We take a long view of what we are doing
Duty or tax free stores are strategically placed to attract the attention and spending power of travellers at most airports around the world.
But sometimes passengers either don’t have time to stop at a duty free store or are just focused on getting their flight.
For Auckland airport general manager of technology and marketing, Jason Delamore, their actions posed a question, “So how can we, as an airport, reach you before you actually travel as opposed to just getting you as you walk to the front door?”
At the time, Delamore and his team were looking to expand the reach of the airport’s duty free outlets. The answer lay in digital technology.
Today, travellers passing through Auckland Airport can buy duty free goods beforehand, through an online shopping website, The Mall, and pick them up prior to boarding their flight.
Shoppers can buy from multiple stores and pay for everything with a single credit card transaction. The orders are packed to be picked up at one place, the Collection Point.
Delamore says Auckland is the first airport to do this. “Other airports have done bits of it, but we do it all together. We are ahead of the game.”
Building the omnichannel retail experience is just one facet of Delamore’s remit. Currently, he and his team are working on the introduction of an AI Bot, and building digital platforms designed to make travel “from home to gate” easier for the more than 20 million customers who pass through Auckland’s domestic and international airports each year.
Non-linear career path
Delamore has held his current role for nearly three years, and has yet to meet a local counterpart with the same breadth of responsibility. Reporting to the chief executive, his role combines the strategy and delivery capabilities of the CMO and CIO functions.
Delamore is also chief digital officer. His core responsibilities span ICT systems, the digital team, marketing and project management.
His team delivers technology projects to the organisation and come from not only IT but also operations, finance and human resources. Some projects are even construction oriented
Delamore draws on previous experiences in technology and adjacent industries as he tackles the challenges of his current role. All of his former roles have involved technology, sales and marketing including four years as product marketing manager at IBM: “It provided me with a good understanding of technology and how projects work.”
He was general manager for Landis+Gyr in New Zealand, managing director of The Generator Room, marketing manager at Vector for two years, and Contact Energy general manager retail.
Combined, these positions gave him a good understanding of the ‘customer first’ ethos, large scale operations and the finance side of business: “How does this stuff work from an ROI perspective?”
“My days are interesting,” Delamore says. “I can talk to a large technology vendor about how a project is or isn’t going, and what is wrong. I can talk to an advertising agency about how a campaign is going to work with an augmented or brand new technology.
At the heart of his job is developing digital platforms designed to make travel easier including the omnichannel program for duty free stores allowing passengers to shop before they travel.
Being able to offer customers this seamless transaction involved change management and working with a raft of partners.
“We don’t operate a retail store,” Delamore says. “We have got to build an environment where partners want to come together and engage with us for that project. We have to figure out the logistics around that.”
This involves putting the retailers and their products in one product catalogue. “How do we ensure what you order from three different places is in the bag waiting for you?”
He says part of the dialogue with retailers was that the online retail store did not reduce foot traffic to their outlets. He told them the idea was to capture people who would either not otherwise shop at the stores or leave it to the last minute.
“It is about, how we grow the pie,” Delamore says, then smiles when asked whether he has cracked the omnichannel experience for passengers. “That is the start of it, we learn a lot as we go.”
The system is also integrated with the airport’s CRM and the Strata Club, a personal rewards and recognition program that works through the Auckland Airport app.
The goal is to have that single view of the customer, he says.
For the long haul
Delamore says his role is the first at Auckland Airport to formally combine technology and marketing. However, a big chunk of the work of his technology team is still keeping the lights on.
“From a core technology perspective it is all about resilience, 24x7. Building a team that can deal with the risk management side of technology will always be core,” he says. “You can’t take your eye off that.
“What I bring is customer focus for the IT team. It is not technology for technology’s sake. It is there for a purpose, to support our strategies and initiatives.”
“We need to deliver across the board. We are using a lot more agile methodologies across technology and non-technology projects.” As are the airport’s digital partners and vendors on the marketing side, he explains.
We benchmark ourselves globally with other airports, but also increasingly with other non-airport businesses
He runs a team of 30-plus people across information technology and 11 or 12 in marketing. However, Auckland Airport recently moved several core ICT functions to Datacom and as as part of the outsourcing deal, some people joined the company.
“What we keep in house is technology strategy, security architecture and the PMO.” Datacom delivers IT services, end user computing, patching maintenance – “sort of the daily grind”.
“They have great depth and capability in the area which frees us up to think about how we align to the customer, how we build the infrastructure of the future?”
“We take a long view of what we are doing and making sure we do it well, but we are also a very dynamic environment,” Delamore says. “The airport is a highly complex environment, and it is very fast moving.
“We are very conscious on how to leave our footprint for the future and very thoughtful about the quality of what we develop, whether it is a building, the terminal or the processes they sit in.”
Over the last few years, Auckland Airport has enjoyed the benefits of high growth, according to Delamore, and he is conscious of the key role technology plays in this environment.
“We keep an eye on what is happening in the world. There is no one airport that you benchmark. You look around and take the best.
“We benchmark ourselves globally with other airports, but also increasingly with other non-airport businesses,” he says. “It could be a bank, an airline, or whoever is leading the pack.
“There is a lot of thinking around where and how we can create the frictionless or seamless travel of the future?”
“How do we go from 20 million anonymous passenger movements per year across domestic and international, and how do we turn those anonymous movements to customers we can engage with and deliver better services to?
“The first part is creating the digital experience that makes people want to engage with us so we can understand how often they are travelling, what their preferences are.
“We have to get to know who the people are, how to personalise the information and make that information available when they need it. How can we gear up our services to meet that?”
There are so many questions that need answers: How do you get people to airports more efficiently? How do you make that experience more enjoyable? How do you make key processes such as customer security both efficient and good?
“Around the edges, we are making sure the technology works,” Delamore says. “We provide the services, the critical infrastructure, the technology for the airport operating systems such as scheduling and rostering. We are a 24x7 operation, you can’t have downtime.”
The team also developed the chatbot for the airport website, a project
He says the project stemmed from the need to provide a level of customer service 24x7.
The call centre is open 7am to 11pm, but having a chatbot allows the public to interact at any time of the day or night.
Delamore says when the team was developing the chatbot, it was clear about what it wanted to do. It was not about having a flashy avatar or marketing tool, although this may be the driver for other organisations, he says.
For Auckland Airport, the chatbot is “a tool to help with customer services”.
“We are constantly improving its knowledge base,” Delamore says.
Home to gate
He is excited by technology that will bring everything they are doing together, and integrate it more effectively from a customer perspective.
“How do we get a better single view of the customer? How do we personalise that effectively? How do we communicate to the customer in ways they want to be communicated to? How do we make the information more relevant to them?”
A partnership with TripIt will help passengers plan beyond the airport journey. “How long will be the queue be in security check in? We want to provide them with real time travel information,” Delamore says.
“From the front door of the airport to your home, you touch six or seven different agencies. What is important is how you work with them from an end-to-end system perspective to make the journey better and keep in mind privacy issues.”
“You can’t do this on your own,” Delamore says. “You need the support of the executive team. A lot of the work that I do, especially from a technology perspective, touches all of the business.
“A huge chunk of technology runs the airlines. Support services, human resources and finance, all use technology.”
“When they think about upgrading, new projects, technology becomes more important. Our ability to deliver on time and on budget and to help deliver across those big changes is critical.”
“A big part of what I do is raising the profile and importance of technology across the business.”
He presents regularly to the board on key initiatives and how they are progressing in terms of time and budget, and project implementation reviews.
However, a lot of the work the team does is with general managers and business units.
Key members of Delamore’s technology team engage with leaders of specific business units. They need to know what the key drivers are, what is important to them from a technology perspective and where they want to be in two years time.
The airport uses the ThinkSmash advisory program of outsourcing partner, Datacom. It consists of workshops, similar to a hackathon, where participants from different units work on a business challenge.
“At the end of that, we have great ideas to pursue,” Delamore says. “Often what you find is you don’t need to spend millions of dollars. The answers are there, sitting in the room. You just have to find the right framework.”
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