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As we do every year, the beginning of the year is reserved for our airline industry digital benchmarks. We’re finalizing our 2023 Airline Digital Optimization survey results and plan to publish the 2023 Yearbook in the following weeks.
While survey and self-assessment are a huge – and the most visible – part of our airline digital optimization research, talking to airline digital leaders is just as crucial. The people who do the digital work every day in practice are the ones that can explain and provide proper context to the numbers we see in the survey results.
We did our first benchmarks more than five years ago, and it’s really interesting to see how airline ecommerce and digital teams have evolved since then. Eveline Lee is one of the airline digital leaders that has supported and participated in our research from the start. Eveline started her airline career 10 years ago when she joined Asian low-cost airline Scoot as one of the first team members in their digital team. Since then, Scoot’s digital team has evolved and matured immensely, and I’m glad Eveline was willing to talk about the learnings from their journey.
Listen to the new episode of the Diggintravel Podcast to learn about Eveline and her airline digital work at Scoot, 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 and retailing trends!
Last year Eveline celebrated what she described as a 10th ‘workiversary’ at Scoot. Scoot was founded in 2011, so Eveline was one of the first members of their small airline digital team.
I have been with Scoot for 10 years now, I think coming to 11 soon. Right from the start, I’ve been with them. When they were starting out, I joined them to get things started, to get the whole system up, to get the website up. I think as a startup, it was really a very lean team. It was just myself and two other colleagues, and we were all running different things. Somebody was running the core system. I was more managing the website experience and other digital areas as well. You have to do everything from end to end, not just one part of the scope.
The team and the processes evolved as the airline and its digital platforms grew. So, my first question for Eveline was: how has the team matured over these 10 years?
Of course, as the company grows, as the ambitions change as well, then we have to also skill up our team. We have to take on a more focused portfolio to be able to scale up the number of destinations we are flying as well. It’s not just one person can carry everything out end to end. It’s a bit unique to also enable people in the team to be able to do it together with you and then plan roadmaps, launch them, and then overcome challenges.
Two of our previous guests, Mariana and Ursula, talked about some of the challenges female digital professionals face in the airline industry. But one thing that jumps out when you look at Scoot’s digital team is how young, vibrant and diverse it is.
I think that more women actually make the choice to pick up this more and more increasingly as their choice of career, especially when we’re talking about ecommerce. Or even now, the more common term is called product management. Women are getting very equally attracted to such roles. When I started in my own team, I was the only lady in the team. The others were all guys. And then I was told, “Hey, actually maybe it’d be good if you can have a mixture of females in the team.” And then in a couple of years’ time, it became a little bit more female-dominated. But I think the photo that you saw recently – yes, it’s actually a 50/50 mix. It’s a mix of user experience experts and the digital team. There’s a mix of some people who came on board and learned everything from scratch to do ecommerce, worked with developers to get their product up and running.
This talk with Eveline was part of our airline digital optimization research, so of course I wanted to talk about experimentation, product optimization and everything related to digital optimization. But in our preparation, Eveline highlighted one area of experimentation that is often neglected – change management.
I’ve always viewed change as something that I would advocate for, I would support, and I would want to drive change. I think from my perspective, when I want to roll out something or want to build something, I want to see how I can change things, how I can improve things. That’s the concept of experimentation, that you go out there and you try and then you learn about the outcomes and you then want to tweak and improve on it.
Eveline mentioned that experimentation should be a crucial part of every change because by running experiments and testing changes, you can minimize risk and build confidence that the new digital product you’re rolling out will actually have a positive impact. But once you develop and test a new feature or product and find that it has a positive impact, the work is not done. This is when the more challenging part of change management kicks in: getting everybody on the same page and making sure everybody is embracing the new way, be it product or process.
When it comes to a team and when it comes to an organization, you cannot just do it within your small area of work because the influence and the impact of the entire organization has to happen together, so that’s where the whole digital change management is supposed to happen.
When we talk about change management, I came to realize that although I love to drive change, when the entire organization plans to change together, I also need to follow what that change is. And I think then I am the one who has to follow and manage a change that needs to happen. The perspective is very different because driving change – everyone who feels like they want to drive something, they definitely will have the passion and they will want to drive it.
The whole idea of being able to feel that you are not being forgotten or feel that you are not being compromised, in a sense, for a better outcome, then it goes back to when I’m driving change, how I help people to feel better. And then when I am being changed, how the communication is to happen, how the whole facilitation and the whole organization is to be talking constantly. That I think definitely increased my perspective of change management.
As your digital team grows, and as you add more people, more complex organization, and more processes, the way you manage change becomes increasingly important. The other part Eveline mentioned is that the team had to think and work differently.
I think in digital specifically, it would be maybe in the past, we wanted to aim for a very big outcome, like maybe I wanted to create this whole feature that is supposed to bring me a lot of revenue, but it would probably take me one year to try to build that completely. I think in this sense, now a lot of things are about coming up with smaller iterations, about trying to scope it into smaller MVPs first and then, after that, test outcomes before you experiment, and then before you actually improve it.
A lot of it has to start from the mindset of what is your objective, what is the result you’re looking for, and how then can you be more efficient and more productive, because then you are not spending all year trying to do something that you don’t know whether it’s going to work or not. If the iteration can happen in 1-2 months or 2-3 months, then it will help you be able to test the outcomes more quickly.
One of the digital products the Scoot digital team rolled out in the last year was App Clips. An App Clip is a small part of an app that lets your users do a task quickly. In the travel industry, because of the low frequency of travel (compared to retail or other industries), we often struggle to convince users to download and keep our app on their mobile phone.
Many of your customers (especially if they’re flying with your airline for the first time) might not want to download your app, but they still want the mobile digital experience. App Clips gives your users access to a small part of your app without requiring them to look for it and download it from the App Store. The Scoot mobile digital team recognized this and came up with an innovative solution.
We know that the mobile experience is not just in the app that people download. It’s the entire mobile phone itself and how there are really a lot more smartphone users and how people use their mobile phones almost every hour of their life. We thought that instead of trying to get people to download our app that doesn’t seem relevant at this point, that we can actually get people to interact with Scoot, even though they have never downloaded our app before. I think it was an interesting use case and trial as well.
I think iOS came out with a lot of their core features, and I think App Clips was one of them. It’s quite interesting how we saw App Clips became more popular over the pandemic period especially. I think especially where we had to do a lot of the entry scans and the QR code scans to enter a building and whatnot. App Clips became one of my favorite features to use on my iPhone, actually. I think one of my team members said they also think that App Clips can be used for our mobile app experience.
The App Clip project is a good example of the iterative approach Eveline talked about previously. Scoot’s digital team built a solution that helped their users complete a task on their mobile phones and reduced friction. Once they tested it and got positive initial results and feedback, they started to think about how they could expand this to other areas.
At the moment, it’s still in its iteration phase. But I think what we saw is that a lot of people were using it, so it means that there is an interest for people to want to have that App Clip. Then the idea is, what else can we make use of on the App Clip? Something that can drive another action for the customer. Is it some kind of alert for them to interact in the app or get them to actually decide that they want to download the app? I think that’s the direction we are looking at, the next steps, the function that we want to use.
Eveline mentioned one other important thing when we talked about building your mobile digital solutions.
One thing that airlines can learn is that when we create apps for our industry, we shouldn’t be just thinking about what it is that the traveler is looking for, but I think we should try to make it like a real shopping experience that is very much out there in the retail industry. There are a lot of features out there that retailers have that actually make the shopping experience more engaging, more helpful. So I think that would help airlines.
If you want to learn from leaders like Eveline 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:
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.