Physical barriers to shopping brought about by imposed lockdowns has given rise to an unprecedented surge in e-commerce, which will result in a permanent behavioral change for a significant proportion of these new online shoppers. This will mean many physical retailers will need to be all the more innovative and creative to attract and retain shoppers. M1nd-set, the Swiss travel research agency, has identified, based on a survey of 1,500 consumers who have traveled internationally in the past 12 months, the major trends and issues that will have the most impact on their behavior in the future.
M1nd-set estimates that the pandemic has accelerated the digital transition by about five years. This growth in e-commerce has and will continue to drive new purchasing behaviors, such as home delivery, as shoppers try to avoid crowded stores. The "I want it now" phenomenon has grown rapidly again in recent months during the Covid pandemic. The demand for same day or next day delivery, despite the costs this involves for the consumer, has also increased significantly. While this concept represents a logistical challenge for many retailers, it also offers significant opportunities to reach the increasingly demanding consumer.
Click and collect
With more than 25% of buyers expressing the importance of this functionality among delivery options, the "click and collect" system has inevitably experienced significant growth in recent months. This trend is also having an impact on the travel retail sector, where curbside collection would be equivalent to out-of-store collection points between security and the boarding gate, or even the delivery to a seat on board an aircraft.
The increased emphasis on digital should even put the "in-flight" retail offering on an equal footing with airport retailers, especially as airlines benefit from direct access to passenger data, including non-declarative but highly valuable information such as class of travel, frequency or family travel. All this contextual and circumstantial data, when properly "exploited" and managed, is indeed the new gold.
“Consumers are increasingly responsive to and demanding of greater personalization in the way retailers address them, whether while browsing the e-store online or in the pre and post-shopping marketing communications“. Travel retailers need to adapt their e-commerce offerings to the known and proven techniques of the e-commerce giants. As travel retailers catch up, they need to ensure that they offer similar levels of service.
According to M1nd-set, contactless delivery and contactless stores are other emerging concepts that will increasingly become the new standard. Operators can display their samples in the store, which can be ordered via a mobile device or directly from staff, and the packaged item, untouched by other buyers, is delivered to the consumer at the store exit.
Visual search - which is becoming increasingly popular - allows shoppers to find and buy a product just by snapping a picture. AI technology and the camera enable consumers via various APPs to search for visually similar products. The ‘snap it, search it, buy it’ technology is extremely useful not only to purchase new products but also for reordering, making it a vital customer loyalty application.
QR codes will increasingly be used to provide product information, allowing the shopper to learn more about a product without interaction with the sales staff, while allowing retailers to connect with shoppers in new, highly interactive and personalized ways. QR codes can be used to tell a story, take a virtual tour, explain a product or communicate specific messages to different consumer segments.
Augmented reality in retail will soon become an integral part of the shopping experience; retailers are increasingly exploiting AR technology to bridge the gap between digital and physical.
This technology will improve the customer experience by allowing customers to virtually try products in 3D. The Covid-19 has made this feature essential for customers who prefer to avoid crowded stores.
Travel retailers will need to follow the trend; M1nd-set research shows that three-quarters of shoppers in some markets expect retailers to offer AR as part of the shopping experience. Even small retailers will be able to integrate AR into the customer's shopping experience.
This article is based on the October M1nd-set newsletter "What to expect in next-gen Travel Retail".