TR Consumer Forum 2024: Perfecting the path to purchase in travel retail

By Benedict Evans |

The first panel of the day explored the challenges behind crafting a local and authentic customer journey within travel retail.

Following an eye-opening keynote from Ramesh Cidambi, Managing Director for Dubai Duty Free (DDF), the second day of the TR Consumer Forum 2024 saw a host of panelists examining the best ways to streamline and enhance the path to purchase in travel retail.

Luke Barras-Hill, Editorial Director, TRBusiness, was joined on-stage by: Peter Mohn, CEO & Owner, m1nd-set; Sören Borch, Director Sales Experience and Excellence, Gebr. Heinemann; Pia Martina Klauck, Head of Commercial Operations, Düsseldorf Airport; Garrett Coogan, Vice President, Qatar Duty Free

m1nd-set data

Mohn opened with data insights curated specifically for the occasion, revealing a cross-category global segmentation of shoppers, with a focus on the importance of ‘local touch seekers’.

The data set consisted of over 200,000 interviewees, with Mohn commenting: “Local touch seekers don’t look for cheap souvenirs, but products created by local groups and communities, often buy for gifting, cost-conscious. If we want to grow the  business we need to capture the biggest segment, which is local touch seekers, however they are not among the top duty-free  buyers, which would be those who pre-lan their purchases.”

Mohn noted brands often looked at shopper segments in too rigid a light, noting the extensive crossover between various segments, while also touching on the various barriers to purchase which exist across travel retail, but specifically in duty free stores.

Mohn pulled from an extensive data set to deliver insights into sense of place gifting and customer wants.

“The majority of local touch seekers spoke to the assortment not being go interest. it is critical then that we as an industry capitalise on this growing desire for local products, sense of place if you will.”

Interestingly, Mohn noted this segment of shoppers were least likely to be influenced by interactions with staff, suggesting a multitude of separate but related sales approaches can help ensure better conversion rates.

“At those airports with a lot of local product there the dissatisfaction and barriers to purchase almost don’t exist, we can’t ignore other segments, but having local and well crafted products gives a clear message which will increase footfall and conversion rate,” he added.

Wining & Dining

Mohn was shortly followed by Coogan, who recently joined Qatar Duty Free (QDF) as Vice President, moving from his former role as Senior Vice President at Qatar Airways.

“We’re particularly proud of the Souq Al Matar at Hamad International Airport, which was awarded by Skytrax as the best airport and second best dining experience,” he said, noting the   local elements with tech as a standout feature of the shopper experience. Mohn also gave the examples of Munich, Budapest, Changi, snd Muscat as providing an excellent sense of place and ambience.

“That’s how we capture the next generation,” noted Coogan, referring particularly to an interactive showcase at Larnaca International Airport developed by Lotte Duty Free and the House of Suntory.

“We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary at Hamad with live music, live performances and that’s where sense of place really makes it part. We’re also approaching over 50m pax per annum, 255 destinations including cargo, 200+ dining outlets, 40 pieces of art, and 70 different nationalities working there.

Part of the Qatar Airways ecosystem, and the way we’ve set up our customer proposition, is we view it as us having guests, and not travellers or passengers,” said Coogan, adding: “We’ve created a connection where the guests enjoy it and think about it long after their flight, and that’s what it’s all about, we’re joining the dots between airport, airline, retail – a constant and clear message, and creating a wow moment.”

Customer loyalty

Borch focused on the resounding success of the Heinemann & Me loyalty programme as one example of the ways in which travel retailers can enhance the customer experience.

“Our loyalty programme has an 18% share of overall transactions for our German passengers, and our key task is increasing penetration whether it be through deals or promotions or local assortment, we need to create penetration, conversion, and make people stop,” he commented, adding: “In markets like Budapest, Vienna, Italy, assortment can easily reach 20% of local produce, but the key is in knowing when people will be travelling.”

Borch noted there was no one-size-fits-all solution, and that offers and communication from brands must be tailored to individuals, before, during and after their journey.

“The time we all spend in aircrafts is quite a lot, we know there is time available, and as a distributor and with our data, we look at how we can support the smallest shop in the world, the trolley. Questions remain around who owns the data of the passenger, and we need stronger collaboration between stakeholders to link this passenger journey,” added Borch.

Customer connection

“Dusseldorf is located in one of biggest economic areas in Europe with 18.5m inhabitants, but over 80% are German so we’re dealing with the Germans, who famously do not interact with staff,” noted Klauck, who mirrored comments made by Borch insofar as the necessity of connecting with one’s customer base.

“It’s our goal to connect more knowing they don’t want to. What products do they expect,” she commented, adding: “In Dusseldorf specifically t’s not our bread and butter, it’s our bread and beer and liquor. Local breweries need to be represented, though international brands are the most consumed, and you need to drive the authentic experience.”

On driving the authentic experience, Klauck pointed to the traditional German celebration of Fasching, or Carnival, as one such method of engaging with customers in an authentic manner.

“We had a big discussion about Carnival, a lot of drinking, partying and different products but it wasn’t part of Heinemann’s campaign, so we added that and we’re still learning,” she said.

Coogan brought the conversation full circle to close the panel, commenting on the opportunities for closer and more commercially beneficial collaborations which are already playing out in Qatar:

“The airline has access to all pax data through their loyalty system, we’re already using some of that data to target guest type. There’s still some work to be done, our intention is when someone books a flight with Qatar Airways in London, they get messages about QDF, multiple reminders along the way and across different categories.

It’s a positive opportunity as an ecosystem to take advantage of the multiple natural stops in a passenger’s journey.”

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