The difference between being liked or being overlooked. The difference between having friendly fans or fleeting followers. The difference between peaking customer conversion or sputtering spending.
Airports, shopping malls, city centres, train stations and high-street retailers will have to bring it together. New ways of collaboration will become the new normal. New ways of integrated offline and online shopping will get to the forefront of attention, to lower or abandon conversion thresholds.
High-traffic locations can’t escape further adapting to create complete synergy with the digital, online shopping universe. They will have to take a good hard look at the whole value chain to see where and how they will be able to connect seamlessly with their shoppers, customers, fans and ambassadors.
The upcoming year has all the signs of becoming an exciting year in that department. To inspire people involved in managing airport and other high-traffic locations here are some thoughts on how to add value to your venues.
1. Give your customers what they need, not what they want
Key in meeting travellers, customers and potentials is to take care of what they need. Not what they want. There is a distinction there. As high-traffic experts, we need to get to know our customers better than they do themselves.
Taking it to the next level is about personalised service and experiences. It’s about things like having that frequent traveller’s drink ready for him when he turns up in the lounge.
They will never ask for it, but they will appreciate to no end as this will make them feel recognised.
2. Customers are the driver of your value chain, make them feel valuable
Focus on the customer journey and the extra value you can create there. Go for optimisation, personalization and thus customisation. Use all the solutions the digital world has to offer. This is the digital era after all.
This is the time you can transform your customer database into a customer community with no problem at all. Move your marketing efforts on building relationships.
Make them feel you’re looking out for them exclusively. Show them you care. Invite them to suggest ideas to improve your products or services; but do so anyway based on their behaviour.
Today’s consumers love nothing better than to get genuinely involved and they expect things to run smoothly. The customer is more likely to compare your performance with the performance of Amazon or his favourite web shop.
The value chain carries innumerable elements, but it all hangs on the will to lift your capabilities to please and serve all the time.
3. Travel is all about stories. Take care of your story. Your chapter(s) in the story
An airport, any airport, is part of a story. All airports have the same primary goal: safely running a smooth trip for airline travellers. That will always come first. The rest is about service and helpfulness, about creating an enjoyable feeling, about offering a fun and comfortable shopping experience.
It is essential to bring all those elements together in a story travellers can in some way relate to and be part of.
Earlier this year I wrote a blog asking whether it was time for airports introduce 'mood managers to work closely in team with the airport’s marketing communication department, overseeing the atmosphere at any time, monitoring the general mood in line with the airport’s umbrella story.
Strange? Maybe. But with rapidly changing consumer behaviour it will take unusual measures to bring the customer closer to your brand experience in 2017.
4. Take care of brave action
To choose something is to lose something. True that may be, but usually the loss is short-term pain. Look beyond that. Compromising will slow your organisation down. Dare to be radical.
Airports and airport organisations are very structured vehicles. With good reason. However that same structure can prevent innovation. You want to discuss an idea with all departments, stakeholders. Everybody pitches in and as some will not always support the potentially innovative idea they will start watering it down.
It would work better to bounce of any innovative ideas from a tight knot of people first and taking it from there further and further into the organisation. That will make the idea grow instead of shrink.
At the end of the day change management is very, very, very simple: get it done. Paint it in great big red lettering on the walls of every office and every hallway.
Make it the end line for every internal e-mail. Reward those who accelerate the process with ideas and initiatives. Cut out anyone sticking to being happy the way things are.
A good way to start is to change your questions. Change the usual. Disrupt yourself. Disrupt the idea that ‘doing well’ in today’s world will be enough to still be here in tomorrow’s world. Disrupt anything that is showing the vaguest semblance to business as usual.
Because ‘usual’ has left the building.
5. Take care of Serendipity Management
Make room for the unexpected idea. Serendipity, the catalyst of surprise, lays claim to form some of the most extraordinary relationships that have ever occurred.
“Everybody can benefit from serendipity if they remain receptive to it and ready to act on it when it happens”, researchers of University College London found out in 2012.
There are ideas floating around an organization that are there for the picking. You will never pick them up by just trusting on the ‘usual suspects’ in management and middle management to come up with something innovative, disruptive, out-of-the-box.
Try a new approach. Sit with the newest young employee, straight out of college or university and give him the freedom to give you his fresh look on your business. Sit also with travellers having a drink or buying a tie. There is too much to learn from the most unexpected encounters that, really, it is a sin to follow the usual way of doing things.
6. Take care of opportunity creation
Travellers vote with their wallets. Focus on what they are willing to pay for and a lot of the time that is great eating and drinking experiences.
Many airports, for instance, see a year by year decrease in retail spend. By contrast, they do notice the rise of the F&B category. In announcing its 2015 results, Amsterdam Schiphol operator, Schiphol Group, noted that commercial revenues from food & beverage had increased. More recently Gatwick Airport has reported the same.
Today’s consumer is demanding a higher standard of food & beverage experiences. Not just the quality and diversity of what is on offer at airports, but also the way it is presented, the experience around it.
More exciting F&B at airports is an essential part of lifting the value chain, as it is such an unmissable element at a venue that is a lot about spending time waiting for flights. Lifting a basic need to a memorable experience.
Adding more and more attractive F&B is not just more profitable for the airports themselves. It is also advantageous for the surrounding retailers as a strong foodservice generally correlates strongly with above-average retailer sales productivity levels and above-average rental values.
A great lunch will leave an appetite for shopping.
Take care and have a booming 2017.
• Martijn Steur is an experienced commercial manager, consultant and entrepreneur specialising in strategy development and execution.