Google tools tackle browser-to-buyer challenge

By Luke Barras-hill |

Google_18GSFTechnology giant Google has outlined how the use of its digital tools could help unlock under-exploited power of purchasing intent in a potentially groundbreaking move for the travel retail industry.

This is the second part of a TRBusiness special report on Google Meets Travel Retail, held at Google Germany HQ in Hamburg earlier this month.

Attendees to the one-day conference heard first hand how Google’s digital analytics tools could change the marketing and sales landscape for airports, retailers and brands.

As reported, Vienna International Airport and Google have already test trialled the first phase of an initiative to drive traveller traffic and spend in Vienna.

[Click here for part one of Google Meets Travel Retail to read about the industry-first tie-up between Google and Vienna Airport]. 


Jan Hieronimi, Industry Manager, Retail, Google Germany.


In a series of deep-dive sessions, it became clearer that Google’s access to real-time information and customer-marketing segments can help identify and engage more fully with would-be buyers during the travel journey.

Taking the stage, Google Germany Industry Manager Retail Jan Hieronimi reiterated the importance of ‘micro-moments’ in the travel journey.

Google Display Networks, Google Maps and Youtube are essential touchpoints used to identify and cluster future advertising opportunities, he explained.

The company’s search function is the most widely used digital tool to target travellers due to the information being provided ready-made.

Using affiliated search terms (car rental, air travel, bus and rail, cruises and charters or tourist destinations) is one method to align advertising spending to return on investment.

On the other hand, brands, airports and retailers may choose to advertise more specifically against certain platforms, such as frequently visited travel websites such as

Target segments can also be created via so-called ‘affinity marketing’ practices to advertise to travellers based on promotion type or according to their radius to the airport.

This can be refined further through language preferences to reach certain nationalities, for instance German-speaking visitors holidaying in Vienna.

“In-market segments are very specific, for example, if Google sees a person comparing prices for fragrances it is pretty obvious what you can do with that information as a duty free retailer,” explained Hieronimi.

“All of the targeting can be used across all our properties: Google, Youtube or the Google Display Network. The only difference is the advertisement display format.”

Connecting the dots, he suggested, allows you to compare and execute different targeting methods at relevant times.

Hieronimi added that this message doesn’t have to be about ‘buy right now’, but used as a starting point to build loyalty between travellers and companies or brands at the point of sale.

This helix of ideas prompted some engaging responses from the audience.


Dominik Schwarzenberger, Industry Lead, Google Cloud, Google Germany outlines the merits of  incorporating Google’s cloud-based service into airports’ tech infrastructure.

One delegate asked whether Google has the ability to augment information available through its Google Flights platform with the Google search function to target these different ‘affinity’ markets – something that would be of particular relevance for brands.

Google said it was not aware of any ‘roadmap’ that is focusing on fusing Google flights fusing search information with the flights tool at this stage.

Another question highlighted whether Google’s methods could tackle what for many consumers is a perceived lack of identification with many of the travel retailing firms and their brand fascias, with travellers tending to associate their trips with the airport location itself.

Hieronimi explained that competition between all sectors of retail means everyone is jockeying for a top position.

He said that from Google’s perspective, it will assess performances using algorithms linked to search results, while on the advertisement side it will look at how firms bid in auctions for consumer attention using keywords and compare clicks and the quality of adverts as part of a number of other factors.

Hieronimi suggested that companies could outbid others for consumer attentions in certain markets, for instance the airport market in Germany.


In a series of technically-immersive presentations, Christian Bärwind, Industry Leader, Retail, Google Germany outlined how at Hamburg Airport, 90% of queries for perfumes & cosmetics items are made via mobile.

He raised the challenge of retailers moving from online to offline modes of selling, but illustrated H&M’s use of instore technologies and its app as an example of enabling the move towards omni-channel experiences.

The app allows users to scan barcodes in store to receive more information about products, but they can also take pictures of products (not necessarily H&M branded) that are then used to find similar items via the H&M website to be ordered or added to a virtual wishlist.

In this way, he says the H&M app integrates online and offline in a seamless fashion; by combining technology and functionality, it encourages customers to use the app in-store and outside of the store.

Meanwhile, a technical presentation from Google Cloud Industry Lead Dominik Schwarzenberger illustrated the benefits of implementing cloud-based technology into airports.


He used an example marrying smart parking and traffic technology to predict parking availability for airport users, with a takeaway message being the relative ease of transplanting cloud-based services into airports that already benefit from the likes of free wifi, high passenger volumes and IOT services.

TRBusiness questioned how easy it would be to enable such services without significant investment in new infrastructure, personnel and training, not to mention the challenge of contending with at times dated terminal infrastructure.

“The things we are talking about are feasible today,” Schwarzenberger responded.

After a session from Miriam Strasman assessing how retailers drive and measure impact in an omni-channel world and a case study from Outletcity Metzingen’s Stefan Hofmann, attendees were treated to two ‘Masterclass’ wrap-up sessions from Google.


In a session moderated by TRBusiness Deputy Editor Luke Barras-Hill, Google’s Ingrid Hochwind and Leopold Gräubig explored how brands can make the most from co-op marketing opportunities at the airports.

Delegates heard that Google is still searching for the ‘sweet spot’ to drive more mutual business between both parties.


A Google ‘Masterclass’ session on co-op marketing for brands challenged conventional notions of trapping engagement and spend in the terminals.

Gräubig said that while the co-op marketing relationship between brands and retailers instore is developing, ‘not much has changed in the last 30 or 40 years’.

“Most co-op marketing and trade promotions more or less remain fairly traditional,” he said. “Why is that? Retailers don’t really see a need to change. For retailers, it is a profit centre to get money from the brands.”

“On the other hand, most of the activity happens on the retailing side with the buying department and on the brands side by sales people, however both sides are not really trained in media, marketing, consumption and digital. This is why new digital areas have a fairly hard time and it makes innovation difficult.”

TRBusiness was the exclusive media partner for Google Meets Travel Retail.

Click here for the TRBusiness Twitter feed for session-by-session updates @ #Google Meets Travel Retail, #globalshoppingforum

For more insight and analysis, click below to view a series of vox-pop interviews conducted by organiser Global Shopping Forum.

Jan Hieronimi, Industry Manager Retail, Google Germany:

Matthias Hetsch, Head of Customer Research Department, Gebr. Heinemann: 

Ahmet Cosar, General Manager, Turkuvaz Tk Kitap Ve Kirtasiye A.S:

Click here for a further summary of some of the key takeaways from Masterclass Co-moderator, Consultant and former Dufry Global Head of Operations and Nuance Global Strategic Marketing Director António Luis Rodolfo.

*Unless indicated all images copyright Armin Stroiakovski




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