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(formerly Counter Intelligence Retail)

We specialize in global traveler statistics, data driven insight, and activating against trends for all major categories sold in duty free and travel retail.

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Embracing the digital explosion in travel retail

Imagine the excitement when printed books were first available and the technology meant that communications could be recorded in the most effective way possible.

February 2016 | by Julia Padgett, Communications Director

Fast-forward across the centuries and typewriters became laptops, telegrams are now text messages and 2D can even be upgraded to 5D. New technology is always enthusing, empowering and entertaining; it enables us to connect and communicate with each other like never before.

The best brands and retailers in travel retail utilise this increasing connectivity to shape experiences. They tell their stories – be it the brand’s mission, a marketing campaign or a new product launch – in such a way that takes the consumer beyond the screen, page or spoken word to the point that they forget the conscious processes of watching, reading or listening.

Known by psychologists as narrative transportation theory*, this ability to allow the audience to forget the technology and relish in the story is the optimum way to create lasting emotional connections. Our brains store, index and retrieve information in the form of narrative**, which makes storytelling a powerful way to engage with the shopper.

Mobile and wearable technology can make these stories even more immersive; for instance, the consumer can be transported into an interactive, 360o world that they can navigate and direct. Once technology has enhanced the story and it’s ‘stuck’ in the mind of the shopper, it’s more than likely to generate sales and advocate brand loyalty.

The shoppers

As mentioned previously, today’s travel retail shopper is eager to embrace new technology; after all, it’s already in their hands.

Technology may take the shopper’s time away from them, but it is also giving it back. They can now absorb and process more information, write and read more easily and even store memories digitally. As such, many travellers are used to tailoring their own shopper journey across multiple channels with their own mobile devices; most even have their own websites, blogs, vlogs or social media platforms to create, produce and distribute their own stories at the touch of a button.

It’s important to remember that the power of storytelling isn’t just about telling them – it’s about getting the audience, the consumer, to share their own tales**. These digital advances are an opportunity to create reciprocal, emotional and memorable ‘shared stories’ with the shopper, which places the necessary empathy into the technology.

The brands

Digital is testing the concept of marketing as we know it; it’s more likely to be about creating services in the future, rather than buying or gaining media coverage. In particular, the alcohol industry is analysing mobile technology’s capacity to form personal connections with the shopper.

Diageo has created 500 bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label with embedded NFC technology. This enables the bottles to generate targeted messages and exclusive content for smartphone users during and post-shop***. Whether this is a special offer in-store, or a cocktail recipe when at home, this consumer trial could change the way shoppers view and interact with the product throughout the shopper journey.

Absolut has taken this a step further, with the aim of turning a static bottle into a media channel via NFC, Bluetooth or QR codes. By converting the product into a digital touchpoint in itself, the vodka shopper is granted access to a series of exclusive, on-demand services that are owned and produced by the brand****. Technology could also track the life story of the bottle, how far it has travelled, as well as highlight when a top-up is required. This not only creates a personalised experience, but a sustainable one.

The retailers

Travel retail shoppers and brands are not the only beneficiaries of technological advances; retailers can also tell their story.

For example, in-store mobile applications empower employees by giving them instant access to a wealth of product and store information. This assists them in overcoming any potential language barriers (the data can be displayed in the shopper’s own language), improves their ability to serve more customers at busier times and, consequently, boosts sales*****. These one-to-one interactions with the shopper successfully integrate mobile technology into the physical store experience.

Using technology to shape omnichannel retailing is a necessity. A concept retail store called Story maximises this opportunity by continually reinventing itself physically and digitally**. Every six to eight weeks the shop floor changes its theme to tell a different tale; the store then encourages shoppers to share the story of their experience, take photos of the merchandising and partake in the events. The aim is that by producing such seamless shopping stories, customers will grow to know, love and converse with the retailer. When the shop reinvents itself again, the brand loyalty is already there and the new stories can begin.

Even when the novelty of the latest digital innovation has worn-off with the shopper, the power of the stories that the technology carries and enhances will continue to benefit travel retail. Be it books or blogs, the traditional in-store experience or the multi-platform shopper journey, the technology may change, but the empathy will sustain.









If unspecified: CiR database.