Airports are more than just transportation hubs, a fact underscored by the portion of airport revenues that come from retail and dining — roughly 35 percent, according to Airports Council International. Insomuch as airports are brick-and-mortar retail operations, they have for some time represented a bright spot amid an otherwise downward trend.

But the airport offers an entirely different type of retail experience compared to other environments. As opposed to visitors to the local mall, no one is in the terminal primarily to shop — the presence of retail is more incidental. Furthermore, whether one is passing through a new city or is just an occasional flyer, airport retail and dining options are less familiar to the average visitor compared to where they typically shop. These factors, compounded by the size and complexity of many modern airports, create barriers to discovery that airports must address if they’re to avoid missing valuable concessions opportunities.

Local search drives discovery

We tend to think of ecommerce first when we consider how the internet has changed the way consumers buy things. But it has also profoundly changed the way we shop in person. According to Google, the number of “local” and “near me” queries has exploded over the last decade, and as of late 2018 they represented 46 percent of all searches.

Furthermore, a Local Search Association study found that three quarters of location-based mobile searches resulted in in-store visits, while 30 percent of such queries led to purchases.

The importance of making quality, up-to-date local search available in the airport comes into focus when you look at what passengers tell researchers about their behaviors. A DKMA survey found that three in five passengers buy food and/or beverages in the airport, but fewer than one in five makes a retail purchase. Asked why they did not make a purchase, 28 percent said it was because they couldn’t find what they were looking for:

That 28 percent represents an opportunity for many airports to improve discoverability for passengers, and potentially see lift in retail and dining revenue as a result. 

When making improvements to airport directories or investing in new technology to help passengers find what they’re looking for, there are some important criteria to keep in mind:

    • Contextual search: No one thinks to search for “InMotion” when they need a new pair of headphones to get through a long flight — they search for “headphones.” An airport directory’s search function must account for keywords and tagging such that specific purchase intent can be matched to the points of interest (POIs) that can fulfill it.
    • Map-based: The scale of an airport makes mapping an essential component of any directory. Help passengers locate their gates and find that souvenir shop along the way. Wayfinding and indoor positioning capabilities simplify the airport even more for passengers, and make them more likely to engage with your directory.
    • Just the airport: Part of the reason Apple Maps and Google Maps can’t alone serve passenger needs for proximity-based search is that the Arbys one freeway exit away is meaningless to someone who’s already at the airport and through security. A contained catalog of POIs makes finding things easier. Furthermore, as the airport, you should be able to exercise control over the directory content to keep it accurate and up to date.
    • Clearing the experience bar: In 2020, we expect more from digital tools than we used to — popular consumer devices and technologies have raised the bar. To drive adoption, airports have to meet those expectations: the platform should be intuitive to use, visually appealing, accurate with respect to map and point-of-interest details, and perhaps most of all, available for use on personal devices and not just airport kiosks or displays.
    • Granular, vendor-level detail: Name, category, and location doesn’t cut it anymore. Passengers want more details before they make the quarter-mile walk to the other side of the concourse: photos, hours, and a phone number they can call first if necessary.

Learn how LocusLabs can help airports close the concession discovery gap with LocusMaps for Airports & Airlines.



Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay