Travel retail poses to be a huge business, particularly for airports. This arena had been gradually adapting the digital technologies. Today, the industry of travel retail proffers a compelling opportunity for many premium brands of the world on the web. It is almost like a world canvas where internationally acclaimed brands come with their product offerings.


Why? What is travel retail?

It is majorly because there has been a sustained rise on potential customer base. You can look at any longer passenger traffic forecast in the airlines such as the Boeing, UNWTO, Airbus etc., and see a massive growth in their sector.

Experts state that between 2017 and 2036, the compounded annual growth rate of airline passenger shall be at 4.7%.

The global market for travel is ever changing and emerges to be a landscape of fascinating crossroads of humanity. There are legions of people who are on the move. Some of them come from key emergent market sectors and are pretty much consistent high spenders in shopping. The Chinese, Nigerians, Indonesians and so on are examples of such target audience.

Today, we have the e-travel retail sector growing. It offers consumers an extensive plethora of the globe’s leading luxury brands whose products are offered at attractive rates. Moreover, excellent aftersales service and guarantee of genuine products define them.

Market research shows that travellers have the proclivity of gifting or buying travel souvenirs on the go. There’s an impressive rise in travel retail’s environmental quality.

Travel retail is a significant channel of sales and offers a global showcase of premium brands, thus, protruding a ‘showcasing window’ effect. Travellers are domestic market consumers who are on the move. Therefore, having a qualitative presence in an airport enhances the local market image.

The passenger growth has become quite strong recently showing a rise by 8% in the last few years. Thus, this particular industry has to consider all the consumer dynamics while formulating its market strategies.

The rise of millennials has had a pivotal impact on it. The travel retail fortunes in upcoming future depend upon their buying behaviour. Understanding that consumers have different shopping aspirations, the marketers of travel retail are adapting to their needs to strive forward.

So far, travel retail had been a classic example of brick and mortar business model. Now, it has added the digital component to combat with the rapid growth of e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Alibaba.

Adding this digital aspect to its repertoire has been a defensive move. E-commerce channels have decimated several local retail markets. Thus, the solution here is to marry both the world of ‘virtual’ and ‘real’.

Travel retail provides specific things which neither Amazon nor Alibaba can offer. These are smell, feel, taste and human engagement. The ‘exclusives’ of travel retail also cannot be sought anywhere else.


What is e-travel retail? A new angle!

  • How can travel retail companies benefit from the rapid boom in digitization?
  • How does one create a digital business in this sector?
  • How do you provide a smart digital customer experience?

The above queries have been doing the rounds in recent years.

The travel retail industry is slowly transforming its business models into digital offerings. How so?

  1. Airports and airlines rely upon the Omnichannel trends which proffer passengers an effortless digital experience. It also provides custom-made target audience oriented offers which add real value to their brand proposition.
  2. The London Heathrow airport has recently developed a high-quality boutique in its name which is a digital marketplace offering luxury items. These stand out from their competitors owing to their diverse product portfolio, customized promotions, pricing. It reaches around 400 pounds of shopping baskets!
  3. Auckland airport established a high street shopping business where passengers can shop absolutely duty-free in the Auckland City. Here, the goods get delivered on time to the airport. They have truly adapted digital innovations well.

A new travel retail equation: PRODUCTS + DATA + LOGISTICS

Previously, the travel retail sector depended upon increasing footfalls owing to the rising numbers of passengers. Now, they have become aware of the growing impact of ecommerce players in the market. Airports, thus, are striving hard to create an image which is as appealing as localised retail spaces.

E-Travel retail recognises the untapped value of adhering to the diverse needs of different customer groups. It harbours personalization by imbibing a digital approach to travel retail. Airports, thus, are becoming way more tempting to the retailers.

Customers in travel retail have gone digital today. They search for information online and book their travel tickets, hotels and even look for Wi-Fi availability on websites. E-Travel retail is now evolving in the face of growing competition from the ecommerce hubs. Personal shopping and concierge services along with loyalty programs are offered online.


What are the main trends in e-Travel retail?

  • Digital drive campaigns

Digital approach maximizes campaigns letting them align with the customer influx originating from diverse ethnicities. These campaigns are offered to retailers providing them an opportunity to portray their brands to more customers and also to iShoppers. These promote the brand portfolio well.

iShoppes in the United States are now placing the rightful brand in front of the correct target audience. It is expanding its strategy for targeting Chinese passengers through digital activities. For example, the JFK shop now features digital installations made for both iShoppes and vendors. They are curating new digital content, and this shows how retailers are addressing one of the biggest demands that are duty free spending habits.

  • Leveraging digital to communicate with millennials

Stakeholders in the global travel business of retail are developing concepts which appeal to millennial travellers who are all tech savvy.

Take for example the brand, Paradise Lagardere. They plan to learn from their recent tech advancements where they shall apply digital lens to future projects. They are transforming their retail offers at the Salt Lake City Airport which is being built in the U.S. state Utah.  Their latest highlight is the TripAdvisor retail idea which features touchscreen facilities allowing travellers to research the city and its surrounding area.

  • VR engagement

Many retailers are making the headlines by opening a virtual reality experience centre. As thousands of passengers pass the airport terminals every single day, they spend an average of 3 to 4 hours in the airport only before catching their flight. By offering them self-serve towers, travel retailers are allowing them to explore the virtual world fantasies in 3D creations.

  • Personalization in modern e-travel

90% travellers admit that they do not feel satisfied with the standard procedure of travelling any more. A personalized approach is now being implemented so that people value their unique experience which they get on the go, no matter whether it is a holiday or a business travel.

Delta Flights have initiated account specific messaging with their corporate clients. It brings them exclusive perks. Moreover, the flight attendants have also received a Guest Service tool which allows them to offer customized services to clients including their assistance and gate information.

  • Recognition technology

The technology of recognition has been a hoot! It includes facial recognition, fingerprints, retina scanning and biometric identification methods. This technology rolled out into the present market a while ago and has been implemented in the travel industry for security and law enforcement purposes.

  • Aligning sales with airport ecosystems

Retailers are now partnering with airlines to inform travellers about what they can seek in store and also regarding their online information containing flight details. They are highlighting personalized as well as exclusive offers too. For example, loyalty programs which are tailored for frequent customers, and offers like free parking, fast tracking privileges and lounge access.

  • Shopping habits have changed

Millennials are travelling more than ever! They all have different shopping aspirations, and as per Nielson reports, 63% of this traveller base says that they like shopping at airports to simply spend some time. 44% of them get motivated to buy gifts and 30% shop to treat their own desires. 28% of them go for impulsive purchases sprees.

Travellers have no geographical limit on retail experience, and thus, look for unique products which are of great value at any point of their journey. Travel retailers must adapt and deliver such innovative experiences to match the interests and moods of such an unpredictable group.


E-Travel retail – Future beckons

Retailers of this domain must:

  1. Connect with travellers by using channels such as mobile apps and social media that offer digitized displays of their store products.
  2. Provide personalized as well as location based deals that are tailored to their preferences.
  • Create a seamless unique travel experience like pop-up features along with promotions for attracting travellers.
  1. Using flight information and airport timetables so that they can provide personalized offers based on the travel destination.
  2. Provide a wide range of checkout options. This shall help customers to choose from a variety of payment choices. These include self-serve kiosks, mobile apps and online payment.
  3. Allow travellers to see prices and pay in their currency or a combination of currencies as they dim fit.
  • Ensure that the retail software has travel and duty free functionalities. This helps a retailer to capture passport and boarding pass details.
  • Using digital tools which shall support languages as many as possible throughout the retail store and also at checkouts.
  1. Utilising business intelligence tools for seeing where most sales occur. This shall let a retailer understand the diverse shopping patterns and see how customers in different places respond to promotions.
  2. Go for automated stock ordering facilities based upon average sales rate so that a retailer always has a stock ready for a traveller.
  3. Integrate retail with supply chain system to implement an efficient supply-demand cycle.
  • Use apps, online interactions and loyalty programs for acquiring information about a particular traveller’s tastes and preferences.
  • Communicate with traveller on social media channels and create tailored offers which shall encourage them to actually buy products.
  • Connect mobile apps and in-store technology for establishing a unified experience. This ensures that passengers buy online and then collect a product at the retail store before they embark upon their journey.


As the e-Travel industry grows, a retailer has to make his/her store a part of a seamless digital process. By engaging with the passenger via digital and physical channels, he/she has to stay relevant in addressing customer needs. Retail software is on the rise which boosts the sales leading to a duty-free e-Travel store.