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Step-by-step Evolution of Airline Digital Optimization and CRO Team [Air Europa Case Study]

Iztok Franko

Evolution of Airline Digital Optimization and CRO Team

This podcast talk is special!

We started our Airline Digital Optimization survey back in 2017 to help people who work in airline digital optimization and CRO with valuable resources and industry benchmarks. I personally met many great friends along the way, including airline digital experts like Eveline Lee from Scoot and Ismael Monzon, a CRO and analytics expert at Air Europa, who supported our research from its early beginnings.

Our Digital Optimization Yearbook provides you with a step-by-step framework and maturity models that can help you learn how you can evolve and improve your airline digital optimization process. We also always provide many practical airline case studies so you can see how airlines do different parts of the process in practice. But there is more to that when it comes to Ismael and his journey at Air Europa.

Ismael and his digital team are a playbook case of how to build your airline digital optimization and CRO program from the ground up. So, I’m really glad that Ismael was willing to share his team’s story and the learnings from their journey.

Airline Digital Talk with Ismael Monzon, Digital Growth Team Manager at Air Europa

Listen to the new episode of the Diggintravel Podcast to learn about Ismael and his airline digital and CRO work at Air Europa, or read on for key highlights from our talk:

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Diggintravel Podcast in your preferred podcast app to stay on top of the latest airline digital optimization, UX and CRO trends!

An Airline’s Journey: From One-Man Band to a Full-Scale Digital Optimization and CRO Team

Ismael’s journey started in 2017 when he joined Air Europa as a digital analyst, and he’s been working on their digital optimization maturity ever since.

I think we can say the expression “what a ride.” [laughs] It is five years, but with a lot of movement, a lot of changes, not only in our professional life, even in our life with our relationships, our families. We have changed a lot, especially since the coronavirus crisis.

I joined the company in 2017. I joined it as Senior Digital Analyst, as a member of the web team of Air Europa. It was a small team, but the board directors at that period wanted to increase the digital channel sales.

One of the popular management expressions is, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” So, one of the first tasks for Ismael was to set the measurement basics. He worked on implementation of tracking for all of Air Europa’s key digital funnels and implementation of enhanced ecommerce settings in their Google Analytics platform.

I would define this period like one-man band. I was the only person who was working on the analytics and CRO tasks, and I had a lot of work. There were multiple funnels to track and optimize. I remember that I had to improve the technical implementation; for example, I remember that the Enhanced Ecommerce was not configured.

Once they set up the analytics basics, Ismael started to work on other parts of the CRO process. Because they didn’t have in-house resources, they worked with a specialized agency to get their first CRO activities going.

The initial plan was very basic. There wasn’t user research or session replay. A lot of tasks, a lot of things to do. At the end of 2018, I started to share our CRO project with Fusion which was a CRO consultancy company that was specialized in CRO for airlines.

At that time, Air Europa was moving from Level 2 to Level 3 in our Airline Digital Optimization Maturity Model, which means they had a dedicated person, but not a team, to manage conversion optimization, digital analytics, and UX research.

2022 Airline Digital Optimization Framework

Diggintravel Airline Digital Optimization Maturity Model

Next step – Set up a small team and go beyond analytics

After building the foundations with analytics and measurement, Ismael started to work on implementation of other CRO tools in addition to digital analytics with Google Analytics. They built a small team and started with customer experience analytics.

In 2019, we moved to the next step. We created the digital analytics team. Two people joined it. We wanted to move faster, doing more things, so these two people helped me to go faster with all our tasks. As I told you before, our platform was complicated. There were too many issues, too many bugs. We started to work with Tealeaf and we got results quickly. We started to detect bugs, we started to review sessions, identify usability problems.

Customer experience tools like Tealeaf enabled Air Europa to start getting their first UX research insights – or, in Ismael’s words, to add qualitative to quantitative data, which is key if you want to understand the context behind the numbers you see in analytics.

We try to go a step farther – not only quantitative information. We would like to have qualitative information. We have seen that, for example, we have a drop between passengers form and the following step, and we know that it is – I can’t remember, but maybe a drop of 20%. But we would like to know why we have this drop. With Google Analytics, we know that we have a 20% drop, but we would like to know if it’s people who start to scroll up and down and they can’t move farther because they don’t find the button or they have a validation in the passengers form and they can’t solve it or technical issues. There are a lot of questions that we would like to try to analyze and try to resolve with this tool.

After they added the qualitative insights that helped them understand and interpret their user behavior, Air Europa was ready for the crucial next step – doing regular testing and experimentation.

In addition, we have started to improve our digital analytics knowledge by building several dashboards in order to have more control of our business. These dashboards are related to profit channels or analyzing the funnels, the main steps of the funnel. So we have more control about how our site is performing, and as a consequence we develop several actions in order to try to improve the results. We continued with several A/B tests a month – three, four, not too many. But yeah, we tried to do some experiments to learn something about the customer behavior.

Based on this process and all the insights they gathered, Air Europa was in a good spot for the re-design of their main digital platform. They had an airline digital optimization and CRO process in place, one that provided valuable insight to their digital product teams.

In 2019, all the web team, all the department started to work on a total redesign of our platform – a new homepage, new booking flow, new check-in flow, new apps. We moved to another platform, so everything was new. At this point, our main goal was to provide a lot of data for product owners and UX designers as well as insights seen through this session replay technique in order to avoid the current usability issues.

This evolution allowed Air Europa to be data and user research driven, instead of working based on assumptions. This was a new way of working for their digital team.

Our mission at that moment was trying to help the designers, the product owners, in order to make decisions with more confidence instead of saying, “I believe that it will work. I know that it is the most used feature, so we have to keep it.”

Pandemic – A step back, but also an opportunity

If I were to sum up Air Europa’s journey up to this point – using our framework – they started at Level 1 in 2017, with a one-man band. Then they built a team of three digital analysts, people working on digital optimization and experiments. And then COVID hit and they had to change priorities fast.

We were a small team. We were between Level 2 and Level 3 in your survey. We would have liked to go farther because we have a lot of work with the new platform. But as you said, the coronavirus crisis arose and the world collapsed. So the airlines collapsed too. In March of 2020 was the COVID crisis, the world stopped, and obviously Air Europa and our department changed our focus totally. In that period, we worked on information pages and voucher requests and we tried to improve the flight change flow, these kinds of things. The focus was not selling.

After the pandemic, Air Europa resumed implementation of their new digital platform and digital analytics tools.

In summer, after the worst months of the crisis had passed, we restarted with the new platform, focused on the new implementation of digital analytics tools. There were initiatives that were canceled because our resources were limited, but I think that we did a good job because we had the launch of the new platform in April 2021. I think we got very good results, especially if you bear in mind that we were working from home with fewer resources and less time than usual.

With the rebound and recovery of the airline industry, Air Europa started to invest in their digital and CRO team again. The airline saw a shift from customers using traditional offline channels to using their direct channels and decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

In 2021, the company improved its sales through the direct channel. The directors wanted to keep it and improve the sales. I think that is our reality. A lot of customers have moved from physical purchases to digital purchases, not only in airlines but for a lot of business. So the directors of the company wanted to go farther with the digital sales, and we had a new site and app, but we wanted farther.

Air Europa - the last airline to talk about airline digital optimization and CRO

Source: Air Europa website

Building an in-house airline digital optimization and CRO team

With growing direct sales channels as one of their main priorities, Air Europa started to grow their digital teams.

So we started to plan for the digital channel and took advantage of this new platform. The approach was that the team had new members in all areas – in product management, UX designers, digital analytics, content. More or less in the last eight months of 2022, there were 12 new people in the team.

Such a rapid growth of the team required a new organization, and Air Europa decided to split their digital team into two areas

Last month we have been working on defining the processes, the methodology all worked together on how to integrate everything, the new people with the current processes. We split the team into two areas. One of them is more related with product management; it is the digital product area. The other one is the digital growth. The first one, the digital product team focuses on pulling the platform with the product management, working with It and providers such as Amadeus or our IT team. And the digital growth team focuses on selling.

Ismael was in charge of the insourcing of the digital growth team, where they focus on where they focus on increasing the sales through website and apps.

I’m the manager of this team, and we are trying to improve the user acquisition, the conversion, the customer retention. Our challenge, as I told you before, it was to find people who want to join the team because digital specialists are highly demanded, and it was complicated to find people. The second one was to organize ourselves. In the growth part, we grew from 7 people to 13, so we needed to advance how to work together. I strongly believe that it’s impossible to achieve good results working in siloes. We need to understand how would be the best way to work together. And you need specialists in each area to know the best techniques, but they will not work if their team members are working independently.

This is the time when Ismael’s role changed from being a digital expert, a specialist who performs airline digital optimization and CRO tasks, to a digital leader who is managing Air Europa’s CRO process.

My daily job has changed quite a lot because as you said, it’s quite easy. If you have the knowledge, I just check some data; after that, I can think of an experiment and I can even design a bit how to test it or whatever. But the point is, try to go faster and go farther with more people.

A new role brought new challenges, but Ismael is embracing and enjoying the learning process.

The current challenge is specifically this one: it’s how to mix people with several years of experience in airlines with other people who don’t know too much because they moved from consultancy agencies or different kinds of companies. It’s more challenging. But it was not a problem. I think it was even positive to have different kinds of people with different experiences and knowledge to take advantage of mixing all of them. At this point, we have a united team even though we are people with different personalities. But it’s quite good working together. As I told you, my work is changing. It’s more tactical. My current job is trying to have the team do their best, every member of the team in this area, but also working together. So we are in that process.

Do You Want to Listen to More Talks With Airline Digital Leaders?

If you want to learn from leaders like Ismael about how to build innovative airline digital products or want to be the first to know when our next Airline Digital Talk will be published, please:

Iztok Franko

I am passionate about digital marketing and ecommerce, with more than 10 years of experience as a CMO and CIO in travel and multinational companies. I work as a strategic digital marketing and ecommerce consultant for global online travel brands. Constant learning is my main motivation, and this is why I launched Diggintravel.com, a content platform for travel digital marketers to obtain and share knowledge. If you want to learn or work with me check our Academy (learning with me) and Services (working with me) pages in the main menu of our website.

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