Speaking at the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference in Singapore, GDR Creative Intelligence’s Kate Ancketill suggested that the travel retail industry could learn from what is happening on the high street, and stated that what customers expect in retail is set beyond the terminal. Citing Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, Ancketill said that pure e-commerce will be replaced by the concept of ‘new retail’ that integrates online, offline, logistics and data across a single value chain. In the West, retail tends not to provide experience and convenience in one place, but new retail means that shopping should be fun when you want it to be, and easy when you don’t.
Ancketill outlined three steps that duty free and travel retail needs to take to provide this new retail experience. Firstly, we need to look at the data, and in the airport environment, we have access to a wealth of information. Then we need to share that information so we have a greater understanding of what each customer is going to buy, as no one stakeholder has the full picture. Then finally we need to think about how we can leverage the data in an imaginative way. An example of this in practice is Heathrow’s electronic shelf ticketing, which changed the language on displays from Chinese to Russian according to which flight was about to depart.
Alan Brennan from dcGTR outlined how technology can be used to make consumer research both more accurate and more cost effective. Virtual reality and immersive reality can be used to better test store design before an investment is made in a physical store. This technology is now much more affordable, and whereas as recently as 12 months ago the cost of a headset would have been around US $3,000 and required considerable computing power. Today, a headset costs only around US $300 and the technology can be reached via a laptop or smartphone. Using this technology can ensure design is insight-driven, shopper-centric and commercially efficient in increasing purchase.
But a key theme that emerged from the day’s conference was that whatever the future shape of the travel retail industry and whatever the technology available to us, duty free and travel retail must remain a people-centric and hospitality business with the customer staying at the heart of everything we do.