By: Keith Hunter, Partner, Hunter Palmer   •   email:

At a time when the world constantly seems to be on the brink of an apocalypse, do we really need more tales of woe about the retail industry? Apparently retail as we know it is on an unstoppable course to self-destruction, seemingly ill-equipped and ill-prepared to evolve to satisfy today’s gadget gurus and m-commerce millennials. One expert opined that in order to save retail, we need to let it die! Only in its rebirth will we be able to eradicate the old school ways and outdated concepts.

At the far end of the bar other experts, nursing their straight-ups, say the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

So, who do you believe and what do you do? Instead of adopting the panicked, knee-jerk, forget-all-we-have-learned-approach and assume that the best route is to blindly digitalise the heck out of everything, now is a great time to see this evolution for what it is – a fantastic opportunity for the travel retail industry to reach a younger, broader demographic.

In fairness, many TR operators, including some forward-thinking brands, have already initiated purposeful partnerships, spawning offers and experiences that place the customer at the heart of their thinking. The Bombay Sapphire campaign by Bacardi Global Travel Retail with Gebr. Heinemann and Aelia Duty Free is a good example.

Photo: DFNI Online

This campaign can be found running at Amsterdam Schiphol and Auckland Airports, involving an innovative sensory experience with a replica glasshouse and specifically targets the millennial passengers.

Equally, the new interactive counter showcasing Shiseido’s Essential Energy range at Galleria Beauty by DFS, proved a huge hit with shoppers as well as digital bloggers – all of whom were invited to a live-streamed launch, creating millions of impressions.

Photo: TRBusiness

Not only have they considered how best to utilise the multitude of mediums that can be used to engage the consumer, but they have also thought about the longer term, creating ways to carry on the relationship long after the customer has departed the physical store. This may seem at odds with the throwaway, immediate culture of today’s world, but in fact there can be a beautiful symbiosis forged between the two. The greener, younger generation of today do want instant gratification, yes. But they also want to create memories and experiences. They are also acutely aware of how, in the digital age where everything is shared, it is harder and harder to find something that is new and unusual.

This longer-term relationship, as opposed to a one-time fling, can be realised through proactive use of the technology tools that are widely available. Understanding that it is impossible to compete with the convenience of online shopping, the best way for airport retail to be a player is through the unique experiences it can offer to its young, captive audience. Hence the growth in pop-up concepts that promote fresh-to-market products, carefully packaged in alluring surroundings that encourage customers to participate in and control the way they browse, select, try, personalise, pay and receive products that they may otherwise rarely come into contact with.

Photo: MoodieDavitt Report

L’Oreal Travel Retail recently created a space to mimic a luxury hotel within Hamad International Airport, Doha, inviting travellers to a fragrance discovery through five scented worlds, as well as a chance to win prizes in a scratch competition.

Taking this type of initiative to even greater heights, Christian Dior has joined forces with Changi Airport Group and The Shilla Duty Free to open its first Maison Christian Dior pop-up boutique in an Asia Pacific airport. According the the brand, this was conceived as ”a new Dior universe entirely dedicated to the love of perfume, an olfactive lifestyle and the art of gifting”.

Photo: MoodieDavitt Report

By welcoming the notion that today’s consumers are more inclined to invest in experiences than physical goods, retailers are able to embrace new channels of customer spend. Creating environments that allow and encourage customers to understand the provenance of the product, to immerse themselves in the sights and smells of that world and then tailor their purchase to match their requirements, provides a multi-sensory experience that is hard to match in a virtual world.

Now, if only retailers had the gumption to capitalise on this opportunity, rather than circling the wagons under the assumption that the big guns like Amazon will inevitably attack, then the airport environment can become the site of a truly fascinating marketplace.

Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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