The first day of ACI Europe’s Regional Airports Conference and Exhibition (RACE) wrapped up with two enlightening sessions – the first on digital trends in airport retail and the latter on how to balance passengers’ growth with customer experience.

Understanding data is key

Simon Best, commercial director at Counter Intelligence stated that “data is fuelling the digital revolution. It’s not the be all and end all, but data is a really big deal and needs to be taken seriously.”

He added that airports need to invest in data to improve the understanding of their passengers and their buying habits if they want to grow their non-aeronautical revenue streams. “Through a deeper understanding, you can target more effective communication with passengers, and effective targeting of communications is critical to achieving success in airport retail.”

With 95% of passengers owning a smartphone, communicating through digital technology is an obvious way for an airport (and its retailers) to reach its target audience. But, said Best, airports need to factor in that not all their passengers are tech savvy and their needs as well as their shopping habits must be taken into consideration when communicating with them through digital technology.

Stéphanie Metz-Thevenod, executive vice president marketing and digital duty free global at Lagardère Travel Retail, emphasised the importance of using social media and travel influencers. She cited a campaign she had worked on with Estée Lauder at London Luton Airport on International Women’s Day, that involved using bloggers with significant numbers of followers to help drive non-aeronautical sales.

She also stressed that whatever the size of the airport there are five priority targets in travel retail: Low-cost passengers, Chinese passengers, millennials, frequent flyers and nationals.

Marco de la Feld, business strategist at ENCO Srl, emphasised that airport apps help to streamline the passenger experience and ultimately will make an airport a place people want to spend their time and money.

Meanwhile, Giovanni Russo, director of operations at Geneva Airport,  wrapped up the discussion stating that when it comes to digital trends in airport retail, “we should bear in mind that no innovation means failure.”

Balancing passenger growth with customer experience

The final panel discussion of the day, which was led by Cork Airport’s vice-chair, Niall MacCarthy, covered the importance of balancing passenger growth at an airport with the need to ensure a seamless customer experience.

Having achieved operating excellence in 2017, Naples Airport is leading the way in how to manage unprecedented growth at an airport without compromising on the customer experience. Alessandro Fidato, CCO Naples Airport, explained that the team at his airport must be credited for their “sheer hard work, commitment and planning,” in achieving exponential growth without compromising the customer experience.

He added that the secret to Naples’ success had been to focus on six focal points including: the increase of off peak traffic, a summer action plan (to enhance the airport’s facilities during the peak season, co-operation with airport stakeholders to improve baggage delivery, aircraft turnaround and on-time performance, strengthening the airport community, improving organisation and managing critical processes and better staff engagement.

Andys Frangos, airport manager, Larnaka Airport, underlined the importance of applying ACI’s ‘three P’ approach to the passenger experience during a period of growth: People, Processes and Premises.

Meanwhile, Daniel Burkard, deputy airport director, Moscow Domodedovo Airport described how his biggest challenge at the airport as it underwent massive growth was how to manage the increase in staff while ensuring the optimum passenger experience.

“With over 18,700 employees, it was important to remain in touch with all our employees,” he said. “We have an internal newsletter and an in-house TV channel that is screened in staff recreation areas and in canteens. Plans are also afoot to develop an app just for the airport staff.”








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