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Transforming the airport retail experience

Posted 06 June Allan Gallop

Having just been on my first holiday of the year, coming back to work and instantly feeling those holiday blues gave me some inspiration to research into airports, specifically the retail experience. While high street retailers are struggling to increase footfall in store as online takes over, the airport retail sector is thriving. There has been a 5% rise in sales at airport stores compared to a 4% fall in Highstreet over 6 months to the end of February (, 2018).

Our relationship with airports in the past 20 years has changed dramatically. Due to thorough security checks we are now encouraged to be at the airport earlier. People will typically spend two hours or more at the airport. So, what do you do with all this time? Eat, drink and shop!

Retailers understood it was a way to capture a consumer audience willing to spend money. So, why are we as consumers more inclined to make those purchases when we’re in an airport than we are Highstreet? Holiday excitement being a huge factor, the feeling of being in the airport before going away, knowing being stress free and relaxed is only a flight away! You’re drawn to the eye-candy of products and are more likely to have money to spend as you’re about to travel. Those last-minute purchases, if you’re going to a destination you’ve never been before there’s always a panic, they might not have those home comforts you’re familiar with. With the 100ml per item restriction a Boots in the airport is always a welcomed sight!

Although airport retail is thriving there’s still a gap in the market for more sales. Studies from ICLP found that there’s potential for airports to be making almost double than what they already are. 43% of passengers said they are open to the prospect of shopping whilst only 21% complete a purchase (, n.d).

If consumers are willing to shop but aren’t making purchases, the consumer experience needs to be looked in to. To be able to understand what these retailers can do to encourage purchase. Singapore’s recent opening of ‘Project Jewel’ in Changi Airport is all about the customer experience. Described as ‘where nature meets retail’ they’ve invested $1.47bn into the ‘experience’. Making it a destination in Singapore that people want to visit, even if they’re not catching a flight!

Changi Airport

Changi is an example of an airport that has gone above and beyond to improve the consumer experience. But making smaller changes could have a bigger impact on consumer spending at the airport. In an article by Lee Carroll he talks about airports taking advantage of hyper-personalisation. You would typically, when purchasing an item in the airport, hand over your boarding pass. Your personal, flight and destination data is already stored, so why aren’t the retail stores using this to their advantage (, 2018).

Using the scanning of the boarding pass to store purchasing information about the passenger. Then using this for marketing advantages. Offering exclusive promotional discounts or suggested products for what is usually bought. Furthermore creating a personalised experience, by purchasing an item in the store and having it delivered back to their home, so they don’t need to worry about packing it on the way back or their choice of destination. This idea of a more personalised shopping experience makes the consumer feel valued and will more likely encourage a repeat purchase. Many people don’t visit an aiport frequently and so retailers need to create an exclusive experience so it’s something passengers can look forward to before their trip.

Utilising technology for advertisement advantages, such as smart digital media billboards. Tailoring content to the people in the area at that particular time. It’s a clever way to subconsciously market to people, and the advertisement is more likely to appeal to them. When they go into a store and see the product they may be more inclined to purchase. With the airport retail sales increasing it’s important that brands utilise this opportunity to their advantage. Creating a consumer experience that’s memorable and taps into the right consumer needs for the environment. See our Success Stories for how Celestra has transformed customer experience.

Get in touch today to see how Celestra can transform your customer experience, email or call 01908 889 500

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