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There is one thing you need to do if you want to build a great digital user experience: you need to understand your customers. You need to know their pain points, you need to see where they struggle on your website, you need to know where they have problems in your app. How can you know all that?
Airline digital experience analytics is the answer.
We talk a lot about the process of digital optimization in our Airline Digital Academy and in our airline digital optimization research. You start with analytics to understand WHAT is happening; then you do user and UX research activities to understand WHY your customers behave the way they do. Typically, when we think about user research activities, we think about user interviews, user testing, focus groups, etc. Well, there is a whole new area that sits between traditional analytics and traditional user research methods – I’m talking about digital experience analytics.
Airline digital experience analytics enables you to use the best of both digital worlds – analytics and user research – and helps you to understand your customers much better. To be more concrete and tell you how you can do this in practice, I talked to digital experience leader Greg Dowling from Glassbox. Greg has more than 20 years of digital experience and helps airlines and other companies leverage digital experience analytics to build better digital products and increase conversion rates.
Listen to the new episode of the Diggintravel Podcast about how to leverage airline digital experience analytics to build a better airline digital user experience via the audio player below, or read on for key highlights from our talk with Greg:
And don’t forget to subscribe to the Diggintravel Podcast in your preferred podcast app to stay on top of airline digital product, analytics, innovation, and other trends!
Before we started tapping into the potential of airline digital experience analytics, I asked Greg to explain what digital experience is in the first place and how it evolved over the years.
I think we’ve arrived at a place where digital experience analytics is now ready for that aggregation and consolidation that everybody is talking about in this industry where we start to talk about digital analytics as understanding what is happening and being able to understand how many, how often, how frequently. But what we lack there [is that] we have lots of “what,” but we lack the “why.”
Digital experience analytics really got its birth from traditional session replay technology. This is back in the day; we would install a network tap and be able to siphon off anything and everything that went client to server and then play that back. Primarily, digital experience analytics and session replay were used in context scenarios or in compliance scenarios where organizations needed to be able to support their customers to understand specifically what the user was encountering during any issue or situation that they had when they had struggles or experienced – we’ll call it friction.
I asked for a bit of additional clarification by Greg. How is digital experience analytics different from your traditional analytics (e.g., Google Analytics)? And what kind of additional insights can airline digital professionals get from it, to optimize the airline booking funnel?
Traditional digital analytics can provide the “what” – what is happening. For example, I’ve built a funnel. I see that users are abandoning at Step 3 of this funnel. I can use my digital analytics solution to quantify the number of individuals that are dropping out of this flow. I can understand how often that’s happening. I can understand that change over time. But what I don’t understand is why.
I could begin to make some correlations within the digital data that I have across other variables that I’m capturing during the customer’s journey, but being able to visually see the user interactions, watch what the user is clicking on, being able to visually see where within the journey the friction occurs and the struggle point occurs, and to be able to highlight directly what that struggle is – things like dead clicks, dead links, rage clicks, form struggles, zig-zag – these sorts of things don’t really exist in your traditional digital analytics.
Understand your key customer’s struggle points: The key to airline booking funnel optimization
The concept of not only identifying but actually understanding (the WHY) your customer’s struggle points was really intriguing to me. This is what building great airline digital products and digital optimization is all about. So, I had to dig deeper and ask Greg how analysis of struggle points works in practice.
The notion of struggles, you can build events or you can build things that approximate struggles within your digital analytics solution, but you’re never really going to be able to see and verify visually what’s actually happening. That’s why I like to say that we started out with session replay and being able to watch what’s happening, but then we built capabilities on top of that session replay. We are capturing every single click, swipe, drag, everything about the client experience, indexing it, and allowing it to be searched, but then also to put our own machine learning algorithms on top of it to identify core struggles. At Glassbox, we identify 20+ different types of struggles across native mobile and web experiences, and then we’re able to surface those visually and overlay those struggles across a journey map or a funnel or individual ad hoc reporting – just understanding how often these struggles occur. I think that’s a real differentiator between traditional digital analytics and what we’re calling digital experience analytics.
Wow! Not only can you identify 20 different types of customer struggles, but you can also visualize and understand where in your airline booking funnel they are happening. My next obvious question for Greg was: what are the most typical struggle points they see with airlines? What kind of ‘digital struggle analysis’ should airlines do when they begin using digital experience analytics?
We see that most airline organizations are focusing their efforts to understand a few key golden journeys within their customer experience. Those golden journeys are typically around the booking flow as well as ancillaries, so managing things like baggage, things to purchase prior to flight, Wi-Fi, etc. When they begin to look at the primary golden flows and golden journeys, they look for behavioral struggles. These behavioral struggles can be, as I said, form zig-zags – not knowing and struggling to make it through a standard form. We also see a lot of technical struggles being developed and presented as well. We at Glassbox focus on those core types, technical, behavioral, as well as business level impact and issues, to make sure that we can identify where the customer is having a challenge.
Greg went on to give a specific example of how an airline used digital experience analytics to identify leaks in their booking funnel:
We had an airline that went [into the digital experience analytics platform] and began to evaluate their booking flow, and they noticed early on in the booking flow, just after the destination flight selection – so they’ve now got their origin and their destination selected – from that point forward, they were prevented from actually purchasing. It was a function of technical API errors related to specific browsers and the version of those browsers. So it was a function they had to go in and fix, and it was happening across a small portion of their users because the nature of the browser was a smaller percentage of usage. However, once they went in and quantified how many of these users were unable to purchase, that booking flow turned into almost $7 million just in the month that we were looking at this data.
So if digital analytics is the “what” (understanding what is happening), and digital experience analytics is the “why” (trying to understand the context), is there more you can do to understand your customers? The answer is yes. As I mentioned in the introduction, the “why” extends in a broader sense of UX analysis optimization to broader user research and different user research methods. And digital experience analytics lets you connect it all together.
Greg explained how airlines can combine digital experience analytics with ‘voice of customer’ data (like, for example, your NPS surveys) and with other forms of user feedback:
Our strongest recommendation for most organizations implementing digital customer experience analytics is to integrate with your voice of customer solution. What that means is we’re able to provide, in your voice of customer platform, a link directly to the replay for that individual. This is tied at an individual customer basis. You’re in your voice of customer tool, you’re looking at promoters or detractors, you see a little bit of feedback – “Boy, your website really stinks” or “I wasn’t able to complete my purchase flow,” etc., and NPS score. They rank you a 1 and they give really, really negative feedback. You’re now able, within your voice of customer tool, to click a link and go right to that replay and see what happened. Why did that person provide that negative feedback? Why are they such a detractor – or promotor, for that matter? You’re able to go straight from that feedback in your voice of customer tool into Glassbox to see the replay.
With airline digital experience analytics, you can now see how different groups of customers – e.g., detractors or promotors – behave differently on your website or in your app. You can even go one step further and visualize different user journeys in your airline booking funnel.
You bring that comment level detail and natural language processing into Glassbox; then you can overlay those detractors, promoters, specific sentiment analysis, NLP, right over journeys. You can layer it over funnels. You can use it in interaction maps. You can say, “Based on this particular attribute, let me see how promoters differed from detractors.”
With interaction maps, you can then bring in that attribute and say, “I want to see those people who are promoting. Where did they click? What were they doing? I want to see those people who were detractors. Where did they click, and how are they different, and why is somebody much more likely to be a promoter if they do these three or four things?” It really helps on the product side for developing and designing and improving those customer experiences from a user-centered design perspective.
We talked about all kinds of other topics – like how to merge digital experience analytics with A/B testing – with Greg in our podcast chat. Listen to the full podcast talk to learn more.
One of the things that Greg mentioned at the end of our chat really made me raise my eyebrows; it sounds very futuristic, but on the other hand, it makes a lot of sense. With traditional digital optimization, we’re always reactive. We analyze data and user behavior and then react by optimizing our digital experience. Greg talked about the final frontier of digital optimization: going from reactive to proactive, almost automated digital optimization.
I think realistically, the automation side of it – and once you have that cross-device purview, the ability to go in and, in advance, predict when a struggle or an issue is going to happen and then to reroute that user around that struggle, that speed bump – we’re getting to the point where we can do this quickly enough, and the content management systems are nimble enough to be able to say “Hey, I see that this person’s going towards a known issue. Let’s reroute them.” Just like in the airline terminology. Let’s reroute them around this trouble spot and get them back on track.
That’s coming. That is absolutely coming. But we have to have that cross-device visibility, and we need to have that ability to predictively determine where and when a struggle is going to occur so that we can route the customer around that. That is coming. That’s something we’re working on here at Glassbox, without a doubt.
If you want to learn from leaders like Greg about airline digital optimization or want to be the first to know when our next Airline Digital Talk will be published, please:
I am passionate about digital marketing and ecommerce, with more than 10 years of experience as a CMO and CIO in travel and multinational companies. I work as a strategic digital marketing and ecommerce consultant for global online travel brands. Constant learning is my main motivation, and this is why I launched Diggintravel.com, a content platform for travel digital marketers to obtain and share knowledge. If you want to learn or work with me check our Academy (learning with me) and Services (working with me) pages in the main menu of our website.