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Reach For The Sky

In our latest issue of "The Industry Insider", Lufthansa's VP of Marketing, Alexander Schlaubitz, talks about the challenges and opportunities of digitization

Reach For The Sky

From future-proofing in the experiential era to emerging business models: for the Talk Show in the latest issue of our "The Industry Insider", we sat down with 5 industry experts to discuss the road to digitalization. To get a first glimpse of what to expect in issue 03, we'll let you in on the inspiring insights Alexander Schlaubitz, Vice President Marketing Lufthansa, offers as we reach this crucial crossroads. 


Some say that digitalization means the end of ownership. Do you agree with that? How can product-focused brands ensure they're future-proof?

Is that so? I mainly see this as a dramatic phenomenon in the automotive industry whereby two factors play a role: firstly, the car as a status symbol is in decline; secondly, cars today are increasingly becoming unused assets. A sharing economy could fit in well here and thus resolve some of these problems. Otherwise, I still see very strong consumption in many other areas. An incredible amount of purchases are still being made, particularly in the fashion industry, without ultimately being used. That is why I think that the trend for consumption is still unbroken in most industries.


Digital transformation is a subject that is increasingly preoccupying businesses, society and science. Are there digital pioneers, industries or brands who are already turning digital transformation into a success?

Airbnb has truly fathomed something in the universe of travelers’ needs that has given rise to a huge shift. The aim is not to have had the perfect trip but rather to have simply engaged more intensively with certain things. Real travel can also mean simply going out and exploring the neighborhood. Not everything can be planned, but it is precisely in how we deal with that and reflect on it afterwards that is often ultimately far more enriching. Airbnb has really managed to give travel a deeper meaning which, at the same time, is an incredible competitive advantage. Another appealing example is Amazon which, in addition to its highly efficient logistics world, has also created real universes of experience for its customers. My all-time favorite example is Etsy, a platform for creative things of every kind. Etsy is not interested in making everything smoother and more efficient; it deliberately generates complexities. The company is aware that if everything is too effortless and smooth, it can also become valueless very fast. Using Etsy, you have to think carefully first about what you want: you engage with the creation process and the makers of the products, and in the end you have something that is yours and which has a story. This means that suddenly the product is appreciated again in an entirely new way. Companies that manage to do this will play a far more important role in the future.



Credit: Etsy by Etsy 


In your experience, what are the key challenges and stumbling blocks that brands face on the road to digital transformation?

It is very easy to be led astray by little trifles – just because certain things are now technically possible – making us spend time on little gimmicks that are technologically appealing but have no recognizable added value. It is therefore important to constantly question what it is that can generate genuine added value for customers. It is a question of how companies can manage to make these needs increasingly native in their relationship with their customers. How can one always integrate exactly the right added value, entirely intuitively, instead of simply making clever use of technology somewhere? Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel sums it up very well: “Innovation starts with empathy.” Every brand must firstly always understand an individual’s smaller or medium-sized needs, taking that as a starting point from which to think backwards and choose the technology that can satisfy those needs. In this instance, empathy is the foundation for me, and it is only on that bedrock that future sustainable products for customers with added value can be created.


Digitalization has been accompanied by a consumer shift from products to experiences. What do you think accounts for that values transformation, and how has it manifested within your industry - what are some of the most inspiring responses in your industry?

I believe that this assumption is also not true across the board. In my opinion there is still appreciation – which in some instances is still growing – for well-designed, high-quality products. What will decline are the superficial, interchangeable consumer goods that no longer offer the same added value as they did in the past. At the same time, the experience economy is, of course, becoming more important. Experiences sometimes give us far more lasting added value than material products can. In our company, we have initiated the Life Changing Places campaign because we believe that travel can also lastingly influence our lives. That is a very important development in our industry that we are consciously promoting and driving. The Spotify platform also creates great experiences for me: the app is always offering me new music that is curated for me personally, that broadens my horizons and that gives me new stimuli. The Discover Weekly playlist is my personal highlight every Monday!



Credit: Spotify Discover Weekly by Spotify 


To what extent does the digital transformation also call for a transformation of corporate and working culture?

A subject such as empathy must firstly be integrated far more in companies. In future, companies must try to more precisely align their thinking in this direction – for me, it goes beyond the frequently-cited customer-centricity towards a human-centricity. It is about ensuring that companies always see the big picture and understand how customer lifetime value can be maximized – not just how to stimulate the next little transaction. The latter does not always lead to a greater joy of use or brand loyalty. In fact, it can even have the opposite effect. This is where people from all different departments in a company need to pull together and consistently remind themselves of that fact. In addition there are, of course, major adjustments in day-to-day work. The ability to approach solutions via new methods – design thinking or agile, virtual working – and to tease out increasingly accurate hypotheses about the individual’s needs naturally represents a completely different way of working to what was normal in the past. Nowadays the launch of a product is often not the end of a journey but rather the beginning; to find out whether the customer likes the product and how it can be improved. We must simply become bolder and far more responsive in dealing with general working styles. We see this necessity ourselves: Lufthansa’s core business has always been to guarantee safety and reliability to our customers. Boldness plays no role here. But parallel to that, there will be more and more areas in which we will have to work differently in future, and successfully managing this new duality is a major challenge for all companies.

13 / 12 / 2017 // by LigaStudios Team

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