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The Path to Airport Digital Revenue Growth: Project Phases

December 06, 2022
Daniel HallerDaniel HallerHead of Program, Omnevo

In my previous blog - First Steps on the Path to Airport Digital Revenue Growth - I outlined the surging imperative for airports to urgently place revenue digitalization at the heart of their Non-Aeronautical Revenue and I shared the key building blocks needed for them to set out safely on their digital journey. Now, for those forward-thinking airport managers looking to actually seize the digital opportunity, I’d like to drill deeper to illustrate the key phases of a digitalization project. 

When Omnevo partners with a client, we jointly share in creating a clear project roadmap to understand the key phases of the project. These phases obviously vary in scale, complexity, and timescale according to the needs of each project and the internal resources available to the airport, but the visual (below) offers a guide to the path of a typical project.

Phase 1: Discovery

We start with what we call the Discovery Phase – an intensive consultation to ensure we have a full understanding of the airport’s needs and its business model and can create a shared roadmap for the whole project.

This typically begins with a series of onboarding workshops for the teams to meet and examine and clarify the project scope, aims, and ambitions in detail. Here, it’s vital to get all the relevant stakeholders and key personnel together. Firstly, we ensure that everyone is fully on-board and understands the project aims - and then we can assign responsibility for key issues such as passenger data, loyalty, products, payments etc. Occasionally, we find that dreams and ambitions collide with technical realities - but we make most of them come true! 

Through a series of further workshops, we scope, analyse, and create the Solution Design - the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that becomes the beating heart of the project. This shared, precise focus on the project scope enables us to create a more precise definition of what is actually needed (and identify what isn’t, of course!), and we can also review the project budget to ensure we all share a realistic picture.

The Solution Design provides a detailed description of what will be delivered in the Implementation Phase, including a precise presentation of what the MVP will include and also a mapping of the stages of the platform’s roll-out. The MVP is the very first part of every roadmap and we use it as our foundation. If the roadmap is our path to the project’s summit, then we can think of the MVP as our base camp – from here we then extend the platform’s capabilities based on the MVP until we achieve our aim. 

Phase 2: Set-up & Implementation

Next comes the heavy technical work of working as a combined team in creating the MVP platform, based on the agreed Solution Design. Processes for the Set-up & Implementation are defined and developed, including the running of Integrations. From this original MVP, a series of more advanced versions will then be developed and refined.  

Implementation is an exciting period as the new platform brings to life the airport’s vision. Inevitably, this also inspires many questions as a wide range of staff across the airport learn how to adapt to the new system in preparation to face the ‘live’ customer.  This is an incredibly complex and time-consuming phase and, as the timescale is defined by the scale and scope of the project, can range hugely in the time required.

Phase 3: QA & Roll-out

The Quality Assurance phase demands intensive testing of the platform through a full Test Plan, including a series of Bugfixing cycles and the support of the airport’s own QA resources (if available). From Testing we then import the platform’s content, product data, etc. and all migrations are finalized.  This intensive testing phase ensures that all the relevant data - such as product data, brand descriptions, editorial content, campaign & landing pages, legal requirements, integrations, security & stress testing etc - are all working smoothly. Once this is signed off with the airport’s agreement, we are ready for what is probably the most exciting and satisfying achievement - the rollout! 

Phase 4: Post-launch Hypercare

The platform’s launch is, of course, challenging as the airport team takes the platform into ‘live’ action and all the skills and functions developed in the Implementation phase need to be put into action. These first few weeks often reveal new questions and processes as the team learns and adapts to optimize the platform’s performance. In support, Omnevo provides a period of Hypercare – an instantly available support program to boost the airport team as they bed-in their new system. Omnevo maintains technical control and smooth operation of the platform, giving the airport the freedom of daily control of all business-relevant operations, including setting up new discounts and promotions, adding new products etc as part of their new relationship with their retail partners and the new experience for the customer.

Phase 5: Support & Operations

Following the successful roll-out, the platform’s operation will become second nature to the airport team and they will see opportunities to further develop and refine this ‘living’ platform. Over time, this progression includes the gradual addition of new features, such as links to Loyalty programs, customer segmentation (e.g., enabling different offers and prices for different customer profiles), new payment methods, and additional delivery options. For example, the platform may launch with a ‘Click & Collect’ option at the airport terminal, but then evolve to add home delivery.

Long-term Performance

The platform needs regular ‘feeding’ by the airport with new offers, services, and experiences – this is absolutely critical to success and optimal revenue performance. The holistic customer experience needs to be dynamic, evolving with customer demands and so demands regular updates, especially in the frequent onboarding of new brands and retailers. The digital process of continuous evolution and expansion of the customer experience is remarkably effective in driving higher revenue and the airport should also develop a steady pipeline of new retailers to keep the platform aligned with customer needs.

As the platform grows, the airport also needs to provide support through its Marketing program to drive traffic to this fantastic new shop window; after all, the customer can only know about it if you tell them! The airport team can adopt a range of tactics to drive traffic and make the platform appealing, including a unique product range, relevant product offers (such as special promotions, exclusives, and seasonal campaigns), linkage to Loyalty programs, advertising, SEO, social media campaigns etc. These tactics also help the airport to develop deeper personalization across the customer experience, proven to drive significantly higher levels of engagement, conversion, and spend.

Also, accurate, in-depth reporting and analysis processes will help ensure a clear view of web tracking to provide a detailed view of sales performance and customer behaviour. Detailed understanding of how customers use the platform – such as sales performance by categories, brands and products, the impact of promotions or social media campaigns, abandoned baskets etc – will all help further improve understanding of the platform’s performance and drive it higher.

Technology for life… and revenue

Throughout the project and continuing into the future development of the platform, Omnevo adjusts the level of support we provide according to the needs and internal capabilities of the airport team. Some airports possess the technical capabilities to integrate any new features or expansions but Omnevo can certainly fulfill any of the technical aspects of this progression, if required. Remember, too, that this technology can not only be tailored to integrate with any existing systems and processes - it is also future-proof and can continually evolve and adapt to the airport’s needs.  

Adopting a digital platform strategy is a major step for any airport, but it’s the right step towards meeting what the customer expects of their airport experience. It’s also the most effective, controllable, and reliable path to stronger Non-Aeronautical Revenue.  Almost every airport I speak to fully understands that digitalization is essential, but it can be an intimidating challenge. They need a clearer picture of how they can make that phased journey and I hope this blog helps to clarify the process and persuades them to start that journey today.

In the third and final blog in this three-part series, Daniel will highlight the key roles and responsibilities that are needed across the airport team in each of the key project phases, and also the corresponding roles that Omnevo’s specialists provide in support.