The Schiphol view on transparency and ‘showrooming’ in travel retail

The Schiphol view on transparency and ‘showrooming’ in travel retail

THE NETHERLANDS. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is looking to a brave new world of travel retail shopping where technology and transparent customer experience marketing work hand in hand.

The global hub cites London Heathrow Airport and Sunglass Hut as an example of the effective use of ‘assistive shopping technology’ (here via interactive mirrors to make shopping more engaging). However, it notes that “despite these interesting tech developments, customers never stop valuing real human interactions and sensory marketing”.

Lounge 2 at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has space for experiential projects.

In a fascinating statement, the airport company said: “A good relationship with your customer is everything. It is all about trust… about connecting. Love and respect for both customers and the world they live in is crucial, as Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts made clear in his book Lovemarks. This is no longer marketing speak, it’s going to be the norm.”

A ‘connecting’ hub in every sense

To ensure unforgettable brand experiences, Schiphol believes it is time to step up the game by making deeper connections with passengers.

“We know that 78% of Millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. The new generation is not easily influenced by accessible stores and approachable concepts and offers. They demand genuine experiences and information,” said Schiphol.

“The why behind the buy is becoming more important than the product itself.”

By information, the airport means transparent content. How are the products made? Is the story behind them authentic? “Brands that are winning present accurate knowledge, true stories about the production process, and unforgettable experiences,” it said.

An example of this was a spring event with gin brand Bombay Sapphire from Bacardi Global Travel Retail. “They let travellers experience an explosion of taste in their real life ‘House of Bombay’,” noted the airport.

Bacardi put sensorial experiences into action for its House of Bombay activation earlier this year at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

Bacardi GTR built a replica of the tropical greenhouse used in the English distillery to grow exotic ingredients to make the gin. Situated in Lounge 2 of the airport, the replica included bird and waterfall sounds. Eye-catching foam bubbles of gin were dropped from the ceiling for a unique taste experience.

Over 2.5 million passengers at the airport had the opportunity to engage in the sensorial event. The result? Bombay Sapphire’s sales increased by +365% versus the same period in the previous year.

To embrace showrooming or not?

“The demand for more information and transparency, along with the never disappearing need to touch and test things, creates great opportunities,” said Schiphol. But the airport also believes that the purpose of a store is changing in the direction of ‘showrooming’.

This is where customers come to the store to experience a product in person, but combine this with online research and purchase only after ensuring a good deal. It is a concept that Aircommerce Managing Director Melvin Broekaart has been vocal about for some time.

Creating an experience in an airport a passenger might want to take home with them? Schiphol is working on it.

In this scenario, the transaction has moved away from the airport store to online – or elsewhere. Schiphol is frank about this trend. It said: “The fact is, goods can be bought anywhere, anytime. Customers are doing this anyway, so we might as well embrace it. Why not get the most out of the in-store experience? Why not embrace this role as a showroom? Customers want to interact with what they buy, and in-store marketing can provide this. Here lies a huge opportunity for retailers.”

Managing Director of retail consultancy Q&A, Frank Quix: “It is not about the actual sales on the spot, but the experience of the product or the brand.”

From transaction point to attraction point

Managing Director of retail consultancy Q&A, Frank Quix (also a lecturer in Retail Strategy & Marketing at Amsterdam Business School), said: “Rituals does a good job offering brand experience at Schiphol Airport with its Travel Spa, where you can get a hand or foot treatment to destress. Transaction points can become attraction points. So, it is not about the actual sales on the spot, but the experience of the product or the brand. And it doesn’t really matter where you buy it, or when.”

Lil’ Amsterdam, which opened at Amsterdam Central Station in 2017, is another example. It offers 18 regularly-changing pop-ups that showcase the best the city has to offer – from retail to art and culture. Schiphol believes it offers a perfect location for a similar activity: giving customers the opportunity to sit in a brand new car, perhaps; to properly experience a new gadget; or to get the real story behind a product.

Airports will have to adapt to consumers becoming more conscious than ever about what they buy. Schiphol commented: “Global responsibility, sustainability and even minimalism are trending. The why behind the buy is becoming more important than the product itself.”

So, while customers look for surprising experiences, these need to be personalised, authentic and transparent. This means they will likely share that experience with others, recommend a brand, and perhaps become a loyal fan in the process.