m1nd-set: Duty free online sites ‘don’t necessarily cannibalise in-store sales’

By Charlotte Turner |

According to the latest research by leading industry travel retail research agency m1nd-set, online duty free purchasing platforms do not necessarily cannibalise in-store sales.


“Travellers who pre-order online have a tendency to purchase in the duty free shops when at the airport,” said m1nd-set Business Development Head, Anna Marchesini, who revealed that six out of ten shoppers who pre-ordered online also went on to purchase in the duty free shops.


Opportunities for increasing the share of the overall travel retail sales can be seized by a more streamlined approach to e- and m-commerce, according to the research.


Compiled from interviews conducted among more than 2,000 global travellers, from July and October this year, the research highlights a lack of awareness among travellers of the online and pre-ordering services proposed by duty free retailers.


Raising awareness is key, says Marchesini

Only around one third of travellers were aware of the possibility to pre-order their duty free products online and just over one fifth, around 21%, of all travellers said they had actually pre-ordered their products via the duty free retailer’s website at least once in the past three years.


“When shoppers are aware of the online or mobile commerce applications, the majority, around 7 out of 10 shoppers, do actually use these services to purchase or pre-order,” added Marchesini.


“The majority of shoppers who pre-ordered their products online did so prior to travelling, from home, which demonstrates the potential to increase sales if marketers programme online campaigns to reach travellers who have either just booked or are about to embark on their international trip and entice them with duty free shopping offers.


‘Timing is essential’

“Timing is an essential ingredient when marketing to prospective duty free shoppers. The majority of travellers visit the retailer websites well ahead of their trip, with around two thirds of shoppers who pre-order doing so within up to one month ahead of their international flight.”


Marchesini went on to explain that online sales do not necessarily cannibalise the in-store sales when the traveller arrives at the airport and that understanding the motivations to purchase is also an important factor to take into account when marketing the online pre-ordering service to travellers.



“One of the main purchase drivers among those passengers who pre-ordered their duty free products, was the opportunity to buy special promotions offered exclusively online,” she added.


“The offer of attractive gifts with purchase is also among the key reasons for pre-ordering online.

“A safer and more pleasant experience than shopping in-store, special airport retail exclusive editions and the advantage of not carrying the shopping items around the airport, where home or gate delivery or pick-up on arrival at destination options are offered, are other benefits which shoppers who pre-ordered cited as their motivations.”


The research also reveals the main reasons for not pre-ordering. Lack of knowledge about the pre-ordering service tops the list.


Only around one third of travellers were actually aware of the pre-ordering service for their duty free purchases. Other reasons included the travellers’ preference for a physical shopping experience and the possibility to browse in-store and touch, taste and feel the products prior to purchasing.


A lack of attractive promotions, purchasing on impulse and not being able to discern the product quality when browsing online were other reasons travellers provided for not pre-ordering.


According to m1nd-set travellers said the lack of sophisticated technology to judge the product quality, including virtual reality presentations, live customer service chats or explanatory videos to demonstrate the product quality were further barriers to purchase.


Marchesini concluded: “The behaviour among shoppers who pre-order varies quite considerably across regions and categories, both in terms of which categories are purchased and how much is spent on each category.


“Variations are also quite significant when breaking down the data and analysing by sub-category within the core categories such as Food, Alcohol and Beauty, as well as by age and gender segment.”


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