Link-thinking for the bricks-and-mortar airport store

LinkedIn +

Airports, train and subway stations, and other high-traffic travel locations all share the same challenge. How to captivate customers that haven’t come to shop but to travel? 

Consumers who are on the move are not as captive an audience as we think. True, they are confined to the travel hub for a certain amount of time. But they will always have one eye on the clock, making it hard to ‘own’ a customer inside any shop there. So how do you get them more involved? 

The answer is to start thinking about how to link them up with your web shopping experience right inside your own bricks-and-mortar outlet, making the customer experience whole instead of divided.

Amazon link-thinking

Have a look at that icon of web shopping, Amazon. It recently opened its first ever Amazon Books. A familiar bookshop in the majority of senses, but with a seamless connection with the Amazon web store at every bookcase and for every book.

What’s the price of this book? Open the Amazon app and you can see that it has 32% off the listed price online, so you’ll have it for that same price right there in the shop too. In the bag and bingo, thank you very much.

It’s this kind of ‘link-thinking’ that will make it possible for high-traffic locations to own the customer again.  Link-thinking will get the customer back into the profitable airport environment:

“Offline + online = inline”

It is surprising how online and offline are somehow still seen as separate worlds by retailers. It is hard to find similar Amazon-like ‘link-thinking’ even in the bigger or high-end brand name shops at international airports. 

This is strange, because a seamless link to the online presence offers such a great opportunity to create a shopping experience that is so much more convenient and customer friendly than even the most beautifully designed bricks-and-mortar surroundings could offer. 

Why think, “Great, here’s a customer browsing in my shop”? Instead think, “Great, here’s a customer browsing my shop and with my web shop in their hand.” A customer with his or her smartphone at the ready, checking your offline and online prices, checking available items, sizes and colors in both your stores, getting a special airport discount by registering as an online client, or a special link-discount if he or she is ordering an item in the airport as well as online within the hour.  

Link-thinking for a more profitable customer experience

Airports are investing billions of dollars worldwide in bigger, better and brighter airport shopping experiences. Most of that now goes to design, construction, mood creation and crowd control, which is understandable, but still operators would do well to integrate and optimize connectivity and online infrastructure. 

The technology is there; the smartphones and tablets are there. By facilitating their online infrastructure to the maximum, airports will virtually expand their overall shopping capacity, linking their retail partners’ offline and online businesses together to create an incredibly convenient and fun customer experience. 

At the same time, airports could implement more digital ‘link-thinking’ to be able to offer their travelers even more convenient services. For instance, they could link all kinds of successful and relevant services like Uber and Airbnb together in one great airport ‘hub app’. 

Why should airport shopping be limited to the airport?

If airports want to own the customer, they may need to link up with intermediaries and even competitors to remove friction for customers, the majority of whom still find travel pretty tiresome at times.

Airports should connect with global distribution systems (GDS) and online travel agencies (OTA), but also with potentially disruptive smaller and bigger tech players to improve that tiresome customer journey. Airports should consider strategies for linking up with digital giants and interesting startups alike, both now and in the future to make their customers’ trips more pleasant and memorable.

It all starts with understanding the customer experience and unmet needs. Understand those and link them to the answers that lie in today’s connectivity technology; you may be surprised how many people love to be taken captive again by your airport and your retail partners. 


Martijn Steur is an experienced commercial manager, consultant and entrepreneur specializing in strategy development and execution. He is the owner of Kinetic Consultancy in the Netherlands and has a background of more than 15 years in developing high-traffic locations in as many different countries. He is a certified experience professional – a practitioner and consultant on the strategic and tactical ways to help organizations improve their customer experiences and build their business.

September 22, 2016




Share this story:

About Author

Comments are closed.