Airport’s Best Mobile Opportunity Isn’t Passengers

Glenn Gruber | April 27, 2015 | Mobile Strategy

It’s only natural for airports to focus their mobile efforts on the passenger. Passengers make all the non-aeronautical purchases—the primary driver of revenue growth. In short, they are the airport’s key customer.

But airports aren’t the only travel industry to focus almost exclusively on the traveler. Last month I judged the Mobile Innovation in Travel Awards at EyeforTravel’s Social and Mobile Strategies event in San Francisco. All the entrants and all the conference sessions were focused on the traveler.

But there’s one problem with focusing on passenger-facing apps—they’re pretty low on the download list. The number of downloads for airport apps pales in comparison to those of airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. The reason is pretty simple: travelers tend to fly or stay with the same suppliers over and over again, regardless of where they travel. And they use apps to manage those bookings.

On the other hand, with the exception of their home airport, travelers don’t frequent other airports often enough to make downloading the app worth their while. The only airport they likely spend time in is their own. And if they travel a lot they will learn the ins-and-outs of their airport and have little need for even their own home-airport app.

So if mobile airports best opportunity isn’t passengers, where should their focus be placed?

Lots of Mobile Workers, Lots of Mobile Opportunity
Airports are complex beasts. Every week thousands of flights carry tens of thousands of passengers. And to keep flights leaving on time, to recover from inevitable delays (often due to issues at another airport) and to minimize traveller stress, workforce coordination and efficiency is critical.

The potential to enhance workforce effectiveness is massive, particularly considering a large segment of the workforce is already mobile—working Airside and Landside in Retail, Engineering and even facilities maintenance—yet lack dedicated access to PCs (or for some, even to email). As a result, mobile may provide the only viable real-time communication platform.

Further, mobile devices may empower employees to improve the way they interact and serve passengers (B2E2C apps).

Like many organizations looking to deeply integrate mobile into their operations, airports often need assistance drafting a comprehensive, successful mobile plan.

Creating a Prioritized Mobile App Portfolio
Our experience has shown that if you’re ever at a loss for mobile use cases, just ask the organization itself for ideas. Oftentimes the biggest mistake an IT organization makes is to build on a first-come, first served basis. It happens all the time. I bet it even happens at your company.

It’s not that the use cases are necessarily bad or don’t have an ROI. I’m almost sure each business case was quite strong and met the thresholds necessary for budget approval. But with limited development resources even good ideas might not be the right ones to lead off with. That’s why Propelics created the Enterprise App Roadmap Kickstart—to bring some structure to clients looking to separate the wheat from the chaff and stop ‘random acts of mobile’ throughout the organization.

In a recent engagement with Dubai Airports, we conducted 90-minute ideation sessions across a dozen business and operational teams and wound up with over 650 mobile use cases. I’m sure if we had stayed longer we would have hit 650 more.

The challenge therefore is how to effectively catalog and prioritize use cases across the entire airport.

At Propelics, we start with facilitated sessions across a wide range of business teams. This enables us to capture all mobile app ideas in a Scenario Matrix that establishes viability and prioritizes functionality by business value (based on identified business drivers), organization readiness and technical complexity.

We then take our scored mobile use cases and categorize them into logical groups. Which ideas work best together as an app? Which might make up a module within an app? Our Mobile App Portfolio tool prioritizes app concepts and individually ranks each app idea by utilizing projected ROI and technology constraints to distinguish real business and customer value from minutia. The end result is a fully prioritized list of apps to build (or buy) across the entire organization.

This acts as a real punch list to work against and provides a true enterprise view of an airport’s mobile needs the entire organization can review and sign-off on. The process enables an organization to immediately get to work building mobile experiences that have a material impact on employee productivity and are aligned with the airport’s overall objectives.

At Dubai Airports we converted those 650+ uses cases into a prioritized list of ~20 custom apps that merited short term action, several more that required further investigation, and another dozen off-the-shelf solutions that could be deployed immediately to employees. Now that’s what I call “the World’s Leading Airport Company.”

Are you ready to build a Mobile App Portfolio of your own? Give us a call or contact Propelics using the form below and lets get the conversation started.

Glenn Gruber

Glenn Gruber is a Sr. Mobile Strategist at Propelics. He leads enterprise mobile strategy engagements to help companies determine the best way to integrate mobile into their business -- both from a consumer-facing perspective, but also how to leverage mobile to empower employees to be more productive and improve service delivery through the intelligent use of mobile devices and contextual intelligence. Glenn has helped a wide range of enterprises on how to leverage mobile within their business including Bank of Montreal, Dubai Airports, Carnival Cruise Line and Merck. He is a leading voice in the travel sector as a contributing Node to Tnooz where he writes about how mobile and other emerging technologies are impacting the travel sector and a frequent speaker at industry events.

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