Ryanair will unveil a new website this September that will spearhead its intention to become the Amazon of travel.
Kenny Jacobs, chief marketing officer of Europe’s leading low-cost carrier, told today’s Travel Distribution Summit in London that from the end of September regular customers will start to get a very different experience.
He said existing white label partners like Booking.com for hotels and Hertz for car hire will be excited by the development, but hinted the platform could also open up opportunities for new partners such as hoteliers to market direct to Ryanair customers.
“I do not think airlines have great websites full stop, that’s why the best in travel are all aggregators.
“If you want to travel short-haul in Europe you come to the airline first. We therefore have a better chance to own more of that relationship with the customer, manage it the right way and you can get more of that share of their travel wallet. This is something airlines do not think of.
“Then we can say to customers what are you thinking of doing on your trip like entertainment, restaurants, do you need travel insurance? How do you find an English speaking doctor.
“We now take a much wider view of the experience of that wallet the consumer has. From the end of September you will see us merchandise flights in a different way. If you fly regularly we will be presenting our products in a much more interesting way.”
Jacobs said it remained to be seen what range of products people are prepared to buy from Ryanair but he expected the work it has done to soften its image with consumers will see them prepared to buy a Ryanair holiday within a year.
He said the new platform will offer much more flexibility to offer ancillary sales within the customer journey. Having built its model by being ruthless on costs, Jacobs said Ryanair was now determined to be ruthless on data and using its insight into customers to drive up conversions and sales on its own website, as it continues to focus on offering the lowest cost flights.
“Great digital won’t bail you out of a shit product,” Jacobs said. “Digital will paper over the cracks but great digital needs to be applied to a great product. There are people out there whose product has not moved on and they will be found out.”
Jacobs said he was pleased with the way new third party distribution deals with the GDSs and the likes of Google’s Flight Search are performing, but added that the airline would pick and choose its partners based on value, and continue to attack OTAs that scrape data and pretend to customers they are the airline.
Referring specifically to meta search sites, he said: “We used to have rule we will not work with any one of them. Going forward we will have a more open minded approach.”
And he said OTAs will be forced to change their business models given what Google is doing in flights.
“If there are certain ones we could work with uncertain markets we will consider it. But we do not need OTAs to give us visits. I do not look at our weekly visits and go ‘gosh I really need those OTAs and they are converting really well.’ ”