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Five predictions for Travel Retail in 2016

The start of a new year offers us all a chance to develop new strategies, create new opportunities and implement new ideas.

It also gives us time to reflect on what has happened to travel retail so far and what could happen over the coming months. We believe the industry is set to evolve even more this year as the latest technological and social advances become more mainstream.

January 2016 | by Garry Stasiulevicuis, Managing Director

Here are our top five predictions for 2016:

1.  Virtual reality and artificial intelligence will deliver a participatory experience for the shopper

We already have self-driving cars on our roads, digital personal assistants on our smartphones and virtual retail stores at the touch of a button, yet we have only really skimmed the surface of this vast technological ocean.

Virtual reality (VR) has the ability to pair with live streaming to deliver a far deeper level of emotional engagement*. Entertainment shows, live events and bricks and mortar retail stores can be enhanced via an immersive and 360-degree universe that is delivered in real-time. What was once the role of the director or producer is now determined by what the audience or the shopper wants to see, how they want to see it and when they want to see it.

The combination of artificial intelligence (AI), predictive technology and people power is set to help integrate the traveller journey. We’re likely to see more digital assistants that use artificial intelligence to scan product listings, converse with the shopper to discover exactly what they are looking for and then create personalised shopping proposals**. This trend will be accelerated once wearable technology becomes widely available.


2.  Technology will enrich the traveller journey

As the physical and digital travel retail worlds merge to create an omni-channel shopper journey, new technology will enhance the experience.

The messaging technology we currently use to chat with friends and family is likely to become the preferred form of communication when interacting with businesses and services as well***. This will enable brands, retailers, agents, hotels and airlines to give travellers instant access to just about anything at any time – including authentic, real-time answers to questions and further suggestions based on the most popular requests. As travel retail begins to use messaging technology throughout the passenger journey, it’s likely to become even more sophisticated, personalised to the customer and tailored to the industry.

As we move towards a digital payment revolution, travellers and shoppers will begin enjoying the benefits of contactless cards and mobile payments. Platforms such as Apple Pay even use biometric identification for added security****; customers do not have to share credit card numbers or personal information when conducting a transaction, which is likely to encourage spend and improve their overall experience.


3.  Travel retailers and brands will become more human

Even the most formal of corporations increasingly show their audiences a more informal view of their values, their mission and the people behind the product.

Social media has undoubtedly fuelled this trend, but it will prove a positive tool for the travel retail industry to have a more human face. Research suggests that people often perceive brands with the same psychological mechanism that is used to recognise faces*****.  As such, we evaluate brands by associating them with qualities found in humans, including trust, care, strength and assertiveness.

Having good people skills – both real and virtual – is key for creating sustainable engagement with travellers and building a loyal community fan base**. If shoppers feel like they know ‘you’, they are more likely to buy from you, recommend you and converse with you.


4.  The industry will create cleverer content

As more platforms and media channels are introduced, every customer, business and brand can now become their own media channel******. Whilst this creates a lot more content ‘noise’ to filter and process, it does give the most authentic, innovative and responsive voices even more chance to succeed.

Video and visual content will increase in popularity, with 80% of all consumer internet traffic set to be video by 2019**. Video content can be created on smartphones, streamed live via the latest platforms, such as Periscope and Meerkat, and then integrated seamlessly on other social media platforms and websites. Whilst this is more relevant to consumers at the moment, it’s likely that branded video content will be adopted by companies in travel retail to communicate with customers in more memorable, valuable and innovative ways.

Blogging allows little brands to compete with global businesses ******. It acts as a more personalised platform for offering information that is both interesting and informative; plus, the content is searchable within search engines. It’s also one of the best forms of earned media, as individual bloggers can endorse products they’ve used on their travels, post positive reviews about places they’ve visited and recommend brands to their followers.


5.  Travel retail will embrace ‘social selling’

We commented recently on the significance of social media in the industry and its ability to give shoppers something immediately relevant, personalised and unique. This acts as a powerful channel to drive traffic to websites and into store, but the next step is to win customers and gain a tangible ROI.

Business, life and social media are all about community. Likes and views from online community audiences are positive social currency for brands and retailers, but the key to commercial success is within the more active metrics** - such as comments, shares and earned media – to immediately and publically engage with customers.

Perhaps the most relevant development for travel retail is that the major social media platforms will soon feature a ‘buy’ button to allow shoppers to purchase their favourite products in one click. Once this has been implemented, the opportunities to create an integrated marketing strategy will become even more attainable for the industry.









If unspecified: CiR database.