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On The Horizon: Travel Retail

Brick-and-mortar retailers struggling in traditional malls of yesteryear should look no further than the skies for inspiration. Don’t let the small footprint fool you … with a concentrated flow of foot traffic, airport retailers have an opportunity to create a memorable impact on a global audience, that they may never get online or in a traditional mall.

New airports, growing disposable income in emerging markets, and the expansion of low-cost carriers, are all merging to drive airport passenger volume to an all-time high. With these growing numbers, the airport retail market is expected to reach $125.1 billion by 2023, according to a new report published by Allied Market Research. With historic volume around the world, the focus needs to shift from making money from airlines, to making money from passengers, in terms of commercial revenue, through more engagement with unique retail, dining, hospitality, and leisure experiences. It’s time for a renewed focus on the travel experience. Retailers that focus on compelling environments, localized offerings, and utilize a forward-thinking approach to capture traveler attention, will be better positioned to expand their brand reach and secure consumer loyalty for a future where airports will become the new malls. Brands should focus on these key trends to leave a lasting impression to convert travelers to loyal customers:

Authentically Local
Fifty-six percent of global airport users wish to see culturally sensitive and authentic experiences, relevant to an airport’s location. Travel retailers have the opportunity to use this desire to their advantage and create unique experiences, offerings, and partnerships that create a sense of place and cultural appreciation, leaving visitors coming back for more. No longer just transactional in nature, travelers want to make a connection with an interactive, localized experience. The Vancouver Airport recently announced an expansion plan that includes an indoor forest that will replicate the natural habitat of the nearby Gulf Islands. Offering these unique, destination-specific experiences, from cooking classes to virtual reality tours, allow travelers to embed themselves in the culture without ever stepping foot outside the airport.

Photo by Roam Fitness

Creating an Ecosystem
Airports must evolve to become more self-sufficient environments. No longer stuck behind security checkpoints or confined to traditional indoor footprints, airports of the future must be more memorable and develop exciting destination attractions that travelers can actually look forward to visiting. Unlike struggling malls, airports have a constant source of potential shoppers, so the focus will become more about engagement. Just as we are seeing The Experience Economy affect traditional retail, travelers will also seek out more personally fulfilling experiences that enrich them intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Creating cultural attractions in the form of gaming, farmers markets, museum exhibits, fashion shows, or film festivals – both pre-and-post-security, invites travelers and locals alike, to see the airport as a memorable and unique destination.

Wandering Wellness
For leisure and business travelers alike, there is a clear desire for the earliest possible removal of stress. Achieving this implies making the airport environment part of the overall experience, rather than a step in the process to the experience, and transforming the airport into an elevated and authentic destination in its own right. With 82% of global travelers requesting more spa options, airports should be expanding their service offerings to include wellness to better cater to stressed travelers. Brands like Roam Fitness allow on-the-go travelers to fit in a workout around their flight schedule. Indoor tracks, rooftop gardens, terminal step counts, and yoga rooms are all ways to embrace this healthy initiative.

Adaptive Environments
Today, smartphones are being carried by over 98% of airline passengers. This reliance provides proactive brands with a unique opportunity to utilize adaptive technology to create a more engaging and customized experience for travelers. Airports can create dynamic experiences through environments that adapt to the customer mood, flight schedule, location – and even weather. Brands using beacons could push sale notifications to those customers in the terminal that are experiencing flight delays. Virtual shopping walls could adjust merchandise dependent upon the surrounding traveler destinations. Brands need to be able to anticipate traveler’s needs, whether through data or environmental context, to create stronger brand loyalty, by proactively offering a service, solution, environment or product that is going to help with a passenger pain point.

Home Away from Home
Globally, the average time spent at an airport is 133 minutes, not including layovers and delays, so brands need to find better ways of replicating the comforts of home. Provide traveler’s space to call their own – to relax, dine, be entertained – or even sleep, giving consumers more control over their airport experience, to align with their traditional at-home lifestyle. Just as consumers are comfortable getting their food delivered by popular apps like UberEats or Grubhub, passengers at Baltimore-Washington International airport now have access to Airport Sherpa, an app that allows you to order meals to a designated spot in the airport, including your gate for a little pre-boarding snack. Airlines are starting to appeal to travelers personalized needs by offering services that bring home, to the airport: click-and-collect groceries, private dressing rooms, on-site clothing rentals, and family-friendly amenities, where travelers can recharge and make the most of their time away.

As a Senior Brand Experience Marketing Manager at FRCH Design Worldwide, Emily Hamilton bridges the gap between brand strategy and communication.

Looking at all experiences through a marketing lens, Hamilton’s background of web design, social media, and intellectual property strategy, lend itself to all things digital. Her fascination with retail trends propels her to uncover needs, desires, and opportunities in the industry to translate into actionable implications for brand experiences.

Hamilton has spoken at leading retail design conferences including GlobalShop and has had the privilege of collaborating with a wide range of brands, including American Girl, Hilton, Zales, Scripps Networks Interactive and Forest City. She is a graduate of Miami University, with a Bachelors of Arts in Social Psychology.

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