Welcome to the latest in a series of columns brought to you in association with CircleSquare. The marketing, brand activation and customer experience specialist is using this column to share insights and ideas that help the global travel retail industry capitalise on the opportunities that present themselves. In this edition, the CircleSquare team reflects on how travel retail should aim to break new boundaries in the Year of the Tiger.
Happy Lunar New Year. What an important year this is set to be for travel retail. But before we go bounding into the future with all the grace and dynamism of the Tiger, let’s indulge ourselves one final time and fire up the De Lorean again. Strap in, set the date to 7 April 2020 and accelerate to 88mph because we are going back to CircleSquare’s very first Experiential Column from The Moodie Davitt eZine number 278. Our strategy team had written a witty and informative piece about the power of experiential marketing in airports and the rise of omnichannel, ensuring our debut column would be punchy and memorable, setting the tone for our future monthly insights. The future looked bright. What happened next not only rendered our new column hopelessly out-of-touch but would have also elicited that familiar exclamation from Dr Emmett Brown, “Great Scott!” The skies were devoid of planes, passenger numbers had plummeted, retail sales had evaporated, and we were all at home desperately trying to figure out how to connect to Zoom. In the midst of this chaos, I reluctantly dug out a crystal ball and, despite the unprecedented nature of a global pandemic, made some predictions and some recommendations. So, given what we know now about the pandemic, just how well have those predictions held up and what does any of this tell us about the future?
“There will be a decline in demand for traditional products as not only are there are fewer opportunities for travel retail exclusives, but also with significantly more investment being anticipated in omnichannel solutions, consumers no longer see a separation between domestic and travel retail channels”
– CircleSquare Executive Creative Director Philip Handley
If you read that debut column, you will already know I’m highly unlikely to be invited to provide advice on timings to the World Health Organization any time soon. My predictions were naively optimistic both in terms of how long we might be in lockdown and when we might expect markets to start opening up again. In contrast, anticipating the emergence of Hainan as a new travel superpower, the omnichannel revolution and the growing significance of sustainability were spot on. One thing never in doubt was predicting the incredible resilience of the travel retail industry. So too was forecasting the need to “clear out that cupboard labelled ‘things we’ve always done before’ and re-fill it with exciting new opportunities and great creative solutions to engage consumers better than ever before”. However, it has been the entrepreneurial nature of our colleagues, some might even call it the spirit of a tiger, which has been truly inspiring and provided us all with some much-needed optimism for the future.
Towards a new experience: CircleSquare was a creative partner in DFS prize promotion The Vault at T Galleria by DFS, Macau, City of Dreams
Fitting then, that we should now be entering the Year of The Tiger after 12 long months of the Metal Ox leading us slowly and cautiously forward. There feels like a fresh new energy in the air. This year it’s the turn of the Water Tiger, typically symbolised by connecting with others, risk-taking and having fun. So we can expect both the breaking of rules and the breaking of boundaries. It’s fair to say we weren’t the only ones who predicted the need for a breakthrough in omnichannel. Over the past two years the CircleSquare column has frequently championed the benefits of this physical and digital symbiosis, including launching our own Connected Shopper platform and developing multiple bespoke solutions for a number of our clients with genuinely encouraging results. For the industry as a whole, however, the uptake has been cautiously ox-like and this year demands a much more significant breakthrough. The clue to where this breakthrough might emerge comes from analysing the results of the omnichannel projects we have delivered over the past 18 months. By tapping into the mindset of the traveller, one which is uniquely open to discovering new experiences and therefore, by default, new products and services, we have been able to use travel retail as a recruitment platform for domestic markets who simply cannot turn heads and generate new consumers, or brand switchers, like we can in travel retail. CircleSquare has been lucky enough to develop ground-breaking omnichannel solutions for luxury heavyweights like Cartier, where high net worth individuals not only begin their physical journey in the airport, but also their digital brand journey, seamlessly connecting their interaction with the brand wherever they happen to be in the world. At a premium mainstream level, our digital involvement with L’Oréal has led to us delivering cutting-edge consumer connectivity with brands such as Giorgio Armani and Kiehl’s.
A purpose-driven journey: Two pop-ups from Kiehl’s, developed with CircleSquare, showcased sustainability and conservation initiatives through a series of engaging and educational retailtainment elements, in partnership with China Duty Free Group at Mova Mall in Haikou, Hainan in June 2021.
Centred around engaging consumers through ecologically designed pop-ups, our campaign shone a spotlight on endangered wild pandas and showcased Kiehl’s sustainable and conservation initiatives through an interactive and educational ‘panda jungle’ O2O journey, equipped with augmented reality and driven by a fully integrated customer journey created on a WeChat web app. This highly successful approach of combining irresistible physical experiences and omnichannel connectivity reflects the changing nature of tomorrow’s passenger, something central to the findings of a fascinating collaboration between The Moodie Davitt Report and management consultancy, Bain & Company, which is featured in this very edition of the eZine. With an evolution of our typical passenger comes an evolution of how we sell, and also what we sell. Inevitably there will be a decline in demand for traditional products as not only are there are fewer opportunities for travel retail exclusives, but also with significantly more investment being anticipated in omnichannel solutions, consumers no longer see a separation between domestic and travel retail channels. Historically, domestic markets and travel retail have coexisted in blissful ignorance of each other; a right hand not knowing (or caring) what the left hand is doing and vice versa. You don’t need me to tell you what could be achieved if these age-old, mutually exclusive markets could put aside their differences, overcome the challenges of working together and use omnichannel to facilitate a co-ordinated effort. It’s my prediction that as we welcome in the Water Tiger, this will be a year of breaking boundaries. Let’s hope it’s the superfluous physical boundaries between markets and the technophobic boundaries of omnichannel.
*If you are eager to channel your inner ‘Tiger' this year, contact our team of experiential and omnichannel specialists and maybe we can break some boundaries together.
*About Circle Square
If you want to create deeper connections between your brand and your customers, CircleSquare, with its global network of creative studios, is uniquely placed to help you develop integrated strategies for customer acquisition, conversion and loyalty.
CircleSquare has offices in nine global locations including London, Paris, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong, covering every phase of the customer journey from strategy and creative to design and delivery.
CircleSquare’s in-depth understanding of global travel retail has earned it an impressive client list, including LVMH, Richemont, L’Oréal, Mondelez, Lacoste and Diageo, alongside retailers like Gebr. Heinemann, Dufry and DFS.
Contact: Managing Partner Stephane Zermatten at Stephane.Zermatten@circle-square.com
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