Travellers: the online opportunity

13/02/2017 A love of smartphones and the availability of airport Wi-Fi means many passengers spend their time online while waiting for their flights, rather than browsing the duty free store. Brands and retailers may be missing a trick, according to recent research commissioned by TFWA.

The temptation to catch up with emails, check social media or scan the news means few travellers leave home without their phones these days. The proportion is barely one in ten, based on a study of 4,000 international travellers conducted for TFWA*. On average, 2-3 separate devices find their way into passengers’ luggage, and the use of those devices peaks at the airport, either before check-in or after security. For a travel retail industry keen to encourage footfall into airport stores, having such a large, connected community on its doorstep represents a sizeable opportunity. The key is knowing how to engage this audience in a dialogue that adds value for both sides, delivering interesting, relevant content to travellers while conveying the messages that brands and retailers hope will result in a sale.

When quizzed about what they did online at the airport, 89% of respondents said they were checking or sending emails or messages and using social media. As more than 4 in 5 had social media profiles, this offers an obvious channel of communication with these potential customers. A third of travellers actively expressed interest in receiving duty free brand information this way, either directly or via a travel retailer. What’s surprising is that brand or retailer posts were just as likely to influence these travellers as posts by their friends. This is a receptive target market for the right messages, and one that favours a pragmatic approach with offers and coupons sent directly to their smartphones. Over 60% stated this would make them more likely to visit a duty free store, while around half would be motivated to buy.

The conclusion for brands and retailers seems clear. Connected travellers would be happy to hear from you while waiting for their flights, and the right offer could entice them in store or lead to a sale. Time for travel retail to hone its social media strategy and find the right CRM partner, then.

TFWA Digital Village is a new initiative to showcase creative digital solutions and services to the 12,000 duty free and travel retail professionals attending TFWA World Exhibition & Conference 2017 (1-6 October in Cannes). Occupying 840m2 of prime floor space for three full days, around 30 exhibitors will have the chance to meet and do business with the leading decision-makers and senior executives of a dynamic, premium sector keen to embrace new technology. 

* “The impact of e-commerce, online and mobile technology in duty free & travel retail” conducted by m1nd-set for TFWA, published in September 2016. The full study is available free of charge to TFWA members via

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