“A special opportunity for brands and their audiences”

For Isabelle Fourmentin, CEO of JCDecaux Airport Paris (a joint venture owned by JCDecaux and Paris Aéroport) travel retail is a special opportunity for brands to engage with their audiences. To seize it, brands need to focus their communication on the in-store experience. Here are the major trends at work in a distribution channel that is enjoying very rapid growth.

Isabelle Fourmentin
CEO of JC Decaux Airport France

Faced with a growing number of consumers, what are the key communications challenges for brands at airports?

Isabelle Fourmentin: For JCDecaux, airport advertising’s global leader – rather than a direct player in travel retail – our main challenge is to get a better understanding of air passengers. Having a very detailed knowledge of their habits and expectations means that brands can meet their demands in the best possible way. Our second key challenge is to bring together all the preparations for travel, which are carried out online, with the actual experience at the airport, here in the physical world. More generally, it’s about making the connection between the digital space and the retail stores. To do that, we have spent the past three years providing advertising hardware that gives brands the opportunity to engage with potential customers in their own language. So, based on the relevant departure time, a brand can create a specially-tailored conversation with a target audience – which could include the latest news from the brand’s store or the highlighting of a popular product. For example, if there is a late-morning flight to China, the advertising language could switch to Mandarin from 10 a.m. This kind of approach works particularly well for cosmetics and perfumes.

What are the new expectations of air passengers?

They are quite diverse. On the one hand, it’s clear that the expectations of so-called ‘global shoppers’ are fairly standard throughout the world: basically, they want the big brands, especially in the Luxury and beauty sectors. On the other hand, Millennials are looking for authenticity. Not only do they want different consumer experiences between Amsterdam and New York, for example, they also want the store to have an element of surprise. For them, the more personalized the buying experience, the more direct the brand communication, the better it is.

How can communications by Luxury brands be adapted for these different audiences?

The passenger experience has clearly improved, as airports have made major infrastructure investments – which have transformed the sales outlets. The trend started in the main Asian hubs such as Shanghai or Singapore, along with the mega-airport at Dubai. European airports have since followed suit, with the major revamp of the Paris airports since 2005. Thanks to a gradual renewal of the infrastructure there, Luxury brands now have more spacious stores, often with a highly desirable ceiling height – giving them plenty of room for inspiration. It means that Luxury players can now differentiate their brands inside the airport, using digital communications and unique in-store experiences to make the most of the time available to passengers. It’s easy to imagine different ways of rekindling the joy of shopping. Augmented reality technology, for example, is a chance to highlight all the know-how needed to create certain products in an immersive and exciting way, while discovering a watch mechanism in 3D could be very popular with lovers of luxury watches!

How does JCDecaux see the future of airport advertising?

With an extra 200 million passengers every year and an expected doubling of air traffic over the next 15 years, we are very optimistic about the future. A key driver will be the ability to use data gathered at an airport to improve our knowledge of the customer. This data will help to make our offering even more flexible, by adapting that offering to each terminal, for example. When a passenger connects to the airport wifi, we will know immediately some information they might give us, including their language – which means that they can be sent targeted advertising. The regulations on privacy policies are becoming tighter and, clearly, this is not about intruding into people’s personal lives – it’s about turning anonymized and aggregated data into knowledge. In short, data is a resource that enables brands to meet the needs and expectations of their different types of customers.

The other major driver will be the continuous improvement of infrastructure. This includes the new terminal connecting Orly West and Orly South in 2019, along with the future T4 terminal at Roissy, which will handle 30 million passengers a year by 2024 – when Paris hosts the Olympic Games. These will be unique environments, where brands can engage with their audiences and test their products on consumers from around the world. To persuade these consumers to buy, their emotions will need to be stirred by in-store experiences or XXL communication devices. But they will also need more information about the products.

Over time, I think that brands at airports will increasingly be putting on a show – delivered by digital technology. It’s easy to imagine fashion shows being broadcast on giant screens, or even certain content being provided solely for airports. It’s in the interest of luxury brands to produce specific content for travel retail, and to deliver it in an exceptional format – for an airport environment that is equally exceptional.