channels after the adoption of IATA’s new distribution capability (NDC) standard. This move will include partner distribution channels, as well as the expansion of products and services across customer touchpoints via the airline’s new mobile app.
“In the future, the NDC rollout will assist with our ability to make ancillaries available to other distribution partners,” Meaker said. “We are currently rolling out an entirely new responsive application that will adapt to any device our customers use. It will cover the full spectrum of airline products.”
The airline has benefited by selling unbundled ancillaries on its website, and kulula management believes that offering key services along the customer journey could further increase sales and improve customer service.
“Products like seat pre-purchases, discounted extra baggage and priority boarding all help customers in accessing specific preferences up front and help with overall satisfaction,” Meaker said. “Giving customers access to these at all possible interaction points in an easy and simple interface is key to closing the loop. Offering, converting and fulfilling sales for customers is a differentiator for Kulula.”
Although the rollout is just beginning, Meaker said, “It’s a substantial change and upgrade to our current selling processes.”
Airline management anticipates that by selling ancillaries on-the-go, the new design will increase customers’ uptake on booking offers and ancillary services.
“We are adding much-improved abilities to manage rule sets and specific promotions and lots more flexibility about how we sell ancillaries,” Meaker said. “We will be able to bundle them, discount them for specific flights and come up with specific ancillary bundles for different audiences or segments of passengers traveling on our flights.
“In addition, we are working with our technology partners to develop a customer-centric approach in how and what we sell to each of our customers. We will also be able to offer products based on a customer profile and specific customer attributes.”
The design process for the airline’s point-to-point customer-centric digital ancillary-retailing system is still ongoing. Meaker described it as “a very fluid process, with lots of internal and external collaboration. It’s an iterative process to achieve some very tight delivery timeframes.”
Increasingly Mobile Customers
In large part, the airline’s motivation to introduce ancillary sales processes in its app is based on its observation that its customers are increasingly mobile.
“We are definitely seeing much higher usage of mobile devices visiting our desktop channel,” Meaker said. “The stats are all pointing in the direction of providing for an effective platform that allows customers to interact with our business in a multi-device-enabled environment.
“We are working hard to get this completed as soon as possible. It is predicted that in South Africa, nearly 50 percent of e-commerce purchases in 2017 and 2018 will be from a mobile device.”
From Bricks To Roads To Bridges
According to Meaker, from his own experience with the implementation of a customer-centric retailing strategy for kulula, there are several key points to consider in terms of the system’s redesign process.
He emphasizes taking time to clearly identify and understand the problems passengers face and the potential solutions to those problems. He also stated the importance of having strong partners who can help define and deliver a solution that meets those needs.
Planning, he said, must be thorough and will involve an iterative process of trial and error to identify weak spots in the system and correct them in a timely, efficient manner.
“Always keep the customers’ needs in mind and develop the user interface with an understanding of your customers’ requirements, not losing sight of which elements will assist in effective selling and retailing,” he said. “It is challenging as you also need to be aware and remedy the downline impact of ensuring what you are selling is effectively delivered throughout the customer journey.
“If you are not thinking about how to personalize 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.”