“The word is convenience – the word is anywhere, anytime, however the consumer wants it.” Colgate-Palmolive
Ecommerce is rapidly becoming the primary mode of purchase. Consumer behaviours and expectations are constantly evolving, and new business models and technologies mean an ever-more competitive online environment. While bricks and mortar retailers fight back with their own digital shops, an ever-growing number of big-name high-street stores fall by the wayside. Footfall drops year on year, and over half (53%) of all retail sales are expected to be online by 2028.
With ecommerce largely driven by price and convenience, consumers want instant gratification. Businesses must provide a seamless shopping experience with proactive customer support, free or low cost delivery anytime, anywhere, goods that live up to expectations, and for a small number of customers, unique goods that can’t be found in the shops. Shoppers expect highly personalised, engaging interactions, and they like to share their experiences on social media. The traditional linear customer journey is disintegrating, with shoppers engaging on a number of devices.
There’s no question ecommerce is here to stay. Meanwhile, airports can learn from retail to develop future-proof strategies for the digital consumer.
Let’s look at a few of the basics…
Mobile Mobile Mobile
In 2017, mobile traffic overtook desktop for the first time and Google began working on its mobile-first search index. If your airport business ecommerce site is not yet optimised for mobile, you will lose customers. In an environment where consumers expect an optimised experience, an interface that requires the customer to squint at teeny tiny writing or zoom in to half a wobbly page is no longer acceptable. The consumer should not see the smaller mobile screen as a barrier, but as a functional shop window, and with an average 10 devices per household, the experience across platforms must be seamless. A customer may wish to browse on mobile and convert via desktop. Your email strategy can also reflect this, prompting a customer to return to products browsed via mobile with an email that may be opened on a desktop.
Today’s customer won’t want to scrabble around for a payment card when completing an online transaction. Amazon Pay, PayPal and Apple Pay facilitate orders using a fingerprint or online pin number, and Buy It Now buttons promote convenience for registered customers. As more and more shoppers adopt digital payment using phones, cards and even watches, the trend is set to continue.
Changes in payment methods tend to evolve slowly, with new types supplementing old rather than immediately replacing them. This is the case with mobile payments too, but the pace of development, adoption and integration of these technologies is much faster than it has been for previous-generation payment types. As well as convenience, contactless mobile payments open the way for new loyalty programmes.
Retailers must embrace personalisation and artificial intelligence (AI), collecting behavioural data from each website visitor and using the data to develop highly targeted campaigns based on customer segments and previous online experiences. A CRM system like Rezcomm becomes an essential tool in analysing and optimising this valuable customer behaviour information, allowing more precise personalisation, a stronger brand-to-customer relationship and increased conversion, customer loyalty and revenue.
In recent years, ecommerce delivery timescales have become much quicker and more precise. Customers now expect to be able to Click and Collect, and according to PwC, 88% would pay extra for faster delivery.
The retail winners of the future will be those that can deliver goods to consumers the fastest and most cost-efficiently. As pioneered by Amazon, the largest companies will differentiate by investing in their own delivery systems.
Security and safety issues make it unlikely that drone and driverless car delivery will be widespread within the next decade, but these concerns will drive investment in alternative models such as Uber-style delivery. As click-and-collect grows, delivery service is less likely to remain a key differentiator at the retail level.
Over the last few years, use of mobile messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp has exploded in popularity, and thanks to ecommerce personalisation, many large retailers have integrated AI. Now, these two trends have converged in the Chatbot – AI-led automated messenger services that allow customers to engage with a brand, delivering a new way of shopping and communicating.
The best Chatbots detect exactly what the customer is looking for, make suggestions about products, answer customer service queries and place orders, even detecting idioms in language used in order to communicate in an appropriate manner.
In the past, businesses made decisions based on data that was weeks or even months old. That worked just fine at the time, but in today’s world, real-time information is driving efficiency and smarter decisions with up-to-the-minute market conditions. This information in real-time gives retailers the opportunity to act proactively, ensuring exceptional customer experience and a high conversion rate – one example would be a product a customer orders regularly which would trigger automatic actions such as a smart replenishment so the customer receives a new delivery before they run out of the product.
Exploring the Chinese Market
Mobile technology is the gateway to the global market, and what better time to look to China as a retail destination. While ecommerce growth rates are still strong worldwide, the US market is close to saturation, with retailers expecting sales to level out. However, in the Asian markets, especially China, ecommerce sales are expected to continue their huge growth.
Ecommerce and the Airport
Few things have changed the airport experience like the arrival of ecommerce. In its simplest form, ecommerce just means shopping for good or services online, but in the context of an airport it becomes something much more. Any airport seeking to drive ancillary revenue has a lot to gain by adopting a fully integrated online shopping portal. Many airports still have systems in place that are outdated or lack the modern functionality necessary to unlock new revenue sources. Especially in the case of regional airports, ecommerce technology offers the opportunity to reach passengers in new ways and with a range of personalised services. Before ecommerce this simply wasn’t possible.
The three key areas of the airport experience are parking, shopping, and lounge. Here’s how those vital touchpoints are being transformed by the integration of ecommerce…
When an airport integrates ecommerce into its car park booking system, it becomes easy to offer new services, reduce operating costs and maximise occupancy at any given time. Automatic number-plate recognition technology means you can identify when a car has left an allocated parking space. This allows the airport to know when a space is empty. Reporting and analytics tools mean you can build a picture of parking behaviour, and even re-sell spaces that have been vacated early. When data about parking behaviour is up to date and can be correctly analysed, the airport even has the information to determine peak and off-peak times, and to adjust pricing accordingly.
With ecommerce, the airport experience starts as soon as a passenger makes their holiday booking. There’s the potential to sell everything a customer may need for their holiday and at the airport during the booking process. Whether or not the customer is aware of your range of products, cross-selling and upselling can be used to educate them about available goods and services, and to offer valuable personalised product recommendations to returning customers.
Alongside the personalised shopping experience that's possible with ecommerce, Rezcomm's platform has been developed to aid discovery of every destination an airport serves. Inspirational search tools and interactive maps allow the airport to easily promote their less well-known destinations and demonstrate their function as a hub for a wider range of routes.
Once a transaction is finalised, a countdown is initiated. From this point timely value-add email messages can be sent to passengers with updates about their journey, recommendations for things they may have forgotten, or special offers that will encourage them to try new services. This keeps the customer engaged and builds loyalty and trust.
Ecommerce is making airport lounges a lot more attractive. This is partly thanks to the ease with which a suggested upgrade can be promoted during the booking, and partly due to the appeal of ‘airport as a destination’. Not only is lounge access a prime candidate for cross-selling and upselling, but while they’re in the lounge passengers can use their devices to make new purchases, or interact with touchscreens.
A strong ecommerce strategy is essential for any airport that wants to thrive in a competitive environment.
Currently 20% of international travellers are millennials. Thanks to an increasing number of passengers in this demographic, and a market destined to be dominated by digital natives such as Gen Z, tech-reliant passengers are becoming increasingly hungry for fully integrated travel experiences. They want to be able to manage every step of their journey from their mobile device, and they want access to touchscreens at key touchpoints within the terminal.
With the current proliferation of touchscreen technology, both in terms of devices and on-site screens in airports, there are many opportunities to offer passengers valuable new experiences that make everything from wayfinding to shopping easier and more enjoyable.
There’s no denying that the way airports interact with their passengers has changed. Ecommerce allows airports to offer passengers a time-sensitive and engaging experience that has value for both, consumer and airport. Airports can offer a wider range of products, before and after a journey begins, and they can work smarter not harder to make life easier for their passengers.
All the positive changes that are currently happening at airports globally are enabled by a connected digital and mobile world and empowered by ecommerce technology like Rezcomm. These changes are transforming the airport experience, making life easier, journeys more relaxing, and airport retail more engaging. In short, ecommerce airports are more fun.
Five Steps to Stress-Free Travel with Ecommerce
Travel can be stressful, and the idea of actually enjoying the airport might seem unlikely for some passengers. But it’s easy to smooth their experience, iron out pain points and get rid of stress so they board the plane having had a pleasant time in the terminal.
Big things like flight delays or small worries like the fear of forgetting something can raise anxiety levels before a passenger even sets off for the airport. The good news is that with ecommerce it's possible to improve pain points and reduce stress levels.
For example running late is a major cause of stress, and lateness is often caused by difficulty finding a parking space. There's an easy fix for this. With a pre-book parking system and an ecommerce store airports can give their passengers the chance to reserve a parking space long before their journey begins. Even roll-up parkers can benefit from spaces that are more intelligently managed, therefore maximising availability.
With the added benefits of CRM, airports can also send reminders to their customers through email marketing, encouraging them to book their space (or anything else they might have forgotten) if they haven't already, and sharing special offers tailored to the customer’s travel habits.
Passengers who have more time to shop, in places that are more relevant to their interests, are more likely to make a purchase. Airports can make the retail experience more efficient by targeting users with advertising based on their preferences, encouraging them to shop at their favourite outlets and making them aware of shops they might not have taken the time to find.
Ecommerce also makes it possible for customers to shop during normally stressful downtime. They can buy online whilst waiting in line at security and collect their goods, which will be waiting for them when they're finished. If there’s something they need to buy, this saves them time and reduces anxieties about missing flights or announcements. The airport experience becomes more enjoyable.
Beyond the shop floor
With a mobile device in the hand of every passenger shops can extend their reach beyond the square footage of their unit. Ecommerce integration and apps mean airport retail concessions can reach customers wherever they are in the terminal, allowing passengers to reserve items and pick them up in store. This changes the way passengers view retail in airports and how they make their purchasing decisions. Instead of impulse buying in Duty Free, customers can spend more time planning their purchases for added convenience during their journey, whether they’re looking for holiday essentials or reserving a book to read on the plane.
Food and beverage outlets also have much to gain from ecommerce. The level of uncertainty that comes when ordering food at an airport can be greatly reduced by making sure the food is ordered in advance, at security or even on the way to the airport.
More personal shopping
When airports install an ecommerce system they're not just making sales, they're collecting valuable information. Every purchase a customer makes will help the airport to build a detailed picture of what that customer wants. This means the airport can deliver more targeted, and therefore more successful, marketing campaigns. All this equates to a more personal and enjoyable shopping experience.
Understanding what passengers want
Data collected through ecommerce interactions offers a deep understanding of what passengers want. Building a picture of one customer's shopping habits is useful for increasing sales at an individual level. But when the data of all customers is properly analysed it can form a window into future trends and buying behaviour across demographics. This enables the airport to see what's working and what isn't, to respond more effectively to pain points, and to develop marketing strategies that are guaranteed to pay off.
By understanding how ecommerce can improve customer experience, airports can really start to make a positive difference to passengers whilst increasing profits through ancillary revenue. The customers are already online and holding their phones in their hands. The cost and resources required for airports to integrate Rezcomm's ecommerce solutions are minimal. Within a short time your airport can see the benefits and begin to explore the unrivalled potential of ecommerce.
Rezcomm’s unique omnichannel ecommerce and CRM solutions for airports can help you to optimise customer relations, revenue streams and passenger experience. If you want to find out how to fulfil your airport’s ecommerce potential, contact the team today.
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