This article is the latest in our popular new series in association with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which examines travel retail and airport sector ‘disruptors’ – focusing on companies and individuals challenging established models through innovation.
Flon Solutions has seized an opportunity to reach consumers quickly with discounts, promotions and other information by developing new engagement and payment solutions. How? By using the digital wallet applications that are native to smartphones. Jason Holland reports.
Lausanne, Switzerland-based Flon Solutions is aiming to help travel retailers, food & beverage specialists and brands raise their levels of engagement with consumers through mobile devices. The company builds marketing and engagement solutions using the digital wallet applications, such as Apple Wallet, that come as standard with every smartphone.
The emphasis is firmly on interactivity, says CEO and Founder Andrew Phillips. Using digital wallets, companies can engage passengers with digital coupons, brochures, booking vouchers, loyalty and membership programmes, gift cards and competitions, and thereby drive commercial revenues.
“They’re interactive, individualised, multi-language, always up-to-date, and packed full of useful information,” he explains.
“The latest iPhone software [iOS11] makes it very easy. Now users can simply open their standard camera app and point at any QR code, meaning you can give your customers something immediately. Their digital wallet will then remind them about your brand or organisation later, at the right time and place.”
The use of QR codes is at first glance perhaps surprising. They were a popular marketing tool a few years ago, Phillips notes, and “were often used inappropriately, hidden at the bottom of a poster with no clear call-to-action”.
But now QR codes are back, he says. In China, their use has “exploded” in the last two years – “be it for payments, swapping contacts, getting information or special offers, or anything else”. The new iPhone software will enable the same user experience in the rest of the world, Phillips believes.
There are several advantages of using digital wallets for engagement programmes, he says. First, they are already installed on every smartphone, so are accessible to almost all travellers.
Additionally, there is no need for a company to develop, maintain or promote its own customised app. That’s important, he claims, given that consumers have largely stopped installing them. He cites US research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc., which predicts that by 2019, 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps.
Phillips comments: “Smartphone wallet marketing offers a much better alternative. Digital wallets for payments are growing fast. Apple Pay is now available in many countries, and can be used at any contactless payment terminal. Other digital wallets such as AliPay, AndroidPay, SamsungPay and others are also becoming popular. It’s fast, convenient and secure.”
Digital wallets also offer a consistent interface which is already familiar to those travellers that use their smartphone to display their boarding passes. There are built-in smart alerts, meaning retailers and brands can use push messaging, geolocation and Bluetooth beacon alerts, Phillips says.
Finally, digital wallets offer vast opportunities for analytics – customer data can be tracked easily and unobtrusively.
Putting these factors together means that there is a sizeable opportunity for Flon Solutions in the world of airline and airport retail, according to Phillips.
“Nearly every traveller now relies on their smartphone throughout their day. In fact you often have to watch out for ‘zombie users’ trying to walk around while staring at their screens,” he notes. “Using this technology, all travellers can be reached cheaply and more effectively via their digital wallet.”
Digital wallet engagement promotions can also work in harmony with airline and airport loyalty programmes, or as a standalone project, he says. “For example, users of an airline loyalty programme could receive extra offers such as coupons, events, or competitions, via the existing mailing list. You don’t need to install anything special. Just send users a link to download their new offer and it will go straight into their digital wallet.”
Flon Solutions is already working with several travel companies. These include tourism organisations such as Switzerland Travel Centre, Ctrip.com & Baicheng.com; Montego Bay Jamaica Airports; and staff scheduling provider Ximble.com. It is now looking to expand, and Phillips says companies can create and launch free trial projects within minutes.
“You don’t need to get your IT department to work for six months on an expensive integration project. Your customers already have their smartphone with a built-in digital wallet. Everything else works in the cloud.”
The case for Flon Solutions’ concept is simple in a world where adverts and apps are no longer enough, he adds. “We’re bombarded every day with hundreds of adverts. Everyone is continuously competing for our attention, especially when we’re planning a vacation or business trip.
“But we can’t possibly remember every advert we see, even if we decide it’s a great offer. So marketers need to bombard their audience with the same message over and over until they remember it.
“That takes a lot of money and we believe there is a better way. Our solution enables companies to engage with their audience immediately after they see marketing promotions. Then their smartphone will do the job of reminding them of it later.”