Could travel retail be the perfect environment for brand storytelling and deeper brand engagement?

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Southern Comfort used travel retail to promote its Blood Orange offshoot

With the news that WHSmith stores in travel retail environments have outperformed its high street counterparts over a 20-week period to January 16 2016, it comes as no surprise that many brands and businesses are continuing to include travel retail as a key part of their growth strategy.

After all, the travel retail space offers something no other retail environment can; purchasing habit that is based on last minute essentials (panic buying), personal treats (you’re on holiday the moment you reach the airport!), gifting (addressing those feelings of guilt after being away from loved ones), and of course, that smug feeling that you’re getting it all duty-free. It makes for an incredibly lucrative market. Add to this the rise of the “bleisure” traveller (business travellers combining more leisure into their business trips), higher than average dwell times and the continued rise in airport passenger traffic, and it’s clear to see why travel retail might possibly be the perfect environment for face-to-face brand storytelling and true brand engagement. Here is how brands can exploit the opportunity for brand storytelling and deeper brand engagement in the travel retail environment.

Design and develop bold, creative spaces

For brands to succeed, they need to create something more that just a normal 'shop' for customers. It’s essential that brands deliver a truly engaging experience for travellers by creating boutiques; ‘walk through shops’ and pop ups to excite and engage customers passing through.

Mondelez World Travel Retail and Qatar Duty Free recently partnered to execute a Toblerone pop-up concept at Doha Hamad International Airport, the first confectionery pop-up at the location. With its striking visual displays of the Qatar skyline, the pop up was able to stop travellers in their tracks and provide Toblerone with a strong platform for engagement and incremental sales.

Enhance the shopper experience

Successful brands in the travel retail space use digital tools or offer additional services to improve the overall shopper experience. Electronics brand, Braun, recently opened its first ever duty-free digital shop-in-shop layout at Frankfurt airport’s airside area. The boutique shop’s new digital display looked to enhance a range of its shavers and enable consumers to understand the features of each individual product before purchase. Consumers could navigate their way around the Braun products using digital wall mounted touchscreens and iPads.

Continue to push travel retail exclusives and limited editions

More and more brands are launching travel retail exclusives as a way of driving purchase and ensuring travellers feel like they’re getting their hands on something that isn’t available outside of the airport environment. Guerlain recently launched a travel-exclusive fragrance, Rosa Pop; William Grant & Sons launched three premium blended Grant’s Elementary Scotch whiskies as a travel retail exclusive; Cointreau’s ‘La Maison Cointreau’ recently celebrated the 'progressive ladies of the 1930s' with a limited edition bottle available only in duty-free and travel retail stores worldwide.

Combine all of the above to ensure success. Brands should work in partnership with the duty free retailers (Dufry, World Duty Free, Aelia etc.) to create stand-out experiential activations. It's important that the activity takes place both in store and out of store, as a means of providing a strong platform from which to truly engage with travellers; cement the brand story AND drive incremental sales. Brown-Forman, for example, successfully launched its travel retail exclusive - Southern Comfort Blood Orange - with a stand-out activation in airports worldwide, driving sales and ensuring maximum engagement.

It’s clear that brands need to continue to focus on travel retail as a key driver for brand engagement and increased sales. With retail performance at airports being shaped by a growing portfolio of leading brands and strong passenger growth, many airports are looking to reinvigorate their retail offering in order to create more of a destination shopping and dining experience; a luxury 'one stop shop' that’s more in line with retail shopping centres outside of the airport environment. With airports strengthening their retail offering, surely this can only mean one thing? Greater opportunities for brands to truly engage with their customers by telling their story through creative, interactive spaces, enhancing travellers’ shopper experiences, creating travel retail exclusives and delivering truly exceptional brand activations in the unique travel retail space.

Jo Curtis is co-founder of the brand experience and live events specialist agency, Jackanory.