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Mobile World Congress: KLM’s mobile journey has been a “bumpy ride”, says mobile commerce manager Maite Oonk

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By Jessica Davies | News Editor

February 27, 2013 | 5 min read

KLM’s journey to become a mobile-centric airline has been a “bumpy ride”, according to mobile commerce manager Maite Oonk.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Oonk admitted the Dutch airline made mistakes when first embarking on its mobile journey, applying its web strategy to mobile rather than creating a mobile-specific journey.

“Changing our 95 year-old airline into one that needs to become mobile was a challenge. It was a bumpy ride these last two and a half years.

“In general about 70 per cent of all online revenues come via acquisition channels such as email bannering, display, and social media. We are good at that - targeting travellers via these channels.

“We approached mobile users in the same way when we started. We made classic errors such as bannering on one of the main news websites and directing them to a desktop site which is something you cannot afford to do – the entire flow must be mobile optimised or ready for mobile,” she said.

It has since adopted responsive design and will focus on ensuring it maximises conversions as a result, according to Oonk.

“There are so many visits from so many mobile devices – even phablets which customers are using to access us – it forces us to develop in completely different ways and develop our sites in different ways. We need to be there where our customers are and ensure they have the right experience for each device," she said.

The result is that KLM is now seeing double-digit growth, with a quarter of its overall traffic now coming via mobile devices, she added.

However, keeping up with rapidly evolving customer demands is a major challenge, according to Oonk. The airline, which launched its first mobile-optimised site in 2010 and mobile booking in 2011, has evolved quickly by adopting an agile approach and using methods including co-creation and data insight to help shape its mobile strategy, according to Oonk.

“We focused on being present in the mobile landscape – we didn’t know how but knew we wanted to offer all our core services via mobile. But customers expect a lot more from us– being present on mobile is not enough – the challenge is to exceed these expectations.

“Our customers’ demands are changing and evolving so rapidly and we are not always able to develop at the same pace – especially with all our legacy systems. But we have evolved and we use ways such as data testing and co-creation to help us develop and cope with changing customer expectations – and the results speak for themselves – we are seeing double digit growth and although we are not sure where this stops what we are sure of is the breakthrough of online versus mobile – we will be there soon,” she said.

KLM also wants to “fully exploit” mobile opportunities including location-based services and will look beyond providing features such as booking, check-ins and seating towards creating more “inspirational” content such as gaming, according to Oonk.

“Our ambition is to become the mobile airline and therefore serve the whole mobile ecosystem and make use of inspirational content to build stronger relationships with customers,” she said.

The airline is seeing high levels of engagement via mobile devices for some of its campaigns. One example Oonk described was a campaign which it initially rolled out in Canada and then converted it into a central activity.

It encouraged customers to choose a destination and then select what they thought the right price should be for it. The more they engaged with the campaign the more influence they were given to decide the price. Oonk said 30 per cent of all customers that participated in the campaign came via mobile devices.

One of its first social, location-based campaigns was in 2010 and was called the KLM Surprise campaign. This involved gathering information customers’ submitted about their planned travels via social networks and using it to localise games and also surprising them with gifts that related somehow to their specific journey, when they boarded their planes.

However, Oonk said it is important to balance creative, engaging campaign content with service efficiency otherwise it could risk undermining customer confidence in the brand. “Creating all this cool campaigning is nice but it can only be trustworthy if you can also be there for the customer when things go wrong. If things go wrong and you want to depend on an airline it should work – we call it the suitcase principle and it always reminds us of what it is all about,” she said.

KLM is also tying mobile more closely with its in-flight customer service by giving its air stewards iPads which are linked to its customer relationship management (CRM) database. This lets it provide a more personalised experience to customers while on board as staff can see their profile via the devices.

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