The next step for airport retailing may not be connected to solving the drudgery of airport travel. While one view envisions an airport shopping experience fully capitalizing on smartphone-touting consumers, a more futuristic view sees virtual airport stores replacing physical ones.
The milder airport shopping overhaul comes from ATMs and self-service checkout provider, NCR Corp, which commissioned a survey that explored how airport stores could drive more revenue from “today’s time-starved and mobile-enabled travelers,” according to a press release.
The survey of travelers in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany found that a wide majority agreed that an alert on their mobile phone letting them know when their plane was boarding would encourage them to shop more. Among U.S. travelers, 35 percent indicated it is difficult to find stores, restaurants and other retail offerings at airports in the limited amount of time they have.
Forty-percent of U.S. travelers listed “Retail or food discount coupons delivered to your mobile device or paper boarding pass” as the top incentive to shop more at airports. Other technologies respondents agreed may tempt them to shop more included self-checkouts and enabling “endless aisle technology” to allow shoppers to browse merchandise not available in the airport store.
Tyler Craig, VP and general manager, NCR Travel, noted that airports receive nearly 50 percent of their revenue from non-aviation sources. He added, “By employing some of the technologies used by today’s retailers such as mobile marketing and interactive, digital signage, airports can more effectively communicate with and make offers to travelers, boosting revenue while making their airports more welcoming, entertaining and user-friendly.”
The more futuristic view comes from U.K.-based Research For Travel. The aviation market research and consultancy predicts that over the next 15 years airport travel will see the end of wait lines due to trusted travelers procedures; rapid, high-tech emigration and immigration; the end of check-in desks or check-in luggage; and quicker boarding. The changes are expected to leave more time to shop, eat and drink.
Specifically regarding retailing, Research For Travel predicts showrooms dedicated to online purchases will replace stores. It notes that some airports have introduced “You Shop, We Drop” programs, whereby passengers buy items that are delivered to their homes.
“If companies like Amazon and Taobao were to get involved in airport retailing, then the showroom concept would develop very quickly,” said Research For Travel in its press release.