Enriching the customer experience
Terms such as immersive, engaging and experiential have become part of the industry parlance in recent years. But how does our channel put these into practice to benefit the end user, the traveller? A panel of Trinity stakeholders discussed how the industry can enrich the customer experience in an engaging session on day two in Singapore.
Speakers included ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Spark Founder & President Heidi Van Roon and (by video link) Collinson President, Asia Pacific and Global Board Member Todd Handcock.
The conversation focused heavily on reinventing airport spaces to make the environment more attractive to customers, putting technology at the forefront of investment and ensuring the human element shines out in our service to the customer.
Luis Felipe de Oliveira: Reinvention and renewal
De Oliveira said: “We need to reinvent ourselves and think about what we can do better. We have seen a lot of developments in technology and that is a key element for us today. That is what the next generation is looking for and we need to adapt and work together as an industry to find ways to integrate them. We also need to find ways to re-humanise this approach and bring that human touch to the fore, providing something a machine cannot provide.”
Van Roon said that the industry needs to offer more meaningful employment and ensure a healthy work/life balance for staff.
She said: “Many retailers do not understand this huge disconnect. We need to rethink the roles of our vital teams as they are the heart of the industry.
Heidi Van Roon: Reimagining the role of front-line teams
“Spark came into the industry around 2012 to build a staffing and recruitment firm that airports require. The pandemic has decimated those careers and we have not provided a line of sight for those people as we start to rebuild. That is a critical factor in rebuilding our industry.”
She said that for anyone interested in a career in the business, it was not easy to source all available opportunities in one place – and asked whether that was an information gap that could be filled?
She added: “We need to ask what is the USP of global travel retail? What can we offer that is not available in domestic markets? Can we play that up in retail theatre, travel exclusives, and build that experience beyond the retail location through pop-ups and lounges. We need to be imaginative and innovative and meet the customer where they are at.
“We want to focus on differentiation. The more we can integrate that into our teams to make the magic happen, the more we will realise those synergies and bring it to life. We have to be cautious of selling vanilla: that is a big threat in travel retail.”
Todd Handcock joined from Hong Kong by video link, and addressed how a new generation of consumers is open to engagement with airports and their service providers
Todd Handcock said a challenge remains in the shortage of labour skills, so working together to retrain the industry is one element in the rebuilding phase.
Beyond that, there are opportunities to connect an often fragmented industry. He said: “We are continuing to invest in experiences for travellers and seeing a lot of interest in different demographics engaging in various ways. Right now consumer expectations have been conditioned by the Amazons and Apples of the world We need to match that level.”
He highlighted a recent example of how silos can be broken down to unlock sales potential in the announcement from 3Sixty Duty Free and Inflyter for a strategic partnership in the US. This will expand the offer, enabling domestic travellers to shop online and have their order delivered to any address in the country. This is one example of how our sector can challenge itself to deliver new services that meet the needs of a fast-changing consumer, he noted.
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