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Ryanair eyes ‘digital innovator’ status as it ramps up data and personalisation

Ryanair is hoping to position itself as a digital innovator in the travel sector via a new strategy that will see the airline introduce a suite of features to its bookings platform My Ryanair and utilise its customer data to better improve its service.

The changes are part of the airline's’s on-going "Always Getting Better" improvement plan, which has already seen the company overhaul its branding and website. Now Ryanair is preparing to launch a swathe of new updates to strategy alongside an enhanced ancillary cross sell for hotels and car hire to become “Europe’s number one travel retailer”.

Speaking at the launch of Ryanair’s new customer charter, chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs admitted that the airline had been playing “catch-up” with its digital offering, but said he hoped the new strategy will help Ryanair now lead the sector.

“In the past year we did catch up with a lot of the things our competitors have done in terms of service, in terms of innovation and in terms of digital innovation. This year you will see us make some big investments in digital, big investments in data and that will start [to help us become a] digital innovator in the category.

“[Ryanair] is essentially going to be a travel retailer that specialises in flights. It’s an ambitious statement but that’s the ambition that we have when it comes to innovation in the category.”

So far 4 million customers have signed up to the My Ryanair app, which Jacobs said will act as a “key pillar” strategic pillar to boost its popularity. By October a new community feature will be introduced to allow travellers to log who with, and why, they are travelling to allow Ryanair to make better use of consumer data.

A TripAdvisor-style review platform will be introduced to the site that features customer reviews of destinations, which will then be shared via social media. Investments into producing more in-depth destination content will run concurrently to strengthen Ryanair’s ambition of becoming a “travel retailer”.

On the data side, Jacobs said that it will be used to increase customer conversions and better target content and improve customer retention. For example, if a consumer has indicated that they don’t have a driving licence, Ryanair will avoid pushing adverts for car rental companies.

The airline last year made its first foray into TV advertising as part of its overhauled approach to marketing and customer service. Jacobs said that marketing spend this year will begin to shift more towards digital with no increase in budget planned in the period.

“You’re not going to see us go nuts making ads that look like Gone With The Wind in 2015, we will be spending sensibly and investing significantly in digital,” he commented.

Ryanair has seen an 11 per cent rise in customers in the past 12 months and an additional 10-12 customers on each flight that takes off.

In 2014 the airline served 90million passengers, a figure which is expected to increase to 100 million in 2015.

For the second year of Ryanair’s three-year long improvement plan, new aircraft interiors will be introduced which will feature more destination images and less yellow, alongside new cabin crew uniforms that focus on the blue elements on brand.

In January, it was announced that Ryanair came second in YouGov BrandIndex’s annual buzz ranking; a marked improvement for the airline which was previously known for its lack of customer service.

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