Get in touch

Insights /
Insights / Aviation

Kian Gould Interview Part 2: "With OM³, airports really know their passengers for the 1st time"

February 12, 2019
About the author Christian HolzschuhChristian Holzschuh
Marketing & Communications

What are the USPs of airports when it comes to E-Commerce? Why do airports underestimate the cost of implementing E-Commerce solutions? And what about the Return on Investment (ROI)? Kian Gould, CEO and founder of AOE, answers these and other questions in an interview with Peter Marshall.

Interview with AOE CEO Kian Gould – Part 2 of 3

Peter and Kian spoke at the TFWA Summit in Cannes about the challenges in the travel retail industry – and how airports, airlines and retailers are responding to these challenges. In addition, in the second part of the three-part interview, Kian explains how AOE's OM³ Platform can be customized to meet the individual needs of each airport, why an Omnichannel solution allows airports to really get to know their customers for the first time, and the obstacles they may encounter in implementing such a solution.

Transcript Part 2 (excerpts)

In their three-part video interview, Peter Marshall of Marshall Arts International, and Kian Gould, CEO of AOE, discuss challenges that airports and the travel retail industry are facing. Learn about different approaches to these challenges and find out how Frankfurt Airport, London Heathrow and Auckland International are digitalizing their business cases to optimize the customer experience and create new non-aviation revenue streams.

OM³: Not just a sales channel, but a way for airports to really get to know passengers for the first time

  1. Peter Marshall: You talked earlier about how each airport has its own DNA, its own USP. Would it be fair to say that your platform is very much tailor-made for each individual airport? There is no kind of “one size fits all” solution? And of course, this is quite costly. Is the resource in the airports up to speed with what is required to deliver this platform?

    Kian Gould: That’s a good question. A few questions actually.

    As for the first question, we designed OM³ as a suite. Suite, for us, means that it is a collection of solutions that you can plug-and-play. And, each of those can be customized to that airport’s specific business requirements. Of course, you have a lot of common ground, such as order management, logistics, payment, product information management, search, recommendation – all of that. Those are all individual solutions inside OM³. However, the airport wants their own unique user experience in the frontend, their own workflows, their own locations. They have their own layout of the airport. Sometimes, they already have solutions in place. Heathrow, for example, had a loyalty program, so we integrated with it in real-time. Whereas Frankfurt didn’t have one, so we built it to be integrated with the platform. We can use the facilities the airport already has – we don’t need to do a rip and replace, which is something a lot of airports would be afraid of – and we integrate it into the ecosystem of the airport.

    Some airports underestimate the costs to roll out a solution, integrate it with 30-plus retailers and all of their systems – which are often legacy, which are often not fully real-time and so on – plus, integrate it with the flight information system, the loyalty system, the CRM, the BI, etc. However, if you do it right, the return on investment can be accelerated. For example, in Heathrow, we are going to see the return on investment of the first release of the platform within twelve months. This is of course based on the maturity that airport already has in communicating with its passengers. If you’re starting with zero, that ROI takes longer. But if you are starting somewhere, that ROI can be strongly accelerated. 

  2. Peter Marshall: Most of the airports you are speaking to are operating a wait-and-see policy. But, certainly the figures from Heathrow, the growing figures from Auckland and Frankfurt should tip them into conversation with you that is actually more robust and meaningful. Perhaps, when online retail sucks up 20-25 percent of the airport business, and is directly seen to be cannibalizing it, there might be a serious wake-up call, but then it is almost too late. And, 75 percent of the remaining business isn’t enough – given the demands of the infrastructure and so on from the airports.

    Kian Gould:
      That’s one way to secure retail sales, but what you have to keep in mind is that what we are building for these airports is not just another channel for selling, it’s actually a way to know the passengers for the first time. This is absolutely crucial. I strongly believe that advertisers will be less and less willing to spend for billboards at an airport that are not personalized. They will be much more interested to speak to 200 passengers that have shown a certain behavior, that fly in a certain class to a certain destination, and market to them directly.


Do you want to know if, and if so, why, travel retail lags behind other industries in harnessing technology to meet the industry's challenges? Want to find out more about extending the Golden Hour into the Golden Week or Golden Month? Read the entire transcript of Part II below for answers to these – and other – questions.

Kian Gould

Kian Gould

CEO and Founder / AOE
The travel retail industry is really a protected bubble to some extent. Spend per passenger is dropping almost everywhere across the board, whether inflight or at the airports. Omnichannel E-Commerce at airports, therefore, offers enormous potential for revenue growth."

TFWA Summit in Cannes: Kian Gould Interview with Peter Marshall

In parts 1 and 3 of the video, Kian Gould explains the different business models for E-Commerce at Frankfurt AirportAuckland International and London Heathrow. Among other things, you will also learn how airlines and airports can work better together and what impact digitalization actually has on the industry:


How airlines can regain trust, loyalty and revenue by taking control of the digital customer journey.

December’s World Aviation Festival in London was a great opportunity to bring the industry together and, although attendance was inevitably lower than normal, there was a strong conference program that carried a mood of guarded optimism. Best of all, I was delighted to see just how strongly the focus was on real action to drive ancillary revenue and recovery.  Much of 2021 has been spent waiting for a recovery to be established and many airlines have understandably been hesitant (or unable) to commit to new investment or major change in their customer operations. The long hoped-for recovery has been impossible to forecast accurately and many airlines opted to simply ‘hunker down’ and wait until a clearer path can be seen through the storm. That strategy carries deep risks. We now face a new phase of crisis as Omicron sadly develops its global presence but the fact is that the world will continue to turn, people will continue to travel, the crisis will eventually recede, and traffic will return. Airlines need to be preparing right now to create the customer experience that the recovery will demand.  Yes, the picture of how the 2022 travel market will look in recovery is still blurred right now - but the key point is that we do already know exactly what the returning customer looks like and what they want. We have a clear understanding of the experience they want - and we have the digital tools to deliver that experience.