“Traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

– Ibn Battuta, medieval Moroccan traveler

Taking a cue from the intrepid 14th century traveler, a British low-cost airline decided to celebrate its 20th anniversary by recounting its customers’ stories. The airline mined its customer data to send personalized emails to every customer that’s ever flown with them. The emails carried personal nuggets about the customers — their first-ever trip with the airline, the number of cities they’ve flown to and even the number of times they’ve taken the window seat.

The personalized campaign was a resounding success. It generated 1.1 million impressions and 78 percent positive sentiments on social media. Moreover, nearly 7.5 percent customers made bookings within a month of the campaign’s launch. Through its personalized approach, the airline made its customers feel ‘valued’ by bringing their past travels to life. And the customers loved it — this is the power of personalization.

It isn’t surprising, therefore, that personalization is fast becoming the Holy Grail for airlines as digitally savvy travelers’ hyper-personalized expectations continue to rise. Here are some statistics to put things in perspective:

  • Brands that provided a personalized experience or service were chosen, recommended, or paid more for by 77 percent travelers

  • Eighty-five percent travelers are willing to provide additional personal information for personalized journeys

For over a decade, the airline industry has explored the idea of personalization with somewhat limited success. The challenges are many — from inadequate technology to getting executive buy-in. While airlines have access to massive amounts of customer data, filtering insights from this data and delivering insight-guided personalized services is seen as a challenge. What can airlines do to connect with their customers at a deeper level to offer truly personalized travel experiences?

Channel analytics offers airlines the opportunity to foster customer loyalty, driven by personalized experiences. It helps airlines to map the entire customer interaction journey and identify customer behavior patterns across multiple channels such as mobile, social media and contact centers. Channel analytics mines cross-channel customer interactions to identify customers’ behavioral graphs, buying patterns, sentiments and preferences. These insights can be used to personalize customers’ travel experiences that start with flight booking and end when customers deplane.

Airlines willing to leverage channel analytics to offer enhanced levels of personalized services need to undertake the following measures:

Work towards prioritizing next-level personalization strategies: Next-level personalization strategy is omni-channel and moves away from the traditional broad-brush segmentation approach. Channel analytics uses customers’ behavioral data and specific context to help airlines create personalized experiences that target customers on a one-to-one basis.

Identify the right touchpoints for personalization: Airlines should avoid going overboard in their quest for personalization — they need not personalize across all channels. Channel analytics can help airlines identify the touchpoints that need the most personal touch.

Drive change management: Technology is just one aspect of the personalized customer-centric approach. Airlines have to ensure that customers experience the personal touch across different customer touchpoints such as contact centers, reservations desks and in-flight crew. Channel analytics can enable airlines to adopt an integrated personalization effort that spans channels

For the airline industry, personalization is still in its early stage of maturity. However, given the pressures to offer personalized services, airlines have to quickly ramp up their efforts in this area. They have to employ tools such as channel analytics to move up the personalization curve. By harnessing a personalized customer-centric approach, airlines have the opportunity to foster long-term relationships by getting to know their customers better.

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