Interview: Roberto Abbondio, Managing Director of Eurostar
We spoke to Roberto Abbondio, MD New Digital Business of Eurostar, to find out how they plan, optimize and manage their digital transformation and long-term marketing strategy.
Roberto is one of many senior keynote speakers at Digistrategy 2017, London on December 14th.
Roberto joined Eurostar in 2017. As MD New Digital Business, he is in charge of strategic projects aimed at engaging the customer with innovative and relevant ancillary propositions. Roberto joined from Cathay Pacific where he served as Managing Director Cathay Pacific Holidays in Hong Kong, leading its transition to a modern digitalised one-stop shop for the airline. Prior to that he was part of the start-up of Hostelbookers.com and he worked for Expedia as Business Development Director for their b2b division, based in Paris. In his early career, after his Political Economics degree at Bocconi in Milan, Roberto covered various roles at British Airways, including country commercial manager Argentina and other revenue management positions in their London headquarters.
1. Please give us some examples of recent projects and programmes at Eurostar which show the value of digital transformation?
Like many other travel companies, we are currently undergoing a deep digital transformation, trying to evolve our business and to become online retailers of travel services. A key strategic focus nowadays is on ancillary products that traditionally yield higher margins. The aim is to get a bigger slice of “travel wallets” by increasing our brand appeal, elevating it from a mere transport function to a broader and more inspirational experience.
Instead of acquiring technology from third-party, we have taken a bold step and decided to create, in house, a brand new digital travel retail platform. Things have massively evolved in the past few years and Agile methodology offers a much safer and direct path to create own products and platforms.
In this, we hope to be more in control and add more value to our digital transformation process as we will keep a lot of learning with us, instead of simply hire a platform from somebody else and make money from it. However, the work does not stop here, as these platforms can largely be generic and nowadays easily copied; more and more it is the personalization of the offer and the relationship with the brand that makes the difference and that’s where our focus has to be.
2. How do you evaluate the potential of new marketing technology innovations at Eurostar?
We are quite proud to be perceived as a customer-focused organization and we truly strive to always start any development with the customer in mind. It is essential to understand our customers’ needs and be relevant.
Technology is important, but the big battle within online travel is now played around individualization through data, aiming to create a virtuous circle in this relationship. That is why we are committed to using a systematic and iterative “service design” approach, in order to create digital products that are useful, desirable, efficient and effective.
Everything we do will hopefully always start and end with the customer and that’s how we evaluate any potential innovation. Sometimes this can be a tricky message to convey and I am not saying that revenue does not matter, but clearly without customer preference there is no revenue, so…
Long-term strategy and development
3. What approaches do you take to long-term strategy development and transformation?
We do indeed have a long-term roadmap and while trying to plan and being strategic we always try not to be dogmatic and allow space for failure and also for second thoughts on projects and products.
Some of the key long-term plans are focused on personalization and new user interfaces as mentioned. However, one of the most fascinating topics on the long-term roadmap is in my view predictive capability. This is not only restricted to e-commerce, for example trying to deeply understand first and then predict what our customers are trying to do or looking for on our website, but will also become at some point a relevant part of operations: let’s imagine for example to be able to predict when a specific train part will need mechanical maintenance or how a queue at the station is likely to develop within a particular timeframe. These are all huge issues that could become easier to manage, improving the quality of our service and offering a better proposition to customers.
4. Which project techniques and processes have you found useful for implementing new digital technologies?
The majority of work at Eurostar is now conducted following Agile methodology. This allows us to go relatively quickly to market and then continuously fine-tune and improve any products while building new functionalities.
The idea is that any new digital products are living creatures in constant evolution. What drives them is, of course, our customers’ preferences and their related data. I believe in launching minimum viable products and get as much as feedback as possible earlier on, without wasting time and efforts in something that we may believe is great, but in reality, it is not. Hence, developing in Agile is clearly the most efficient way to go.
Learn more about Digistrategy 2017
To learn more about digital transformation and long-term marketing strategy Roberto Abbondio is one of many keynote speakers at Digistrategy 2017, London on December 14th.
DigiStrategy brings those at the forefront of digital strategy and innovation together for one day, providing an outlet for thought sharing, leading to change & growth!
You can expect to hear from leading minds at Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Eurostar, The Economist, GSK, BBC, Unilever and many more!
View the speakers here
Topics discussed include:
- Digital Strategy
- Digital Innovation
- Digital Transformation
- Audience Growth
- UX Strategy
- Access to all keynote presentations & panel sessions
- Access to workshops
- Catered breaks & lunch
- Access to videos & slides after the forum
- Delegate list
... and even an open bar at the end of the day!