Adding more steps to the booking flow tends to increase complexity and leads to abandoned purchases so is generally considered a no go area.
Or is it?
While that’s the “conventional wisdom” there are cases when more steps can be a good thing because it helps consumers understand what they’re buying and therefore, drives up conversion.
Mobile is one such case for American Airlines, which is finding that although unbundling products and services creates complexity, this can be addressed with a little focus on design and usability.
American Airlines director of user experience Danielle Hoffecker, says that “while price is still the primary consideration, matching customer comprehension wth customer expectation is critical to success.”
“We’ve seen transformation in technology. We had one large screen on a desktop with success criteria focused on conversion and the transaction.
“Now we have many devices with many screen sizes and wth more complicated products. Comprehension is as important as the transaction.”
AA is responding by trying to simplify the user experience and product design, slowing people down and testing, testing and more testing.
It’s the slowing users down or “interrupting” part that is interesting.
Speaking at the recent Amadeus Airline Executive Summit, Hoffecker provides three examples where the airline has simplified and/or added steps in its mobile journey which have led to increased transactions.
“As consumers, we scan, we don’t read, we look quickly, we tap hastily. We’re distracted.
“By slowing people down and focusing on simplicity and testing with customers, we’re able to build a customer experience to match the customer expectations.”
Example one – simplify
The airline unveiled a prototype feature enabling customers to pay for bags before arriving at the airport. The task was to pay for bags, check-in and get a boarding pass.
AA tested a few different prototypes.
While on desktop, customers got the job done, on mobile they “struggled to understand what they were paying for and why.”
Their confidence levels went down, they made mistakes such as paying too much and they said they were confused.
By playing with where it locates the product, the airline saw comprehension increase and more people completed the task.
AA will launch this new design later this year according to Hoffecker.
Example two – slowing people down
Seat maps are complicated these days with the different products and pricing. What seems simple on desktop is far more complex on mobile. Hoffecker says:
“In order to show pricing and product, we had to take what is one step on desktop and make it into two steps on mobile.
“Conventional wisdom tells us never to add steps, that’s bad but since we’re interested in both the transaction and comprehension, we added steps to increase comprehension.”
Seat sales are up across all channels. Seat revenue where extra steps have been introduced is seeing a 200% year-on-year increase.
Example three – cabin classes
Again, this comes down to comprehension in terms of what is on offer with each class. So, what was four steps on mobile is now up to six to help people understand the restrictions.
The result is that basic economy with the complicated details is selling better on digital than with AA’s reservation agents.
“After adding steps to the mobile booking path we’re selling more first class, business class and premium economy than ever before, more than 130% more than before the redesign.”
The airline now anticipates one-in-six bookings will come via mobile by the middle of next year.
And, says Hoffecker, since redesigning the digital channels to be mobile responsive and adaptive, flight revenue is up 70% year-on-year.
NB: Reporter’s travel to the Airline Executive Summit was supported by Amadeus.