Streamlining airport retail processes – the future of transactions

12th May 2014

As reported in our last article, burgeoning innovation and a mix of unique brands have caused a boom in the appeal of airport retailing with many global brands seeking to create high end or flagship retail experiences within airport commercial spaces, capitalising on the unique situation and ‘captive audience’ provided by within the travel retail setting. But to what extent will technology help in streamlining these airport retail processes and enhancing the retail customer journey?

Photo by Heamosoo Kim on Unsplash

Photo by Heamosoo Kim on Unsplash

Recently, new initiatives such as ‘click and collect’ and ‘buy before you fly’ have been implemented with mixed success and designers must recognise and respond to the fact that the primary appeal of consumer transactions at the airport are hinged on convenience – particularly when time or space are limited.

Until now airport retailers have been slow to capitalise on customer needs – or the opportunity afforded by home delivery. For example, a business traveller on a short-haul three-day trip, might want to shop at the airport because it is convenient but they won’t buy any large items as they don’t want the inconvenience of additional luggage – particularly if they aren’t checking in any luggage or they are flying with an economy airline which charges extra for the privilege. However, if their purchases could be shipped to their home address or packaged and waiting for them to collect as they pass through the airport on their return journey, then it might be a different story. By using home delivery the airport store could become more of a ‘showroom’ for customers to try and buy physical products which are then delivered to their home address at their convenience.

Shoe retailer Dune is one store which has capitalised on this idea. They recently refurbished their store at London’s Gatwick airport, providing iPads in the seating areas which allow customers to browse and order from their entire catalogue – similar to those used by ‘Shoes of Prey’ (whom we blogged about here last year). Many of the shoes are available in store for physical inspection and sales assistants can also offer advice on fittings and materials. Once the customers have made their selection they can then use the iPads to make their purchases and arrange for them to be delivered to their home address after their journey. So far this move to multi-channel has proved to be a great success for Dune, with a fantastic response from customers, and a significant increase in retail sales.

The additional security provided in an airport setting also offers considerable advantages for trialling such technologies where they are far less likely to be stolen or damaged than in a high street retail situation. The success of Dune’s retail proposition offers encouraging implications for retailers of larger items within the airport environment such as white goods, large electronic items or homewares.

UK department store John Lewis recently announced their own intention to dip their toe into the pool of airport retail with a new retail concession in Heathrow’s Terminal 2. Signalling an innovative move for a non-travel retail specialist. It will be interesting to see whether they will offer the same digital browsing or delivery options as Dune and which assortment of products from their vast catalogue are going to be presented in their first ever airport retail outlet.

No doubt other retailers who have traditionally been prevented from selling at airports by the simple impracticality of restrictions to carry-on luggage will also be waiting to see how they fare before emulating their strategy.