At the World Low Cost Congress in London this week, Ryanair CMO Kenny Jacobs, told the audience that the millennial dating mobile app Tinder was firing up the low-cost carrier’s new digital strategy.

Jacobs explained that Ryanair’s retail strategy is evolving from being strictly focused on flight-sales to becoming a “sticky travel services company,” and that a creative digital platform is required to support the transformation.

Ryanair’s new digital strategy, Jacobs said, will include travel inspiration with unique customer-shared content that is delivered through a new cross-platform personalized interface called My Ryanair. This will be a key feature of the airline’s new website and app launching this fall.¬†Without wanting to give away, Jacobs said the Tinder app’s sharing interface and its user experience inspired the design.

“We’re looking at how, for example, Tinder, a dating app used across the world, how they’re showing you people. That’s one of the ways we want to show you destinations on mobile,” said Jacobs. ¬†“It’s a new mode, digital. We’re fascinated by what we’re going to do with it.”

Part of what Ryanair is going to do with it is take on other digital platforms that have previously benefited from what Jacobs perceives as airlines’ historic lack of sophistication, and a lack of firm digital strategy.

“Airlines haven’t been good at understanding the value of their digital assets and understanding the value of the data asset that they have,” said Jacobs. “The airlines are actually wanting to say, ‘We’ll sell flights, let’s plug in hotels and car hires,’ and they do their jobs on ancillaries and the rest is… what’s the rest? I think you can see that in terms of the number of airlines, the number of travel businesses, that don’t have a decent app and that haven’t got their mobile optimized, [along with] websites that haven’t been using customer information.”

Wasting Big Data

Instead, Jacobs suggests airlines have squandered their Big Data assets.

“They’ve been selling customer information to someone else to do something with it. It’s a great asset to us,” said Jacobs. “We want our customers to say, ‘No, I have a relationship with Ryanair. I’m going to keep doing things with Ryanair.'”

Instead of developing firm digital strategies to build those personal relationships with flyers, Jacobs says airlines have been passing data assets on to those who have always had a plan in place, and who know how to build strong digital relationships with consumers, that turn them on to buying.

“I think we’ve lost the ball to people like Skyscanner, even people like Google, in terms of saying, ‘OK, you guys be the digital masters when it comes to the airline space, we just want to sell flights.’ What we want to do is that we want to take the ball back. We want customers to have the relationship with us. I don’t want them to be spending a huge amount of money waiting for the Ryanair brand turn on Google. We don’t. 95% of our traffic comes direct. What I want customers to say is: ‘I get much more from Ryanair than just cheap flights to places I want to go to. They give me lots of other interesting travel services, travel content.’ So you just become the sticky travel experience that also happens to be the world’s best low-cost carrier.”

Supporting this new strategy, says Jacobs, is Ryanair’s new brand definition, backed by the Always Getting Better program.

“There’s now a focus on satisfaction with Ryanair the service and the perception of the brand,” says Jacobs. “The brand is very, very different, and the trust levels in Ryanair are much higher. I think now we have a license to do things that we perhaps couldn’t have done in the past. People will say, ‘Of course I’ll book a holiday with Ryanair.’ If I open up the Ryanair app, and search for Barcelona, and get digital restaurant recommendations for Barcelona. If I have the social plug-in [I can share]. We can make money on that and customers will say, ‘That’s a really good service, thank you Ryanair.’ I think that’s the new type of ancillary that will emerge.”

Photo Credit: Ryanair's CMO, Kenny Jacobs, shares details of the airline's new digital strategy with attendees at the World Low-Cost Airlines Congress in London Marisa Garcia / FCMedia