Q&A: Lastminute.com marketer says time for a change

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Lastminute.com has a new positioning as an all-round lifestyle retailer looking to inspire customers and curate their free time. UK marketing director Mark Fells explains more:

MW: What is the perception of the business that lastminute.com is trying to shift?

Mark Fells (MF):When lastminute.com launched in 1998, we revolutionised the way people bought hotels and flights. And, in many ways our reputation is still based on that history and being a dot.com success story. The truth is that as a business we’ve changed – we’ve grown to become part of a global group and through acquisitions we now have local presence and expertise in local markets. We’ve also broadened the scope of what we offer so we’ve become a curator of people’s free time. Calling us an online travel agent doesn’t seem to capture us any more.

MW: Why introduce the positioning now?

MF: It felt timely especially as the marketplace gets more competitive and we need to shout louder about what differentiates us as a business. There are now hundreds of competitors in the travel and lifestyle marketplace. Added to that, consumers and what they want are changing. Time is precious, leisure time is at a premium and so expectations are high as regards how to fill it.

MW: How are you trying to move the market beyond one fixated with price?

MF: Price is always one of those things customers say is important but we have always been a firm believer in value. We give a price and a value that allows people to buy into a lifestyle they do not necessarily experience every day. Our strategy for this year is to be a truly customer-led retailer and to improve conversion and share.
We’re letting consumers create their own unique story – that’s the value we are trying to push. We are also trying to meet customer demand for a website that is both simple and inspiring.

MW: What is the revenue split between holiday and other revenue streams and what is the overall goal?

MF: The percentage split is 87% holidays (including travel, flights, hols, hotels) and 13% other things. However, all those categories have different occasions, people buy holidays less frequently but clearly they are at a much higher price point. We are very comfortable with the revenue split and see ourselves as guardians of people’s free time and see ourselves being a consumer-led retailer.

MW: What were the challenges in developing a pan-European campaign under the strapline “Stories start here”?

MF: We have been developing it over the past 12 months. It’s not just a campaign but a footing for the business and what we stand for and it is the first time lastminute.com has rolled out a campaign and strapline across the eight European territories. We did have a few linguistic challenges but we have a similar customer base in all market places so it was probably easier than we thought it would be.

MW: How is lastminute.com working in the digital and social media space?

MF: Traditionally our customer base has been very loyal. We also have some of the strongest social media relationships than any in the business and so we do have an existing community we want to retain and build upon. We have 80,000 Facebook fans and 7,500 Twitter followers. But we see this as an integrated campaign – we try not to split the campaign down to individual channels but for us it is about hitting the customer with all available touchpoints. As part of the repositioning, there will be significant changes to some of our communications with more tailoring and targeting of messages.

Lastminute.com’s TV campaign breaks in the UK on Friday (1 April)

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