Posts Tagged ‘Southwest Airlines’

Innovation is about being different

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

What is innovation?

Innovation is a strange beast. Most people say innovation is about new technology or bringing new things to the market. Some might think of better processes.

Schumpeter went further and defined it as “The introduction of new goods (…), new methods of production (…), the opening of new markets (…), the conquest of new sources of supply  (…) and the carrying out of a new organization of any industry”. (Source: Innovation Zen)

Innovation is about being different

However, what most of the time is missing, is that innovation has something to do about being positively different from your competitors. When every body in your industry is bringing out new products like in the TV set industry or in the PC industry, then this is no innovation. It is just daily business. You have to do it to survive. It’s a rat race.

Innovation is about being different in a way customers love.

Innovation is about being different in a way customers love.

However, successful innovation is different. Successful innovation is about being different.

Innovation is….

Innovation is when you just offer one telephone handset when your competitor offers 118 devices. Innovation is when you update your one phone only once a year a bit and a major overhaul comes every second year while your competitors bring new devices to the market every months. Innovation is when you see your “telephone” not as a device but as an access gate to whole new world. That’s Apple vs. Nokia. By the way Apple spent only a ninth on R&D than Nokia (more…)

The strange business model of airlines

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The airline business is a strange business and in desperate need for business model innovation. On the one hand, more people fly than ever to prices lower than ever. IATA, the industry body, states that the real cost of travel has fallen in the last 40 years by about 60% and the number of travelers increased tenfold. Air freight has grown in this period by a factor of fourteen. (See IATA Vision 2050) That sounds like a very successful industry. Is it? However, on the other hand, airlines are notorious to not even earning their cost of capital and producing unhappy customers.

 

During the 2000s the average airline generated an EBIT margin of just 0.7%. Taken a longer perspective, the figures are as drastic. From 1970 to 2010 the airline industry generated over USD 12,000 billions of revenues in today’s prices, but only a total of USD 19 billion of net post-tax profits; a margin of only 0.1%.

Another dull figures: Around USD 500 billion of investors’ capital is tied up in the airline industry. Normally, investors would expect a return on capital of around 7-8%. Taken the 500 billion that would mean a return of 40 billion annually to cover the cost of capital. But what did the airlines earn? 20 billion or 20 billion less that the capital would have earned elsewhere. The airline industry is a big capital destroyer. Interestingly, other firms along the travel value chain like airports or computer reservation systems earned excess returns. So there is profit in the travel industry but not with the capital-intensive airlines. Airlines are a dismal industry.

So are customers at least happy? Just type in Google the search “airline experience” and enjoy all the customer stories about flights. And watch the film “United breaks Guitars” like 12 million others did on Youtube.

What went wrong and is there a solution to it? And think about it why we all hunt of low prices on traveling while we spent USD 5 for a latte at Starbucks. Why are we so price conscious on travelling and not on coffee?

Here are some thoughts I presented at the 17th international airline conference last fall in Seattle. Thanks to Nawal Taneja, Dietmar Kirchner and Rob Solomon for the kind invitation.

Thesis 1: Airlines are masters of transportation economics, not customer experiences

It seems that all airline managers are great students of economics but not of entrepreneurship and marketing. Since they have a perishable good (empty seats on an upcoming flight are like perishable goods), they believe strongly in variable pricing by exploiting the maximal price customers are willing to pay.

That sounds very reasonable at first, since who wants to argue with economists and their theoretical models, but what airlines have forgotten over time is, that if you treat customers like rational customers then you will get rational customers and extremely price sensible customers in the end.  However, there is a good reason why economics is called a dismal science. So if you follow economists, (more…)