Last year, TRBusiness reported the relaunch of shoppair.com – familiar to some in a previous iteration – as a comprehensive online guide to duty free and tax free shopping.
Spearheaded by former Philip Morris International Duty Free executive and industry veteran Mick Dawidowicz, shoppair.com acts as a useful signpost to those new to travel retail or already well acquainted with the industry looking for more specific information on its mechanics and how and where to shop.
This includes – but is not limited to – guidance on arrivals, downtown and airport shopping, with the website drawing on a combination of industry experience and a large database of airports, airlines, retailers and concessionaires.
It aims to demystify in simple terms common industry terms such as tax free, duty free, duty paid and tax paid, together with the often complicated rules and regulations surrounding VAT redemptions, allowances and security restrictions.
Moreover, it offers advice to customers on product categories and how to obtain better deals, be it through promotions, loyalty programmes, or simply as a result of being prudent about exchange rates and payment methods.
A year on, TRBusiness asks Dawidowicz about the company’s path and what it hopes to achieve in the future.
Since TRBusiness spoke to shoppair.com last year, the company has re-purposed certain sections of the website and included more detailed information and prominent links to certain categories such as beauty and luxury. Tell us more…
Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been working on improving the usefulness, user experience, and consumer appeal of shoppair.com. Specifically, we’ve added new sections on Gatwick tax free shopping, duty free wine buying, and duty free availability of Philip Morris’ IQOS Heets.
In addition, we’ve been regularly adding to and enriching existing content; significantly expanding the section on the specialist, designer, and luxury boutiques; and continuously reviewing, updating, and adding to the direct links to duty free shopping sites, which stand at 150 today. We have also added a lot more information and detail to the alcohol, fragrance, arrival sales, and home delivery sections.
Since shoppair is not aimed at any particular nationality, there are some challenges in creating content. But to that end we’ve also added a real-time currency converter with rates for 19 major currencies. There’s now a search function that enables travellers to check domestic prices of liquor and wine in virtually any country and in any currency.
Give TRBusiness’ readers an idea of the key website metrics – click through rate, bounce rate, traffic sources etc – you are averaging at present and the growth you’ve encountered this year?
All the work we’ve done seems to be paying off. When we started, I set myself a target of 20,000 clicks per month as an initial milestone for traffic. I estimated that this would be the minimum audience number I needed to begin talking to the industry about advertising.
From virtually nothing at the end of last year, I reached that milestone in August. More importantly though, since the last half of August clicks are regularly exceeding 2,000 per day, with a peak so far of 2,600 in mid-September. That translates to almost 80,000 clicks on a monthly basis.
In addition, I must be hitting a nerve with travellers; Shoppair’s ad performance on Google AdWords is nothing short of spectacular. For example, the typical click-through rate for a Google text ad is 1.9% at an average cost per click of $2.69. Shoppair ads are typically achieving click-through rates of 9-12% and a cost per click of four to five US cents. It means people are interested.
When we started, we were getting most of the traffic through advertising, but today, my SEO campaign is generating about three quarters of shoppair’s traffic, either directly or through organic searches. The bounce rate is just under 70%, and we’re getting 2.2 page views. These aren’t bad, but they’re metrics we’re working to improve.
It seems like you’re harnessing some impressive traction online… How are you capitalising on this and what are the plans to develop shoppair.com?
We’re really concentrating on the SEO strategy. We’re looking to strengthen shoppair’s social media presence, backlinks with travel sites, blogs, and forums, and a presence and/or backlinks on high domain authority websites.
The original medium-term target (not the initial 20,000 click milestone) was based on 1% of international adult air travellers leaving home who speak English. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but that cohort represents about 120 million people. So the 1% target translates into 100,000 clicks per month or about 3,300 per day. I’m hoping we’ll be getting there in the not too distant future.
From a content point of view, there are a number of things about luxury shopping worth writing about – like Heathrow being a great place to buy high-end merchandise; how tax free in Europe can be a good deal for Americans even if they have to pay the duty when they get home; how France is a particularly lousy tax free deal, whether you get the VAT refunded or buy at an airport…. You won’t find much about any of this online.
Shoppair’s ROI is ultimately through advertising. Explain why brands should engage with the website and what is in it for them?
The reason brand owners should advertise with shoppair.com is pretty clear and straightforward. Shoppair is the only comprehensive online guide to duty free – there’s nothing else like it anywhere today. Shoppair offers brand owners a unique platform to reach prime duty free prospects before they travel.
Accurate and honest evaluations of the trade that unbox areas such as tax refunds, arrivals and downtown shopping is useful not only for the industry, but critically consumers. Give us some real-life examples of what shoppair.com is doing that gives it the edge over other websites?
There’s an awful lot of misinformation about duty free online and in the mainstream media, but only shoppair tells travellers what it’s really all about and how it works today. It’s not always easy for travellers to find duty free retail websites to do their homework.
Shoppair is the only website with up-to-date direct links to the duty free shopping sites of over 150 airports, airlines, and retailers. For example, tax free shopping at Gatwick is a great deal for EU travellers. Moreover, the in-store iPad sales for home delivery offered by a number of retailers are a particularly good deal for Brits. Unfortunately, nobody tells travellers about it. Shoppair does. In addition, only shoppair tells travellers the truth about how VAT recovery services actually work – and how expensive they really are.
Shoppair’s alcohol search function (in cooperation with Wine Searcher) enables consumers to check domestic prices for spirits and wine at home or at their destination in virtually any currency. Shoppair also tells travellers about things that are rarely talked about, like arrival sales, home delivery and downtown duty free, of which most Westerners are completely unaware of. It also tells travellers about the non-price elements that make duty free appealing – like choice, shopping environment, local products, and retail theatre. Again, very little of this is mentioned anywhere else.
Stay close to TRBusiness for further developments on shoppair.com…