Customer Focus

IRC 2017 INTERVIEW Alessandra Di Lorenzo of lastminute.com on innovation

Ahead of this year’s InternetRetailing Conference (IRC 2017) we’re previewing the event through features and interviews with key speakers. This week we hear from Alessandra Di Lorenzo, chief commercial officer – media and partnerships at lastminute.com group.

InternetRetailing: Tell us about an innovation or new technology that you’ve been involved with at lastminute.com group: what was it, and what was the aim in adopting it? 

Alessandra Di Lorenzo, chief commercial officer – media and partnerships at lastminute.com group: I joined lastminute.com group to develop and run the business’ new media unit, The Travel People. We give brand partners, both in and out of the travel sector, the opportunity to reach customers across our entire European network of online travel sites – including lastminute.com in the UK and France, Volagratis in Italy and Rumbo in Spain.

This new monetisation model was built with the aim of diversifying our business. While we are still an OTA at heart, the birth of the The Travel People has resulted in a new, sustainable stream of revenue for the company.

Our activity also adds massive value for our customers – whether we’re targeting them with ads for sun cream or travel insurance while they prepare for their upcoming holiday, or offering inspiring content to help them make the most of their trips abroad. We can even offer experiences that complement the core product they’ve bought – like a discounted visit to the Sagrada Familía when we know they’ll be visiting Barcelona, for example.

IR: What was one key challenge that it presented – and one benefit?

ADL: The biggest benefit of this monetisation model is adding to the diversification of our business. lastminute.com group is an iconic brand with a rich heritage, so it’s been really exciting and fulfilling to add an innovative new offering to the group. Building The Travel People from scratch hasn’t been easy, but we’ve got a fantastic team of savvy marketers, smart data scientists and creative designers who all make the magic happen!

The key challenge of developing this new model – and one that affects any business looking to diversify their offering – is not cannibalising our core business with third party offers that drive customers away to buy another product. We need to protect both our key offering and our customers, and this involves intelligent use of data to predict the likelihood of customers buying our core product and make sure that we’re targeting them appropriately. For example, if a customer is clearly just browsing with no intention to buy a ticket, we might as well offer them a different service.

IR: From this experience, what one piece of advice would you have for other retailers looking to follow you?

ADL: Understandably, many businesses can be nervous about diversifying their offer and trying something new – after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if businesses are to survive, they must be prepared to adapt.

That’s why securing buy-in or backing from a senior sponsor within the company is essential. Highlighting the benefits and opportunities of the new model will be key to persuading senior management.

IR: How do you envisage adapting or improving on this innovation in the future?

ADL: We’ve developed a successful business unit for lastminute.com group, and we’re now looking to provide these services to other retailers. That might be the tools themselves, such as the relevant ad platforms, or the know how – for example, guidance on how to make best use of their data.

E-commerce retailers generate a huge amount of valuable first-party data, but many of them aren’t yet making the most of it to cross-sell and up-sell their services. By replicating this kind of model, they can create additional revenue-generating activity – and ultimately make a valuable contribution to their business’ bottom line.

IR: Aside from your own involvement, what are you most looking forward to at IRC 2017?

ADL: I’m really looking forward to the discussions in the “analyse and conquer” conference stream. As a big technology geek, I’m always intrigued to hear people’s views about how AI, big data and machine learning is affecting and benefitting their business.

I’m also excited to hear more from some big brands I admire, such as Deliveroo and Canon. Roll on October!

The InternetRetailing Conference, taking place in London on October 5, is the 12th annual edition of the event and this year focuses on energising retail. It runs alongside sister event the eDelivery Conference, and will be held at the Novotel, Hammersmith, London. One pass gives entry to both events with speakers including Giles Delafeld, global CIO, Clarks; Bill Hopkins, executive director of operations and logistics, Trainline; Philip Driver, head of ecommerce EMEA, Canon Europe; and Regis Koenig, director of customer services, Darty.

For further information on the conferences, and to register for your delegate pass, visit www.internetretailingconference.com.