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Airlines tread carefully into flash sales as mobile’s influence grows

Many airlines are now experiencing more traffic on mobile sites, and flash sales are a controversial topic of discussion. For some airlines, they may negatively affect the financial landscape, while for others, flash sales function as another marketing strategy that helps sell valuable seats.

“While we can’t disclose specific booking numbers, Southwest continues to see growing sales via both our mobile app and,” said Leighann Davis, senior director of digital marketing at Southwest Airlines.

Enticing consumers
Many mobile experts believe that increased interaction with clients can only boost airlines’ sales numbers and public image. For customers looking to book last-minute getaways, flash sales are often times an ideal solution.

“Managing capacity and demand has been for some time a complex system for airlines, but if done properly can impact revenue positively and has shown an increase to online sales,” said Djamel Agaoua, CEO of MobPartner. “Mobile simply will now enable a venue of instant personalized communication with the consumer that will increase the conversion rates.”

Personalization is also an enticing factor for consumers. Airlines with their own mobile apps can send deals based on a consumer’s browsing and flying history, providing more streamlined deals that may spur an impulse vacation idea.

However, airlines must ensure to segment information and advertisements to different types of consumers.

“The best way for airlines to leverage mobile and capitalize on flash sales is by starting with strong holistic digital strategies, which blend mobile and desktop, encompassing traveler utilities and marketing,” said James McNally, director of business development at Fuzz Productions.

“Marketing to air travelers on mobile effectively requires sophisticated segmenting and targeting – airlines need to engage business travelers in very different ways than leisure travelers, for example, and, and they need to be engaged appropriately.”

Affecting financial landscape
While many consumers are on board with the idea of flash sales, airlines must also be cognizant of refraining from falling into price wars with competitors and having little pricing power.

For newer airlines attempting to join the market, trying to undercut prices seen in flash sales by other top airlines may be a serious challenge. While flash sales help sell every valuable seat that might otherwise go empty, newer airlines must develop solid pricing strategies to avoid a negative financial landscape.

“In terms of pricing, mobile and flash sales theoretically allow greater inventory liquidity,” Mr. McNally said. “While it’ll never be easy to sell that empty seat two hours before takeoff, there is a much better chance to sell that seat via mobile than via desktop.”

Ultimately, it is airlines with considerable customer bases that experience more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to flash ticket sales. Flash sales are an optimal opportunity to advertise new flight routes, off-season flights and flights with large amounts of unsold seats.

“Eighty-eight percent of travelers already search for fares on their smartphone, so flash sales will only help them fill seats better,” said Mark Ghermezian, cofounder/CEO of Appboy.

Adjusting services and strategies to fit the mobile landscape is something on which all major industries should be concentrating. In the airline sector especially, consumers look for convenience and fast turnaround times to circumvent the stress that is sometimes associated with traveling.

“There are plenty of things that airlines must do in the future to keep the customers engaged and to keep pace with each other, like provide notifications on security queues waits, and real-time bag tracking,” Mr. Ghermezian said. “Passengers like me are very keen to access information about their journey in real time, and all of these things lend themselves much more to mobile than to desktops.

“For me, airlines are simply keeping up with the natural evolution of mobile.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York