Wizz Air may be the biggest thing to come out of Hungary since the Rubik’s cube. The Eastern European airline is rampaging across Europe. Johan Eidhagen, CMO of Wizz Air, explains how a mobile-first strategy makes Wizz Air fly.
Hungarian Wizz Air is only 15 years old, but it’s already the largest budget airline in Eastern Europe – and it has designs on being the leader for the entire continent. In 2017, it increased passenger numbers by 24 percent to 28.2 million. Its network covers more than 550 routes across 43 countries.
The company’s founder and CEO Jozsef Varadi has been quite open about the secrets of Wizz Air’s success. At its core is good timing. Wizz Air launched its affordable flights just as Eastern Europeans began migrating in numbers to other parts of Europe. And this worked in reverse too as Western Europeans started to view cities like Prague, Tallinn and Split as tourist destinations.
But Wizz Air was also among the first to recognize that most of its passengers are young people and students – and that these ‘digital natives’ demand convenient mobile services. Wizz Air has been careful to provide them for every stage of the journey. As of 2017, its app had 4.1 million users.
Johan Eidhagen, CMO of Wizz Air, says: “60 percent of all our visits are from mobile now. We have younger customers than most airlines, and they’re more fluent in social media and digital. They demand more of us. They’re leading the development, and we’re following them to see where it goes from here.”
Obviously, all airlines now have an app. But Wizz Air has tried to add unique features with its particular customer base in mind. For example, users can now pay a small fee to reserve a flight with ‘Fare Lock’. The feature is designed for customers who aren’t ready to complete the booking process but worry the price will change if they don’t.
There is also a new timeline to show milestones in the journey from the moment of booking to the arrival of a flight, as well as in-app boarding card available in offline mode.
Eidhagen says: “We want to put Wizz Air in people’s pockets, so they always have Wizz Air with them when they travel.”
Of course, the mobile channel is about more than just utility. It’s also becoming the main channel of communication and marketing. This has been the case for many years. However, social has changed the dynamic of the relationship between marketers and customers. Today, Wizz Air has 2.6 million visitors on Facebook.
Essentially, communication is not one-way any more. Eidhagen says, as a marketer, he has had to learn how to let go.
“Marketing on mobile is different now,” he says. “Before, you would create your own content and measure how that ad performed. Now, a campaign creates hundreds of thousands of pics and you have to let it live its life.
“Also, customers use multiple channels and then jump between them. They might go from messaging then Instagram and then a laptop at home. So the real experience is how you make the content and making sure that the way customers access it is fluid across all channels.
“All marketing is about listening. You can’t say: ‘this is where you interact with us’. You have to follow and be present where they are.”
This ‘you first’ philosophy even extends to the staff. Wizz Air runs a campaign called #IamWizzCrew that highlight employees with strong followings on social media. It encourages them to create more content and helps to share it.
Eidhagen believes the inevitable next phase of mobile will center on automation and AI. He reckons the technology will impact all areas of the business. There will be inevitable improvements, but the biggest pay-off of all may be the one that makes a budget airline a budget airline: lower prices.
“All types of AI will be interesting in the future,” he says. “It will let you control a lot of the experience, and it will go into all the service and marketing elements. We will be able to automate a lot of features, so we might not need so much manual interaction. This will lead to lower costs, which will let us sell cheaper tickets to customers”