By: Chris Madden   •   email: info@trunblocked.com

‘Exclusivity’ is one of the Travel Retail market’s most popular words – and one of its biggest weapons in the battle with e-commerce. But when the offer does not live up to the hype, it can cost the market dearly.

Travel retail exclusives are a key tenant of the modern market, where the ability to provide something special and unique has become travel retail’s biggest asset.

With customers more connected than ever, the bar for these products is getting higher and questions arise over whether the industry needs to take a broader look at one of its strongest selling points.

On paper, the importance of exclusivity is clear. Figures from m1nd-set’s business 1ntelligence service show that 52% of purchases in travel retail are triggered by exclusivity and 42% of shoppers purchase at least one exclusive product. This rises even higher in key demographics such as Asian shoppers (56%) and Millennials (58%).

Actual exclusivity is vital here. A survey of 10,000 travellers found 73% said an item only being available in travel retail was very important to them. Meanwhile 60% said exclusive items were important in improving their perception of the airport.

But when the promise of exclusivity does not meet their demands, this conversion driver can become one of the biggest barriers to purchase.

m1nd-set found that the exclusive offer not meeting expectations damaged the overall perception of the retail offer and was key in making 65% of shoppers fail to make a purchase.

”When shoppers expectations are not met, assortment can easily become the second most important reason why travel retail visitors do not convert into buyers”, says m1nd-set founder and CEO Peter Mohn.

Demanding more

The simple fact is that new logos or a different box are not enough to capture the imagination of the modern shopper.

Portland Design Director of Environment, Lewis Allen, explains: ”The idea of exclusivity in travel retail usually shows up in terms of some sort of exclusive product. But sometimes it is not that exclusive, or it is quite an expensive way of buying something because its packaging is different.

Brands are damaged if people realise they are paying more”.

He fears contractual demands are superseding customer service: ”Operators are looking for exclusivity, it is a bit of a scramble”.

Edrington Managing Director of Travel Retail, Suzy Smith, believes there is value in investing the time to get it right: ”I think (delivering exclusivity) is very important because it is what you are telling them in terms of your integrity”, she reflects. ”But I think it is also important because you are allowing them to learn a bit more and experience another side of the brand versus what they would experience domestically”.

This idea resonates with Allen, who says exclusivity must move beyond a purely transactional focus to rewarding loyalty and filling a gap in the travel retail customer service experience.

”We need to get better at recognising frequency”, he argues. ”What is the reward for that? If I am coming into (an airport or store’s) wifi for the 15th time this year, then they know. It is a customer service attitude”.

The Exquisite store at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport focuses on an exclusive experience

It is an idea which the Gebr. Heinemann team at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport are fully behind. Earlier this year the company unveiled its new-look Exquisite store. While it is packed with exclusive and luxury products, the staff focus is on the exclusive experience.

Schiphol Airport Retail Managing Director, Simon Asmus, explains: ”The staff are living their passion. And if you bring that over to the customer and they can see you are not trying to sell anything to make money but you have a companion – that makes a difference”.

In an era of product drops and co-creation options, Allen believes that the secret to exclusivity and perception is not just what is delivered, but how: ”In this definition of exclusivity we move away from a purely transactional focus”, he concludes.

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