The future of airport retail is hyper-personalisation

10 : 09 : 2018 Airport Retail : Duty Free : Customer Data

With vast amounts of passenger data tied up in boarding passes, let’s use it to transform the airport retail experience, says Lee Carroll, interaction and experience designer at Seymourpowell.

Items purchased at the airport, or even on the plane, could be delivered to where the shopper wants: their hotel upon landing, their home for when they return or to collect before their flight.

Lee Carroll, interaction and experience designer at Seymourpowell​

Sophisticated and highly personalised shopping experiences might be available to consumers both on the high street and online, but it seems that airport retail as we know it is failing to inspire them.

Despite the fact the global duty-free industry is expected to grow to about £51bn ($67bn, €58bn) by 2020, according to the world’s largest travel retailer Dufry, luxury, fashion, consumer packaged goods and dining brands that rely on these spaces – not to mention the airports themselves – are not yet maximising passenger data. If they did, they could provide a contextual, immersive and hyper-personalised retail journey for the billions of people that pass through airports each year.

Key to enhancing the airport retail experience is the humble boarding pass. Travellers are already used to having their boarding pass scanned when they make an airport purchase, but with passengers' personal, flight and destination data already stored in this one place, it could becoming a digital trigger that activates personalised retail experiences throughout the whole space.

Passengers could pre-order a holiday kit of toiletries, beauty and grooming products that takes into account the climate and real-time weather of their destination.

Let’s think about personalised essentials. As a service, this could allow passengers to order a holiday kit of toiletries, beauty and grooming products to collect at the airport or in-flight, using their boarding pass data to match their individual needs. These packages would also be highly customisable and tailored to each person’s trip, taking into account the climate and real-time weather of their destination, preferred brands, skin and hair types, and much more.

Furthermore, these kits would include the ideal amount of product for the length of their trip, meaning less waste and increased sustainability, while removing the stress that goes with the need to carry liquids on board – a key opportunity at a time when airline restrictions are still undergoing review.

Favourite products or past purchases previously captured using smart boarding passes could be used to create personalised in-flight retail offers for each passenger.

Data could also shape the in-terminal experience, with smart billboards and signage that adapt their messaging based on the people who are in a particular area. And when it comes to retail, such billboards would also present new shopping mechanisms for passengers in a rush – something not uncommon in airports – or those making regular repeat journeys for work or play. Existing technologies such as RFID, iBeacon and QR codes would mean that their favourite products or past purchases previously captured using smart boarding passes could be translated to create personalised in-flight retail offers for each passenger, which would evolve the more they spend.

Finally, intelligent retail driven by data could also adapt to fit with flight departures or arrivals. By working with specialist services, this could echo the very familiar behaviour of buying both low- and high-value items online for next- or same-day delivery. Items purchased at the airport, or even on the plane, could be delivered to where the shopper wants: their hotel upon landing, their home for when they return, or to collect before their flight or upon landing. In fact, they could even be ordered for delivery to the store of the shopper’s choice within the airport space, creating an opportunity for add-on sales.

As noted, the amount of customer data already tied up in boarding passes means that the base of this future retail infrastructure already exists. Now, it’s down to airports and the retailers and brands housed within them to start harnessing this data to provide a more complete and elevated airport shopping experience like the one already enjoyed on the high street and online.

Lee Carroll is an interaction and experience designer at multidisciplinary studio Seymourpowell.