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Know your passenger

The thing I love about airports is that every single one is different. I am not talking about the buildings and structure and flow here. I am talking about the people dynamics, those passengers that need to use your facilities to get to where they need to go.

Every airport is unique.

It is easy to fall into a trap though, to see passengers as all the same. My one piece of advice for airports, retailers and F&B? Forget numbers, think people. Take time to understand them. Are you asking your passengers some basic fundamental questions?

  • Where are they going?
  • Why are they travelling?
  • Why are they in your airport?

Taking time to see the passenger and not the numbers will deliver huge gains in revenue. Asking the right questions will help you shape your future airport strategy and retail offer to convert more passengers into buyers. Fortunately, the starting point is simple with the 3M model.

To grow effectively grow concession revenues, understand the 3M’s:

  • Mix
  • Mission
  • Movement

Step 1 – Mix
This stage involves understanding the mix of passengers:

  • Long haul versus short haul
  • Full service versus low cost
  • Domestic versus international

Each group has a different set of spend behaviours. Understanding the profile of the airport will help you identify the commercially important passengers, who to target and the size of the opportunity.

Step 2 – Mission
This stage requires the airport or retailer to undertake some research to understand the passenger’s mission:

Why are they travelling?

  • Commuting
  • Going on holiday
  • Visiting friends & relatives

Why are they spending?

  • Distress purchase
  • Self Treat
  • Gifting

Why are they not spending?

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of an appropriate offer
  • Queues

The aim here is to create groups of passengers based on their mission. Once you understand this, you can tailor your marketing and message appropriately.

Step 3 – Movement
This stage relates to the sales data that you hold. By understanding what is being bought and when, this will have a significant impact on:

  • Staffing levels
  • Shopper targeting
  • Brand preferences
  • Future strategy

Of course, each part of the 3M model can be worked on separately but when they are brought together, you have something incredibly powerful.

Now that we have taken some steps towards de-mystifying the passenger, we need to take this a stage further. How do we use this information to engage with the shopper?

For this, I will use a simple fictitious example:

Step 1 – Mix
Airport X has a low cost carrier that represents significant traffic. Common characteristics of low cost passengers are:

  • Late entrance to departures
  • Time poor
  • Go to gate early
  • Limited spend

Step 2 – Mission
Airport X undertakes some simple research and identifies that people like to get onto the plane early to secure a good seat or sit together. The research shows that low cost airline passengers are interested in shopping and F&B but it is not a priority. There is currently no retail offer at the gates.

Step 3 – Movement
Analysis of sales data identifies the products that low cost airline passengers are most likely to buy if they had the time.

Possible solution
Introduce a coffee cart at key gates at the airport with a limited range of other products (perfume, for example). The F&B would act as a traffic driver, increase incremental profit through high margin products (such as tea) with potential for impulse purchases on other product identified by the sales analysis.

I am sure that you can think of a whole host of other options but this demonstrates the approach.

To summarise:

  • Know your passengers
  • Think people, do not see passengers as numbers
  • Use the 3M approach to uncover opportunities


About the author

Kevin Brocklebank is the founder and managing director of the global retail consultancy One Red Kite Ltd. He leads a team of experienced travel retail consultants who have worked for retailers and brands in a fast paced airport environment. Their global reach means that they can support any project in terms of research, category development and people development anywhere in the world. You can find more articles at

February 10, 2014



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