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One of the most notorious companies in Britain in any industry, never mind merely the travel industry, is Ryanair. The Irish low-cost airline headquartered in Dublin, Ireland has not always generated positive headlines, but its commercial success story shows no signs of abating. Ireland based company DPFOC has recently shared an insightful infographic showcasing Ryanair's journey.

Thirty Year Success Story

Ryanair website

The budget airline has just celebrated thirty years in the airline business, and even if its name is not always synonymous with high quality, even its detractors must surely recognise the wealth of its achievements. Starting out as just a regional carrier, Ryanair has steadily built its business up to the point today where it is a major force in European aviation.

What has been interesting with Ryanair is the way that the company has built up its image and online presence in recent years. Being ahead of the curve in its online presence, in common with many other issues related to the airline industry, Ryanair very much prioritised its website as a method of distributing tickets.

Recently, Ryanair has been attempting to re-establish itself in the world of third-party distribution. The airline spent a decade during which its website was the primary channel for selling Ryanair tickets. This meant that the budget airline was hugely focused on its online presence for many years, and this has served the growth of the company particularly well as e-commerce has become such a central part of Western culture in particular.

While it was a pioneer in the usage of web-based advertising and keyword buying, more recent years have seen the airline thoroughly commit itself to mobile and a prominent social media presence. The way that Ryanair has communicated through its social media platforms is an object lesson to many other travel-related businesses, with the airline choosing to portray a cheeky image which has often served it well throughout its advertising campaigns.

Internet focus

While other airlines took a more traditional approach to attracting custom, Ryanair's Internet-centric strategy worked out extremely well. Having launched its website in 2000, by 2004 Ryanair.com was the most successful travel website in Europe, and already responsible for over 90 percent of all Ryanair bookings.

But Ryanair is never a business to rest on its laurels, and in 2013 the company website was completely remodelled, with adverts removed completely, and the amount of clicks required to purchase a flight reduced massively from 17 to 5. Ryanair has always been about convenience and affordability, and continues to cultivate that image.

Ryanair has also moved with the times in terms of mobile engagement. The airline launched its first app in 2012, which cost £2.25 to download. But this was relaunched in July 2014 as a free version, and the budget airline is now aggressively targeting mobile customers. This would seem to be an extremely wise policy as has the Digital Tourism Think Tank has documented previously, the numbers of travellers utilising mobile before, during and after trips is increasing exponentially. It is claimed by Ryanair that flights can be booked using this app in just over one and a half minutes.  The company has also very much tapped into the trend for mobile boarding passes. The Ryanair application makes it possible for passengers to download boarding passes onto their smartphones.

Ryanair has also steadily built up its social media profile to the level where it is comparable with most other airlines. There has been a particular focus on Twitter in this strategy, which would seem to match the somewhat flippant personality of its CEO Michael O’ Leary. At times, O’ Leary’s abrasive public comments have ensured that Ryanair has courted negative publicity, but overall the aggressive and ambitious intentions he has for his business have probably paid off more than they have detracted from his efforts.

Distinctive branding

But although Ryanair have been extremely successful in building up a distinctive brand and successful business, and their online strategy is generally to be admired, it hasn't been without quibbles and problems. When the newly revamped website was initially launched, an issue with rerouting traffic from previous web addresses ensured that Ryanair lost a significant amount of web hits. A consequence of this was that Ryanair’s organic ranking tumbled in April 2014. Although it has got back on track since then, this is an object lesson to other travel operators to ensure that new website functionality is operating perfectly before it goes live.

There are many lessons to be learned from the ascent of Ryanair, but the key ones for travel companies to really focus on are clearly and distinctively defining your brand, even if this flies in the face of existing trends, and placing an emphasis on online and mobile commerce.

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