By Vanessa Ko
Posting in Technology
HONG KONG -- Who would you want to be sitting next to at 30,000 feet? Customers increasingly have a say.
Several weeks ago, Air Baltic introduced SeatBuddy, which uses passengers’ Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles to match them in their seat assignments.
Instead of choosing a seat on a seating chart, passengers may opt to let the airline assign a seat based on preferences. They would select one of four “moods” — business talk, easy chat, work or relax — and answer a few yes-or-no questions, and then link up their social networking profiles. The SeatBuddy program then matches flyers using their selections.
But the product’s purpose is not just to give passengers a better flying experience. It also collects nuanced customer information for the airline, which could be used to tailor marketing communication like email newsletters to individual interests, said Sergio Mello, co-founder of the Hong Kong-based Satisfly that created SeatBuddy.
“We take a lot of big data — that’s a new keyword of 2012 — and we make marketing actionable information out of it,” said Mello, who is trying to sell the seat-assignment product to airlines across the globe. “So what an airline gets out of our software is understanding their customers from a new perspective.”
The use of SeatBuddy follows Dutch airline KLM’s February launch of Meet and Seat, with which passengers can upload their social media accounts, view others’ profiles and choose whom they want to sit next to.
Malaysia Airlines’ MHBuddy service allows passengers to see if any of their Facebook friends are on the same flight, so that they might sit together, or land in the destination around the same time.
Mello dismisses the notion that SeatBuddy has competitors. He said Satisfly offers the only service that can garner enough profiles per flight to make the seat assignment useful.
It took Satisfly a few years to get Air Baltic onboard as its first customer. It has been difficult to talk to airlines, which Mello describes as “followers” that had their last innovation three decades ago with the invention of frequent-flyer programs. He said he has also had to convince airlines that Facebook was not just a passing fad.
“Airlines take marketing and digital marketing with the same approach as they take safety — so no risk. And of course we all know that when we talk about digital marketing, it’s all about trying, risking, getting things wrong, fixing them and having a good product,” he said.
But would some flyers feel nostalgic for the suspense of the randomized seatmate assignment? And your airline not knowing your hobbies and your high school?
As Mello tells it, it’s all a matter of the “creepiness-to-benefit ratio.”
“As long as customers are well informed of what we do with their data and who we give it to, and as long as they understand the benefits that come back, I don’t see a problem with it,” he said.
Photo: Daniel Schwen
Jun 20, 2012
I know for a certainty that the backlash will hit hard for all the social sites that innocent internet users are "innocently" joining and giving away everything about their lives. People need to know that this information IS FOREVER, and will be sold, over and over again. It's a commodity that is you and your personal lives, and those you love and work with, and more. The "false" dream by advertisers using social networks like Facebook are going to be left with the rubble of a lot of angry users who don't like everything about themselves being spread across the hundreds of commerce products and services, just because they simply joined a "social network". If I tried to post this article, I will be given the option to use any of these social networks to use to instantly "ID" me and let my comment stand. Once I do that, Facebook and others RELEASE to those advertisers ALL you personal information, regardless whether you have it "private" or not. Why? Because that's what the advertisers want, and Facebook has to make money. They won't "SELL" your info directly, but read FB's Terms of Usage and you'll find in there that if you "LIKE" a company, or use any company advertising with Facebook, all bets are off on your privacy. You actively engaged the third party advertiser, thereby releasing all your information to any company you "liked" or directly clicked on using your Facebook account. Do your homework. BELIEVE that the problems will start coming, sooner than later, because you've opened up your private life to an innocuous fun website called "FACEBOOK". Oddly, if you haven't realized that almost a billion people in the world have signed up, and this company controls EVERYTHING provided to them by their users, then you're drinking the Koolaid. Check the news: Facebook just bought the company "FACE.COM", which is a software company that allows Facebook to run within their servers, archiving and cataloging EVERY PHOTO to a name, thereby tagging everyone in your photo for you, based on some other face recognition scan they ran on another person's account that had your photo on it. Talk about scary. Your photo, anywhere on the internet, anywhere in Facebook, will be catalogued into YOUR SPECIAL FILE that Facebook keeps on anyone who has had their photos tagged. Those names for those tags will then be scanned throughout the millions of photos on their servers, and any photo that their new face profiling software identifies as you, will be stored in your "file". This means any photo of you, or your children, your girlfriend/s, boyfriend/s, relatives, coworkers, friends, etc, that is posted on Facebook will be instantly identified with their name, and then referenced with you and everyone else that is connected with them. If this doesn't sound like a horrific invasion of your privacy, hence your safety, you aren't reading into this power they have, nor have you spent an hour reading about how Stalin and Hitler both killed 10s of millions of people based on "information gathering." For a quote to remember, in every aspect of your life, is: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts, absolutely." Lord Acton 1765 Providing any online company with your personal data, activities, photos, opinions, likes and dislikes, is only going to lead you to great sorrow. Maybe not this year or the next, but sooner than you'd like. Be careful people.
The same IBM quick poll has been there for several months now. are they too lazy to ask a new question or are that few people interested in the question. And why doesn't it have a "My company is a dinosaur that doesn't do this" option?
Cruise Lines have been profiling guests to determine table seating arrangements for dinner on ships for years. Not sure if they still do. And it predates Facebook, so profiles were taken when booking.