High Flyers Column
High Flyers: Sarah Jane Lynch on digital innovation at ARI
In a world shaped by technological advancements and online migration, ARI Global Head of Ecommerce & Innovation Sarah Jane Lynch shares her insights on the evolving footprint that digital is leaving on the travel retail experience. Recognising this shift, ARI is investing in ecommerce platforms that aim to engage customers before they even reach the airport. In this column, Lynch highlights three key digital touchpoints that are strengthening ARI’s retail proposition: Extended Range, Exclusive Experience and Enhanced Service.
There is no denying that the rate of change [in retail] has significantly accelerated in recent years due to extensive technological advances, coupled with a mass online migration during the pandemic. On the high street, heritage retailers and household names have shut physical outlets as consumers favour the convenience and range offered by online shopping. However digital should not simply be viewed as a threat to traditional travel retail – it’s an opportunity for us to enhance it and grow our offering.
When I joined ARI, digital was very much in its infancy in travel retail. Now it is a fundamental part of the shopping experience, and a cutting-edge digital presence is essential for any serious player in our industry.
In 2019, ARI invested significantly in upgrading its ecommerce platforms to a world-class standard, and we see these as an extension of our physical stores. Digital allows us to create a store window where customers can browse or shop before they reach the airport. It allows us to engage with our customers before they even step into our stores, extending our exceptional service outside the confines of the airport. We’re driving conversion, but most importantly, we’re reaching new customers.
ARI Global Head of Ecommerce & Innovation Sarah Jane Lynch
Innovative thinking and the power of digital opens up a whole new experience for customers before they even know they need it. Digital provides us with more opportunities than ever before and I’m excited to be a part of driving this retail innovation.
While opportunities are endless, budgets are not, so we need to prioritise the key areas that we feel will best strengthen our retail proposition and add joy to the overall customer experience. Among our areas of focus from a digital perspective are: Extended Range, Exclusive Experience and Enhanced Service.
Translating the online reach of brands to travel retail is a key task and challenge
As with all retail, and especially in travel retail, the grapple for space within the store is constant. Digital allows us to create an endless aisle experience and to bring new and exclusive products to our customers online.
An online launch facilitates an alternative route into the airport for many new brands. From a retailer point of view, it allows us to trial a new brand or concept online and adjust the range as needed before it is rolled out to the physical store.
We are lucky to have such genuine, collaborative partnerships with our brands. Most of our Tier 1 brands already have a strong online business domestically, and together we are exploring their potential in the online travel retail channel.
Recently, we launched the first Hugo Boss exclusive online menswear collection at The Loop in Ireland – a travel retail first. In-store our menswear offering is limited, but digitally we had the opportunity and capacity to expand the category and offer customers a unique shopping experience. We were delighted to partner with such an iconic brand to bring something new to the travel retail experience, and so far, early results have been positive.
“Innovative thinking and the power of digital opens up a whole new experience for customers before they even know they need it”
ARI is synonymous with whisk(e)y and we are renowned worldwide for our unrivalled ranges, in particular the award-winning Irish Whiskey Collection. In-store, customers are assisted by an incredible team of whiskey ambassadors who can help them choose the right blend for themselves, or the perfect gift for someone special; it is a very personal and engaging experience. We have loyal customers and some will even plan their travel to coincide with a new whiskey launch – it’s essential that we can nurture those relationships outside of their journey.
One of our most exciting initiatives of the year is ARI’s new Whiskey Club – an exclusive online experience for whiskey lovers set to launch this summer. Here, members (customers who sign up) are the first to hear news about the latest offers and product launches.
Again, we’re focused on utilising digital to create new and exclusive experiences for customers online and to drive engagement pre- and post-travel, whilst in turn enhancing the in-store experience.
Digital can be a vital tool in serving consumer needs
Travel retail remains a highly service-driven business, in particular if we look at the beauty category. We saw the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and the lack of counter staff on customer engagement and subsequent conversions. At the same time, it also highlighted the role that digital can play from a service point of view.
In late 2020, we took our first step into the Metaverse when we became the first travel retailer across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to launch Virtual Try On using Modiface technology, in partnership with L’Oréal. This new experience combines facial recognition with augmented reality to enable online shoppers to test makeup products pre-purchase.
We’re facilitating new ways for customers to shop the brands they love with a customised experience in a low-touch economy, without sacrificing on the high level of service that they expect. The experience offers sustainable and hygienic beauty testing, which we know is a key concern for many shoppers in the category.
Virtual try-on experiences increase customer purchasing confidence as well as drive digital engagement, so our ambition is to extend the technology to other Tier 1 brands. Initially the technology is being piloted with L’Oréal brands Lancôme, Armani and YSL Beauty. This experience is live in Ireland and Montreal and is currently being scoped for a number of other ARI locations across the estate.
Beauty is a category in which virtual tools are at the forefront of customer engagement
Plans are underway to further enhance our online services with the introduction of Product Reviews later this year – another first in travel retail. We look forward to sharing more on this in the coming months.
As we continue to refine our digital strategy at ARI, we are constantly exploring new ways to enhance the customer experience both online and in-store. We look outside the travel retail industry for the latest developments and see how we can adapt these new tech experiences into our channel. In the last three years, key initiatives within our Customer Value Proposition have accelerated our progress in terms of hyperconnectivity and convenience, and we plan to keep innovating at pace.
We’re particularly interested in exploring how digital can enhance the in-store experience, and it’s very exciting to see innovative new concepts being trialled across the estate such as the recent Fashion & Accessories Mirror Box experience at Cyprus Duty Free. It’s about disrupting the passenger journey in a positive way with an inspiring activation that is unique to ARI Duty Free.
The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 14 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit www.moodiedavittreport.com and to subscribe, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org