AirAsia.com realises super app dream: 'We have not wasted a crisis'

Airasia.com has unveiled its new identity online as ASEAN's super app, offering a simpler, faster and more convenient user experience with over 15 types of products and services under three main pillars - travel, eCommerce and fintech.

Among the list of categories include flights, hotels, SNAP, activities, insurance, Big Rewards, unlimited deals and wifi. A quick check by A+M also found that the app has a "Get it fresh" section offering groceries via its B2C platform AirAsia fresh and "Get Holla", which allows you to pay to get shout outs from artists under RedRecords including Jannine Weigel. A+M understands that Get Holla is still currently being worked on. Meanwhile, Teleport is being used to power the businesses under airasia.com and as such, will not be a separate offering of its own under the super app, A+M understands.

To celebrate the launch, airasia.com is introducing the Super Sale with storewide discounts of up to 90% across all product offerings on the app and the site. The offerings include airasia food (formerly known as Ourfood), airasia shop, airasia fresh, hotels, flights, IKHLAS and unlimited deals. Users can also earn twice as much BIG Points during the airasia.com Super Sale period and pay using BIG Points for their purchases made on airasia.com. CEO of AirAsia Group, Tony Fernandes, said the airline prides itself in being a disruptive leader, connecting the ASEAN region, providing value, simplicity and inclusivity for everyone.

"Now with airasia.com, we are enabling everyone to fly, to stay, to shop, to eat, all at the convenience of one super app. We have not wasted the crisis, in fact we’ve been using the lockdown period to finetune our platform, unify the user experience and simplify our payment to a one-click checkout," he said. Fernandes explained that it has accelerated its digital business and expanded airasia.com's product offering from travel to everyday life. Meanwhile, CEO of airasia.com, Karen Chan (pictured below), said the launch of the super app is a testimony of its continuous innovation culture and its drive to deliver value to consumers.

"Airasia.com is not only about connecting people to destinations, more than that it’s about connecting people to people, creating communities among like-minded travellers, sharing best-eats tips and fostering social-based commerce," she added.

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When asked what AirAsia's definition of a super app is, Chan told A+M that a super app is more than just a digital marketplace of products. It is where commerce meets community.

"Through our extensive network of over 400 routes which covers second and third tier cities in ASEAN, we connect people to places. And more importantly, we connect people to people. Through our in-app chat feature that allows users to chat with fellow travellers on the same flight, and create communities to share travel tips and recommendations and foster social-based commerce," she added.

Having expanded its core identity as an airline into over 15 product lines, Chan explained that it is prepared to take on the incumbents of the online travel agency and lifestyle players. AirAsia's DNA has always been innovative disruption and airasia.com is no different, she added. "We will be a challenger brand to incumbents leveraging our ASEAN coverage, our big data and our people," Chan said.

The airline currently has a customer base of 75 million and according to her, 80% of its traffic is organic and comes directly from its mobile responsive web and app. Having an established presence beyond metro cities to third and fourth tier cities across ASEAN also means that AirAsia's market penetration and addressable market size merge both the online audience as well as offline markets.

Another factor that allows the super app to stand out is its rich data. Over the past 19 years, the airline has amassed a primary database of 75 million users on airasia.com, with each user profile built from data lineage consisting of at least 10 data points. According to Chan, the airline has the data of every passenger including their country of origin, destination, past purchase behaviour and traveller profile.

"This allows our platform marketing strategy to be data-driven from end to end, from segmentation to cross-selling and upselling predictions to curated advertising," she said.

Lastly, despite being in the industry for close to two decades, the airline still holds dear to its agile, "never stand still" culture with its 20,000 employees. "We are particularly proud of our diversity in airasia.com, we have over 10 nationalities in our team, and 50% of our leadership team consists of women. We are also a big believer of onboarding global digital talent, with digital and data engineering hubs in Malaysia, Singapore, India and very soon in Vietnam," she added. While Chan declined to comment on the monetary investment and ROI for the super app, she said:

A great ecosystem means more than just a streamlined user experience across multiple product lines. It means an omnichannel distribution across online, offline and in-flight.

She believes that it is about the ability to have deeper and more meaningful engagement with our customers, simplified access and payment process.

"With a ready customer base on airasia.com, we focus on improving customer conversion, driving frequency to our site with new product offerings and increasing basket value by targeted cross-sell and upsell. We achieve these conversions using the insights from our rich data. Our in-house machine learning capabilities enable us to build deep unique profiles of customers from their user behaviour, context and purchase history, resulting in accurate predictions of their purchase intent, purchasing power and likelihood of purchasing a complementary product," she explained. Chan said that with these insights, the app will then personalise its product marketing and push out products that are most likely to be purchased.

Last month, airasia.com rolled out a new unit known as AirAsia Media Group led by CEO Sumit Ramchandani. Comprising five pillars - content and creative, media, data and adtech, talent and celebrities and channels - AirAsia Media Group has over 100 employees overseeing the ASEAN market and was in the making "since a few months", Ramchandani told A+M in a previous interview. Other key leaders also include Rudy Khaw, head of content and creative, who also doubles as chief brand officer for AirAsia Group, as well as CEO of RedRecords Hassan Choudhury.

AirAsia Media Group's ecosystem is its unique selling point, Ramchandani said, adding that it offers "an unrivalled reach" across the ASEAN region, a rich set of both, digital and offline channels and first-party intent-driven audience data, at scale. This is available across businesses that include travel, fintech, lifestyle and eCommerce. "The closest parallel we can think of, in terms of the offering, is Amazon Advertising," he added.

Shortly after, the airline rebranded its digital venture arm from RedBeat Ventures to AirAsia Digital with Aireen Omar, president (AirAsia Digital), AirAsia Group at helm. It comprises three main pillars - Venture Builder, RedBeat Academy and Data Centre. It also tied up with Google to launch the RedBeat Academy. Initially set up to upskill and cross-train its employees through a series of tech workshops in areas such as AI, machine learning, cybersecurity, big data and software engineering, the academy has now opened its doors to the public.

Meanwhile, AirAsia X, the long-haul arm of AirAsia, recently proposed a restructuring plan to facilitate an injection of fresh equity which will allow the airline to fly again. At the same time, it also appointed Lim Kian Onn as deputy chairman to lead the restructuring.

The airline said in a statement that it is facing "severe liquidity constraints" to meet debt and other financial obligations with no imminent return to normalcy. The proposed plan includes a debt restructuring scheme, revision of the group's business plan, engagement with business partners and airline customer and travel agents. It has also ceased its AirAsia Japan operations six years after its incorporation in July 2014. Travel restrictions and the uncertainties it created have severely curtailed demand for business and leisure travel resulting in flight reductions, cancellations and grounding of aircraft. According to AirAsia, these factors have weighed heavily on the company's ability to continue operations.

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