How can travel retail improve the passenger experience?
Throughout the past decade, consumer behaviour has become much more complex with a multiplicity of touchpoints across physical and digital channels. A single-customer view and responding to consumer needs and expectations in near real time are fast becoming prerequisites for success and survival in retail, especially in the time-poor and impulsive environment of travel termini.
So how does travel retail develop a single customer view and provide an enhanced passenger experience that will drive improved revenues?
There are three steps to consider:
1. What is the travel retail proposition?
Firstly, what is the overall experience the travel terminal would like for its passengers and should that experience extend beyond the terminal building?
The opportunity exists to engage passengers throughout their journey in a compelling, consistent and personal way, from the moment a flight/journey is booked to planning the journey, parking the car, engaging with the retail offer in-terminal, cross-selling by third parties (e.g. hotels, car hire, travel insurance, local tourist destinations), and providing travel information (e.g. flight times, boarding gates).
The proposition could be to act as the ‘concierge’ for the whole trip. This will make the overall proposition more relevant, convenient and engaging, as well as generate additional revenue with third parties beyond the envelope of the terminal building.
2. How will the travel retail proposition be communicated?
Secondly, as the passenger journey is complex and ‘mobile’ by definition, there needs to be a consistent channel used to communicate to passengers as they pass through the terminal and travel to and from the terminal.
The mobile phone is a constant channel of communication that passengers will reference throughout their journey, and should be therefore the focus of any on-going passenger communication.
For example, a mobile based digital/commerce platform can combine personalised, geo-targeted messaging (right passenger, in the right place, at the right time in their passenger journey) with redemption and mobile payment functionality.
Such a mobile platform provides a powerful passenger engagement eco-system delivering a range of benefits and relevant promotional messages at the appropriate point in the passenger journey (e.g. a perfume offer pushed to a female passenger as she passes the perfume shop).
This mobile platform could also integrate loyalty and reward schemes, mobile payment in-store or on-the-move, in-store queue-busting, car parking, hotel booking and payment, digital wayfinding, and travel information. St Pancras International in the rail sector, for example, has launched the first railway station app of this type.
3. How do you ensure the travel retail proposition is engaging and relevant?
Thirdly, to ensure that the passenger journey ecosystem that has been created is efficient, seamless and suitably targeted, data capture is required across many touchpoints (e.g. flight bookings, website visits, car-parking bookings, purchases) to understand typical behaviour and provide compelling geo-targeted content.
Many organisations struggle with the amount of customer data that is already being generated, and it is often well beyond the scope of standard desktop applications such as Microsoft Access and Excel to deal with such large data-sets and drive out ‘next-best-action’ recommendations.
Over the past few years a new breed of user-friendly business intelligence tools have been developed to help organisations access, blend, cleanse, manipulate and interpret their data sources to deliver meaningful business insights. These new tools put the analytical power directly into the hands of the everyday business user and are starting to be embraced by the travel retail industry (e.g. London Heathrow, Delta, Easyjet).
Travel retail has a unique opportunity to engage with the time-poor, cash-rich passenger, and enhance the passenger experience, by embracing the best of new digital technology, through data insight tools and mobile advancements, within a clear retail strategy.