Here at the Digital Scot, we love to talk with local companies in the area and hear their thoughts on the digital world. With Aberdeen having one of the busiest airports in the world, it was a great opportunity to meet with Jason Stewart, E-commerce manager at Aberdeen International Airport, who enlightened us on the importance of digital marketing for his industry.
Name: Jason Stewart
Job Title: E-Commerce Manager
Company: Aberdeen International Airport
How did you end up working in digital marketing (or related area e.g. ecommerce, digital design, digital PR, UX, etc.)?
Since achieving a degree in Corporate Communications from Robert Gordon University in 2009, I was selected from a pool of students in my course to complete an 8-week placement at the airport. From here, I was able to take-part in various marketing promotions and bring a mix of creative, editorial, design and implementation skills to the business. The placement ended in an offer of full time employment, which I accepted.
Subsequently I moved on to work within the Route Development and Marketing function, with a focus on securing new air services to the region and then working with airlines and tour operators to promote and sell these products. During this time I worked closely with internal and external stakeholders to promote the products and messages of our airlines and other airport products, with a real focus on the digital environment.
As time moved on, I began to take responsibility for more of the airport digital marketing channels and systems, such as the website, social media presence, customer databases and communications, booking systems and search engine marketing.
I have recently completed a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing (Dip. DigM) with the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) and have been employed as E-Commerce Manager at Aberdeen International Airport since February 2014.
What is your current role, and what does a typical day look like?
My current role as E-Commerce Manager is both exciting and diverse. The world of airports and aviation is a world apart from other industries, and in particular digital is an area that is niche but also important and growing rapidly.
In my role, I am responsible for all of the key consumer-facing digital areas – including but not limited to:
- Websites (mainly aberdeenairport.com)
- Booking systems (car parking, airport lounges, security, flights, hotels, holidays etc.)
- Customer database
- eCRM (email communications)
- Search engine marketing (SEO and PPC)
- Online partnerships
- Social media channels
My role covers the maintenance, marketing, content planning and development of these channels with a view to deliver a world-class digital airport experience to our customers, and to deliver the best value back to Aberdeen International Airport.
Due to the variety in the role, a ‘typical day’ can be hard to come by, however this would usually involve dealing with a number of internal and external stakeholders – including airlines, retailers, agencies, communications and marketing teams to deliver elements of development and content strategies for the large number of projects we are working on together.
What do you enjoy most about working in a digitally focused environment?
I enjoy working in digital for the following reasons:
- It allows for real-time marketing and data-driven decisions
- Reaction to campaigns is instantaneous, and this can be used to optimise
- Almost everything can be tracked, and therefore assessed and improved on.
- It allows the business to understand the passenger more than ever before, and place the digital development strategy with the passenger at the centre.
- Innovation and change are the only constants in the digital arena, and knowing and embracing this as a business allows us to always be one step ahead.
What has been the proudest moment of your digital marketing career so far?
There are many highlights so isolating one is a tough question, however due to the extent of the work involved I would have to say the launch of our new website. The project to launch the new site lasted 13 months and was split across three phases of development.
Initially, we set out to remove the content from our previous owners Heathrow Airport Holdings and re-launch this in a new, locally-managed content management system. Subsequently we worked on developing the functionality and ultimately created a fresh, mobile-first design prior to re-launching the site in February 2015.
The new site is a world-first in airport websites in that it cross-references user-chosen flight preferences with their physical geo-location to generate content the user is most likely to want to see. The result has been fantastic – user satisfaction has never been higher, and all of the key reporting metrics for our site are showing as positive. Keep an eye out in the medium term for some more developments on our website.
Similarly, what has been your biggest challenge? And how did you overcome it?
Decentralisation. At my time of joining the airport, the digital set-up was very different to what it is today. Under the ownership of ‘BAA’ (also at the time owners of Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Southampton, Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports) our systems were centralised and managed/developed via London. In the years that followed we were tasked more and more with taking digital systems in-house and under local ownership. Since then the airport has been sold to AGS Airports Ltd., and as you fast forward to the present day and we have successfully migrated all of our consumer-facing digital systems and manage these locally.
How important is digital marketing/media for your job/industry?
To an airport, and in the travel industry as a whole, digital presence is absolutely essential. Every day we compete against other online travel businesses to be noticed – areas such as car parking, flights and destinations, social and promotions are all key.
Aberdeen is no different in that respect – all digital performance and income is tracked and performance measures are applied to each area. We have a responsibility to provide our passengers with the very best in up-to-the-minute information, news about their local airport and opportunities for them to have their voice heard as we develop our systems further.
How do you manage to stay on top of the latest digital trends?
The best way to keep on top of digital trends is really becoming active in your chosen industry. Make sure you join and take part in relevant LinkedIn groups, read industry newsletters (for me it’s both travel/digital), subscribe to feeds via news apps such as FlipBoard, attend industry events and conferences and invest in the latest technology and test out new and innovative functionality.
There are a myriad of ways to keep up to date in reality, but the best way I would suggest is to network – speak to other like-minded individuals, consult with others in your field and share ideas with your agencies and peers. Things are always moving and no one opinion is correct, so get yourself out there and embrace change!
Some ‘do it now’ all-round digital communications you may wish to consider:
In which digital areas, if any, do you see your business evolving in the next 5 years?
Without doubt, all areas of the business will evolve in the next five years! With our passenger growth and in-progress terminal transformation project (www.aberdeenairport.com/transformation) we have a good platform to innovate and expand our digital offering in the coming years.
The way we personalise and display content to our passengers along with the ever-fuzzier line between on and offline will be core to our digital strategy in the coming years. Key platforms such as the website and mobile will begin to blend with the physical passenger experience as we develop new and exciting ways to inform and interact with our customers.
And what should we look out for right now? Are there any exciting digital projects or campaigns on the horizon for your business / company?
Talking medium term, look out for more streamlining in the way we communicate with our customers via email. We are in the process of finalising an action-driven customer email strategy in which different variables influence the content sent to your inbox. This approach makes our content more personal to the recipient and will help to build loyalty and engagement moving forward.
Longer term (without giving too much away!) look out for a massive overhaul in our mobile strategy including ‘a digital in-airport experience’ – centred around the passenger, their flight choices and physical location.
Finally, do you have any tips for aspiring digital marketers / any tips about the digital industry?
Do not feel intimidated or behind the times, the fact of the matter is that the younger you are, the more ‘native’ you are to the digital environment. Embrace your strengths and research/work on your weaker areas. Nothing is new for long in digital and the only certainty is that things will change at an ever-increasing rate.
With this change in mind, nobody can ever be a master of all digital aspects. Be a well-rounded jack of all trades or choose a particular specialist subject and learn all you can about it. Keep up to date, share your knowledge with others and embrace digital for the real-time data and power it provides to allow you to make informed decisions and drive your business forward.
Thanks again to Jason Stewart for his very detailed account of how digital marketing plays a huge role within his job. If you would like to feature as a guest blog, please get in touch here.