Just about every airline now offers mobile apps and a mobile-optimized website. That’s because travelers rely on their mobile devices to get things done while on the go. Alaska Airlines mobile journey to-date is informative because the company has changed its implementation strategy a couple of times since 2005 and is likely to continue to do so.
What remains constant is:
- The focus on a target group of customers: Alaska Airlines’ frequent flyers
- Prioritizing features that are both urgent and repetitive for day of travel
- The engagement of customers in the actual development process
- Implementing a layer of APIs between the airline’s operational systems and the customer-facing apps
- Designing a mobile web site that will support all handheld devices
- Optimizing the standard web site for tablets and laptops/PCs
- Combining mobile platform-optimized apps with integration to mobile web functionality
Like many mobile development teams, Alaska Airlines and its partners from Ubermind/Deloitte use agile SCRUM development, starting with user stories and coding in two-week sprints. But what they do that’s different from many such projects is to engage their target customers—loyal frequent flyers—to test the deliverables every two weeks.
Alaska Airlines’ Evolves Its Mobile Strategy
Catering to Frequent Flyers Pays Off
By Patricia B. Seybold, CEO and Senior Consultant, Patricia Seybold Group, August 3, 2012
NETTING IT OUT
Alaska Airlines has a relatively modest budget for mobile app development, yet the airline is hitting home runs with its mobile apps. Their strategy: focus on addressing customers’ needs on the day of travel. Alaska Airlines and Horizon Airlines frequent travelers are quite happy with the current functionality. These frequent flyers are also intimately involved with prioritizing and testing new mobile functionality.
In terms of its mobile development strategy, Alaska Airlines has moved from a write once/run anywhere approach to one that optimizes native apps for each mobile platform. They have evolved their mobile website, m.alaskaair.com, to mirror the functionality of their iPhone and Android apps for all mobile device users, are evolving their alaskaair.com website to be tablet-friendly.
As mobile development has become more important with Alaska Airlines, it’s bringing some cultural changes. Agile development around user stories is more popular. Arming employees with convenient access to the same accurate, up-to-date information that customers have has also become a high priority.