Tags: Aerospace, eBusiness, International Business, Marketing, Website
add a comment
“It all started when five of us booked a trip to Paris”, says Iñaki Úriz, one of the founding partners of ChangeYourFlight. When three of his friends had to back out on the non-refundable tickets, he thought the airline could have made money had they known the three seats would be empty. A simple concept was born: Would low cost airlines offer money in exchange for cancellation of a non-refundable seat they might be able to resell?
That is how this Barcelona based company got started. Úriz and co-founder Jose Vilar put up some of their money for a prototype and then rounded up development money from friends and family. The partners had no IT or aviation background. But the two things they did have were airline consumer experience and design engineering backgrounds.
That explains why, when I first opened the website while judging the “Site of the Year” category for Flightglobal’s Webbies, I knew immediately that I had come across something very special. The concept was easy to understand and the design was simple but very slick. And, as Flightglobal’s Michael Targett points out, this translated into a wining website with fantastic usability.
The current concept took two and a half years of development. The site officially launched in December 2011 with Italy’s AirOne as its first Airline. In a phone interview last Friday, Úriz tells me that things have taken off rapidly for the website: “Air One is approving about a dozen voucher requests per day. And we are getting regular inquiries from a number of other European airlines.” For more background, on the company, check out this excellent post from the APEX blog. The company is now hiring IT talent and is actively looking for its next round of financing.
As a specialist in the use of Internet by the Aviation industry, I see my fair share of “new or improved” websites every day. The vast majority wouldn’t even get nominated for site of the year, let alone win it! So in my discussion with Úriz, I really wanted to find out what sets his creation aside and what other companies can learn from this example. Here are three things companies can learn from ChangeYourFlight.com:
- Innovate. Innovate. Innovate. “It is not because something does not exist that it is a bad idea”, says Úriz. Too many companies perpetuate the same processes and approaches to customer service and relationship “because they have always done it this way.” Most companies need to start from a blank canvas and change things up. This doesn’t always mean building your own website by the way. Using marketplaces such as ChangeYourFlight can bring the benefits of innovation and standardization without the costs of development. Noteworthy websites provide innovative and more efficient ways to interact with a company. Winning websites roll-out simple win-win processes that benefit all parties.
- Users Prefer Doing to Reading. The era of the website as a slick electronic brochure for the company is long gone. Sure, the company needs to describe what it does succinctly right up front (i.e. elevator pitch), but today it is all about customer interaction. Could airlines set-up their own customer support procedures to handle the ChangeYourFlight concept over the phone? Sure! But for Úriz, “what makes our success is that it is all self-service and information rich. You just enter your data, pick a few options and then wait for the answer.” Noteworthy websites provide self-service information portals. Winning websites provide interactive and influential action portals.
- Keep It Simple Seniõr (KISS). “We felt that it we had to explain too much, ChangeYourFlight would never be used”. Did you ever notice that the iPhone does not come with a user manual? Imagine that you had to learn all of the Microsoft Excel functions before you could start on your first spreadsheet. As a rule of thumb 90% of the complexity is introduced by the last 10% of functionality. So the secret is to provide a simple interface that handles 90% of the task at hand and cover the rest some other way. Noteworthy websites provide a simple way to handle the most common tasks. Winning websites handle all the situations with an integrated and layered approach focused on delighting the customer.
I would love to see more website use these principles by next years’ Webbies. But in the meantime, give me your feedback on this winner or these principles. And if you have a good example of a company that is doing this right, pass it along!
Conflicts of Interest amongst Parts Locator Marketplaces June 14, 2011Posted by ludozone in Aerospace, eBusiness Applications/Services, International Business Development, Internet Marketing, Online Supply Chain Management.
Tags: Aerospace, eBusiness, International Business, Parts Locator, Website
In my recent blog post titled “The challenges of online aeronautical parts locator systems”, I asked if it is ethical for a parts locator marketplace to be affiliated with an actual part reseller. In this post I am analyzing this potential conflict of interest in more details.
For a parts distributor to be successful, they need to:
- Effectively manage the inventory they keep: Distributors must avoid stocking parts that will stay on the shelf for too long, tying up valuable capital. But they also
want to have a large enough inventory to become a preferred “one stop shop” for customers. For example, they want to know when to get rid of OEM parts when an
equivalent but more readily available PMA part becomes available. Or, they want to know when to hold on to that rare part that is impossible to find.
- Price the parts based on market pressures: Distributors want to know when to increase the price of parts that are hard to find and when to lower the prices of parts
that are tying up shelf space unnecessarily. For example, if the FAA issues a mandatory service bulletin, distributors know that some parts will be in high
demand and they might want to increase their margins.
- Stay ahead of the competition: Because the aviation aftermarket parts industry is so fragmented, it accounts for hundreds and hundreds of parts distributors
or resellers. These companies range from a couple of employees to multi-national conglomerates. Competition is fierce and the pressure is on to surpass or eliminate competition at all costs.
The analytics required to achieve these goals are pretty straight forward:
- What are the parts most in demand: distributors want to know what parts buyers are looking for. More importantly, they want to find out which parts are not found.
- Who has the parts available: distributors want to know which of their competitors have the parts inventory. They want to know quantities and locations to be able
to adjust their own inventory.
- What is the market price of the part: distributors want to know what others are charging for the parts they have in inventory to be able to adjust their own
price to the market.
Online parts locator marketplaces often advertise that they process thousands of searches and RFQs per day, thus generating the exact data that a distributor would need to dominate the market. The data mining possibilities of such websites affords a unique vision into the key tendencies of the Aviation Aftermarket.
This is analogue to the data that credit cards company collect on the consumer side. However, credit card companies are regulated and are FORBIDDEN from using the personal information they collect. Such rules are outlined in their Data Privacy Statement. Supermarket chains like WALMART also collect such data to manage their operation and apply pressure on their suppliers. However, they keep that data for themselves and are not about to share it with any of their competitors.
In the Aviation industry, not only is there no regulations about this subject, but thousands of distributors VOLUNTARELY provide this information through online parts locator marketplaces directly owned by some competitors. This means that distributors, manufacturers or resellers using these systems indirectly provide their competitors with a view of their
inventory, availability, and pricing in a data format easily analyzed and interpreted. Also, buyers should be concerned about trusting the search results they receive when they are looking for a part that the marketplace owner actually has in inventory. Will the buyer receive independent results or will he be “guided” towards a specific answer?
So to make sure that you avoid these conflicts of interest, perform these two checks before deciding what marketplace to use either as a buyer or a seller:
- Be sure to research the background and affiliation of each marketplace. You will be surprised how some of these websites don’t provide you ANY information about
their ownership or business background (Check out gemaviation.com as a good “mystery” business). The more transparent they are about whom they are the better. Make sure you know the actual business entity (e.g. Inc., LLC, GmbH) and who the key executives are before proceeding. Here is an affiliation list of the most common Parts Locator marketplaces:
|ABDonline.com||Air Service Directory|
|AeroXchange.com||13 Major Airlines|
|Airparts.com||Turbine World International|
|APLS.com||Defense Solutions Group|
|Locatory.com||Avia Solutions Group|
|Spec2000.com||Air Transport Association|
- Check out the Terms & Conditions and Data Privacy documents. These documents should be readily available (usually linked at the bottom of the page). You
will be shocked at what some of these sites will do with your data. Most of them bind you to these terms from the moment you log in. Be sure to read both documents as there is usually confidentiality and data usage clauses in both of them.
The aviation aftermarket industry is still one of the most immature industries when it comes to using the web efficiently. The large number of parts locator marketplace and their wide range of quality and professionalism are a good indication that things need to improve. Industries that have gain much efficiency through the use of internet and marketplaces have done so through transparency and quality. In my opinion these are the two things that we should improve in the Aviation Aftermarket.
Full Disclosure: Although this blog represents his own personal opinions, Ludo Van Vooren is the VP of Customer Solutions for fipart.com, an independent parts locator marketplace.
Why PrivateFly.com won FlightGlobal’s Site of the Year award February 9, 2011Posted by ludozone in Aerospace, eBusiness Applications/Services, International Business Development, Internet Marketing.
Tags: Aerospace, BizAv, eBusiness, International Business
1 comment so far
When FlightGlobal’s 2010 webbies winners were announced last week, it was probably the first time many people in the industry heard of PrivateFly.com. This small UK-based company was founded just over four years ago by Adam Twidell, an ex-RAF pilot and NetJets alumni. The company’s purpose is to compare instant pricing and book Private Jet flights from an accredited global network of operators. PrivateFly aims to bring the use of business aircraft into mainstream air travel. Sounds interesting, but what is so special about PrivateFly.com?
PrivateFly exemplifies how the Internet can be used to solve challenges that cannot be addressed in any other way, offering the possibility of truly industry changing innovation. Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly, agrees: “Every other area of travel and brokerage has been transformed by the Internet. Despite the creation of giants like NetJets and others, BizAv is still an extremely fragmented industry. For example, there are over 700 operators in Europe alone. We are aiming to be the disruptive technology that finally offers customers the transparency and flexibility they need to book a private flight from a safe and reliable operator at a competitive price.”
To achieve this goal, Twidell and his team have been hard at work designing the powerful technology behind the website. Harvesting data from aircraft databases, airport information, and other public sources, the development team in India produced a simple interface design with efficient functionality. Then it was time to involve the community of Operators. “That was the hardest part, but the recession helped a lot”, says Twidell. “Many operators were worried that this platform would generate price wars that would lower the value of their services. But once they saw that this was much more about safety, reliability, and transparency, they started coming on board. Our platform does not sacrifice luxury or customer service in favor of price. It provides the potential customer with knowledge to make an informed decision with the confidence they obtained the value they wanted. Small operators with a handful of jets but that offer great service can now be recognized globally on the value they provide rather than by the size of their marketing budgets.”
PrivateFly harvests industry knowledge and public information to instantaneously provide a “ballpark” pricing for any global trip from a small jaunt in Florida to a safari trip from the UK to Kenya. It then aims to educate the customer with the choice of aircrafts available for the trip as well as airport information. Finally it offers to send out for a formal quote from its network of operators. In the RFQ, the customer can specify additional requirements such as aircraft age or other services to further refine the list of targeted operators. The application is also available on iPhone. Already quite an achievement, Twidell says this is just the beginning: “We are working on introducing a feedback loop from both operators and customers to help raise the bar on quality. We also want to use technology to help educate customers about choices and options. Too many times have I flown American customers into Heathrow because nobody ever bothered to tell them about some of the other London BizAv airports such as Northolt or Farnborough that would have saved them thousands of dollars and potentially hours of ground transfer time. I would like to see the website offer customers alternatives based on aircraft size, final destination (after the airport), or specific services required. I also want to develop the mobile application to support the actual flight, not just the booking. For example, I think customers should be able to precisely locate their aircraft and access its pilot on their way to the airport from the convenience of their iPhone. ”
Today, the company is gathering momentum based on the successes it has earned with a number of operators as well as its stringent quality control. PrivateFly has dropped several operators from its network when they failed to meet its required service standards. Now in the middle of their next financing round, the company plans on expanding both its technology and its network with the £2M it hopes to raise.
PrivateFly has the potential of changing Business Air Charter in the same way iTunes changed the music industry. As its community grows, so will its functionalities and before you know it, this website will be the de-facto standard for private jet booking. Because it aims at profound industry changes by promoting transparency and distributed knowledge through web-based innovation, PrivateFly.com deservedly earned FlightGlobal’s Site of the Year award.