Applying superpowers to boost digital and merchandising impacts

Philippe Der Arslanian

VP, Merchandising & Digital, Amadeus IT Group

This content is only available in this language.

As I was gliding across the stage this Tuesday on my hover board, I couldn’t help but look on at the crowd and reflect on how far this event has come. Just ten years ago, we were not so creative, the focus of this annual event was limited to the Web, and we had only a few airlines willing to share their stories on stage.

Reflections from the Airline Direct Leaders’ Forum for Merchandising, Digital, and Travel Intelligence in Baveno, Italy.

Philippe Der Arslanian

But as the digital landscape has drastically changed, so have airlines, Amadeus and this event. In the last three days, more than 20 guest speakers from around the world shared their stories on stage. We also had some 300 delegates in attendance, drawn from every continent of the world.  Moreover, today’s digital landscape is a vast, fascinating and dynamic world, and we jumped in with abandon. Our guest speakers, who were from airlines, affiliations and IT partners, covered mobile, merchandising, personalisation, cloud technology, luxury travel trends, customer experience management, user experience and big data, all with a great deal of passion.

This resulted in many concrete and actionable takeaways to help airlines to further master the digital journey, unlock new revenue opportunities, and gain insights on travellers and trends.

In the end, the lessons I’ve learned in the process of creating and growing this event over the last decade mirror the lessons airlines and the wider industry are learning about e-commerce.

Key things to take away

Speed is essential.

The speakers presented their business challenges they’ve successfully tackled and the solutions they implemented in just 15 minutes. All presentations were concise, impactful and actionable. This commitment to speed is the same mind-set that online marketers must constantly apply to their new websites, mobile apps, and merchandising strategies: a project turnaround must be quick to keep up with a digital landscape ripe with opportunities to grab and quicksand challenges to avoid.

Knowledge sharing is key, and everyone has an expertise worth sharing.

The speakers reflected the diversity of our partnerships. From Fiji to Greenland, Canada to Japan, the Baltics to Brazil, South Africa to China. Every airlines had a different focus, challenge, maturity curve and some best practices worth sharing and learning from. As a result, all airlines are gaining insights from one another. With more than 60 airlines represented, this conference has now a clear mission to support airlines in their quest to deliver the best traveller experiences on their digital journey, while creating new revenue opportunities.

Finally, it’s important to maintain a special touch based on surprise and innovation.

Superman made a brief appearance on stage, and even he was up-staged the next day when a Haka warrior set the scene for Fiji Airlines. Besides this energy and creativity, I see the reflection of the ever-demanding need to go the extra mile to ensure thought leadership and to demonstrate some “superpower” capabilities in our solutions.

All of this has me pondering how I’m going to launch the Airline Leaders’ Direct Forum next year. After having a spin on my rolling shoes a few years ago, I entered the stage in a tuk tuk in Bangkok last year and I surfed a hover board in Baveno, Italy, this week. Do you have any suggestions for next year? I have some ideas, but we’re going to need a higher ceiling in the conference auditorium.


Merchandising, Events