ATPCO hit the Gordon Retail Monitor yesterday, when it announced a deal to provide Routehappy rich flight content to Kayak, providing increased transparency for travelers on that travel site. Seth Anagnostis of ATPCO provided context on the deal, discussing what it means to travelers, ATPCO, and Kayak.
David Zweifler, Gordon Magazine: There’s a lot of information that consumers don’t have when deciding to take a discount flight. How do you help customers make better decisions around these types of purchases?
Seth Anagnostis, ATPCO: We believe that what the flight shopper is really looking for is value. What is interesting about flight shopping is that value may sometimes represent the cheapest flight, while at other times it might be a different product entirely, and that this varies not just person-by-person but rather trip-by-trip: what I’m looking for when I travel for business (Wi-Fi, seat pitch) may vary dramatically vs. when I’m heading on vacation (entertainment, craft beer). Of course, price and schedule will always be critical factors, but even in those cases there are often a variety of flights where the price and times are similar but where the on-board experience or what’s included in the ticket are different, yielding a totally different experience for the customer. Through our partnership companies like Kayak are better enabling customers to find the flight that is the best one for them on this particular trip.
David Zweifler, Gordon Magazine: What impact does this information have on the travel experience, and the revenues of travel site operators like Kayak?
Seth Anagnostis, ATPCO: By being more easily able to find the products that are right for them, customers are better able to enjoy the travel experience. If I know there’s food on board, I might not rush to the airport to pre-purchase something. If I know there’s Wi-Fi on board but no power, that changes the way I think about what work I can get done in the air. One aspect of our business that we discuss a lot is that this works in both directions, including for setting expectations around products where particular things are excluded or prohibited: for example, if I’m buying a flight online and can see clearly that this fare doesn’t include a carry-on, I might actively choose to make the sacrifice at the point of purchase because I know it’s a way to save money; meanwhile airline is happy that they don’t have to explain this to a customer that didn’t know it before boarding and is shocked at the gate, and the company that sold me the flight is happy because I’m not calling them saying I didn’t realize that this ticket was restricted. Everybody wins when the experience is richer.
Accordingly, we’ve seen many results from our partners that operate travel sites that show that providing richer content in flight shopping yields positive business results; this ranges from conversion improvements to improved net promoter score to improved upsell rates. It probably won’t surprise your readers to learn that people are more likely to buy an upgrade to a higher cabin when they can actually visualize the product they’re paying more for and can read a description of what those extra dollars are going to get them.
David Zweifler, Gordon Magazine: Long term, how do you feel like the information that ATPCO provides will change what’s offered by airlines? Will it change how people travel?
Seth Anagnostis, ATPCO: Historically, airlines haven’t generally had the opportunity to merchandize what they are offering at the point of sale; this has been a particular struggle on third party sites where results might be shown from hundreds of airlines. Airlines have actually invested quite a lot in having great products in the last decade and deserve credit for that, so one of our key goals as a company that serves the industry is to help them bring those products to life for their customers regardless of whether they are buying their ticket straight through the airline or through a sales channel partner. As a team full of avgeeks (aviation geeks) at ATPCO we are super excited to see the impact this has on the products that airlines choose to offer and market.
I think other industries that are more mature at retailing show how customer behavior evolves when better information is presented. The shopping experience has become quite pleasant in industries that are known for their retailing (TVs or our sister industry of hotels, for example), but it’s also gotten better when buying products that we don’t associate with a rich experience at all, like seeing 100 different angles of a screw or 5 written bullets about how great a toothpick is. As a constant conversation topic in our society, where people often share stories of their flight experiences or express preferences for one type vs. another, you should certainly always be able to know what you’re buying when you’re shopping for a flight.
David Zweifler, Gordon Magazine: Is there anything else that’s really important about understanding this deal, or the underlying trend, that you would like to talk about?
Seth Anagnostis, ATPCO: I think as more sites like Kayak display rich flight shopping information, it gives consumers an opportunity not just to look for what they already know, but also to learn from their own behaviors and experiences and to shop accordingly the next time. As an example, my parents just flew to Los Angeles to visit my sister and my mom realized that she strongly prefers seat-back entertainment versus playing movies through the airline app (of course some people will feel the opposite). Now when she shops for future flights she knows this is something she’ll want to look for. Customers will be so much happier in the long run because things that they either shrugged off or took for granted previously can now be a key part of ensuring they’re able to have just the experience they want.
Seth Anagnostis is Head of Global Sales for ATPCO; he joined ATPCO via its 2018 acquisition of Routehappy, where he was one of the earliest employees and drove industry-wide adoption of Routehappy Rich Content, which is now the backbone of the ATPCO Retailing portfolio. Prior to Routehappy, he was a management consultant for 8 years, where he realized that his favorite part of the job was getting on an airplane. He lives in Hoboken, NJ.