Wieke Vrielink – Schiphol

Wieke Vrielink – Schiphol

Wieke Vrielink is Head of Consumer Marketing at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Wieke is responsible for all marketing activities regarding consumers visiting or planning to visit the airport and includes retail, food and beverage, commercial services, parking, media and premium services. Wieke: “The customer journey already starts at home when airline passengers orientate on how they are travelling to the airport – which includes our parking and mobility services propositions like car sharing -, how they get through security and spend their time at the airport before they board their flight. For most of our travellers the journey ends when they arrive back home. Other journeys concern for example travellers transferring through Schiphol. We try to inform and engage passengers as best as we can, and make the time they spend with us as valuable as possible. What makes my job very interesting is the richness of our airport and propositions and the complexity of the customer journey, as no journey is the same. Our target groups include leisure, business, B2B which focuses on our business partners, and Chinese passengers.”

Main KPIs for growth

When it comes to Schiphol’s main KPIs for growth, Wieke explains that the number of passengers is of great importance. Wieke: “In the last couple of months, the numbers have of course gone down drastically. From 100%, to 3% of the total passengers on its lowest point. Right now (August 2020), we are at around 25%, but predictions are moving in the right direction. However, it will take years to get back to the old level. The other side of the equation is margin from for example the revenues from retail and the parking fees. Next to revenue, we also look at NPS and the shopping intention and visit penetration of our travellers. Our strategy to influence these KPIs depends on the target group. Asia is a big market for us, and Chinese passengers are very keen on luxury brands. It can even be the deciding factor between travelling to Europe through Paris, or Amsterdam. So, it is very important to communicate which brands and products are present at the airport. Your offer must match the need of the customer, and the experience should make people want to visit us again.”

Impact on tourism & communication

Covid-19 has had a massive impact on tourism, and created a major shift within Schiphol. Wieke: “Multiple terminals, gates and check-in areas were closed. For marketing it was all hands on deck when it came to informing passengers. Also we had to cancel several campaigns. Whilst we had to cancel several campaigns, we also started developing plans for next year.”

When it comes to Schiphol’s recent communication, Wieke shares how Covid has impacted their current messaging: “Our creative strategy remained unchanged. However, our current message has, as you firstly need to regain that trust to make people interested in flying again. We measure what passengers are expecting once that moment comes. Thankfully, there is a large group of people indicating they will fly again once they can. It’s insights like these we use in our communication. We developed a ‘welcome back’ campaign to give people that trust and tell them that everything is taken care of, as health and safety is our highest priority.

Our passenger strategy can be expressed in several NPS drivers. They determine how people experience their journey through Schiphol. It’s a pyramid where the bottom layer consists of feeling safe, health, cleanliness and process efficiency. The top layer revolves around inspiration and convenience. These past few months we had to go back to the bottom of the pyramid, before we could move back up the ladder. At the same time, we know it’s very important to communicate in a positive way. That magic feeling you experience whilst travelling; it’s still there, even with a mask.”

Creative drivers

With so many different people passing through the airport, relevancy is an important element in Schiphol’s creatives. Wieke: “We have a lot of different passengers from all over the world, originating from different countries and cultures. You need to get their attention despite the different needs and cultural characteristics. Of course, you can’t make a creative for every target group and in every language, but your overall messaging needs to be clear to all passengers, and be relevant at the same time. When it comes to different channels, the most important thing is that you need to be where your target group is. Work together with your partners, and ensure you can reach your target group in a relevant way. It’s all about being present in the journey as best as you can.”

“Content is also very important in our strategy”, Wieke continues. “There are so many stories we can share on the products being sold at Schiphol, which we create in close collaboration with our business partners. And what about all the exciting experiences, like a library or museum at Schiphol. Too many people don’t know about our ‘own’ Rijksmuseum or Nemo museum. There is so much to tell the world! For our Chinese target group, we develop separate campaigns. We use influencers in for instance our perfume and cosmetics campaigns, which are important categories within that segment. We deploy social media and PR to engage with our Chinese target group. And last year we launched our shop in shop in the WeChat app (so called mini programme). A relevant selection of our shopping offer  can be found in the app, and people can pre-order their products and pick it up once they arrive at the airport. It has been 4 years since we have had a dedicated approach for this target group, and it’s continuing to grow. Whereas we started with one campaign a few years back, we now have a dedicated team and developed multiple touchpoints for this target group. And it is a great source of inspiration for us looking at their shopping and online behaviour.”

According to Wieke, Schiphol often uses research to test their campaigns and creatives. “We are starting a new campaign this fall. We use quantitative online research to test our creatives, and use qualitative research when necessary. We also let our customer insights team advise us through our continuous studies and new studies. The most important thing in our creatives is message transfer, making sure that message comes across and is understood by our target group.”

Trends for the future

When it comes to trends, Wieke shares that experience and convenience are getting more and more important. “Convenience focuses on things like payment methods and navigation through the airport. You need to ensure you can offer everything digitally. Experience depends on the target group, but it is a growing expectation we mostly notice among millennials and Chinese travellers. This is a trend we also see reflected in people’s day to day life. Ordering an Uber with just a click of a button, having your groceries delivered at your doorstep. We have always had a leading position among European airports, and that position is something we definitely want to keep. Not just in the development of the airport itself, but also in investing in our online presence throughout the entire journey. We need to make sure people are at ease and experience everything in a smooth and seamless way. And we need to keep on investing in the experience and off- and online presence during the entire journey.”