What a Future of Free Air Travel Could Mean for Our Airports and Advertising

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Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary recently envisaged a future where, in a bid to increase passenger numbers, air travel would be free at the point of sale. Whilst it may seem like a pipe-dream for travellers and airports, he may not be too far off the mark. The way we travel is constantly evolving and digital disruption is causing seismic shifts.

O’Leary predicted that carriers would strike deals with airports in order to receive a share of their shopping and retail revenues, as opposed to making money through charging air fares, highlighting how crucial the airport experience is becoming for airlines, retailers and consumers alike.

So what does this mean for airport advertising and how will it shape the customer experience in tomorrow’s airports?

Increased dwell time

There has already been a drive by airports to expand on the range of facilities available to travellers – from swimming pools to cinemas. This will mean continued investment in streamlining the customer journey through the airport so they’re spending less time going through security and more time browsing the growing number of retail options. As a result, passengers will have more exposure to advertising, leading to a greater scope for brands to find ways to be a genuine and useful part of the experience.

We have already started to see advertising using data triggers to serve consumers with relevant content and creative. A recent campaign with O2 and London Gatwick tapped into Gatwick’s data hub to trigger digital advertising based on arrivals. Promoting O2’s International SIM card they greeted passengers at baggage collection with a whole host of bespoke copy in languages including Hungarian, Romanian and Polish. This sort of contextual advertising – which has been shown to increase awareness by around 30% – can be adapted to the time of day, or even using EPOS sales data for retail units to promote an underperforming product.

In terms of delivering better retail opportunities – a key concern if airlines are looking for a share of airport revenue – out-of-home can leverage digital media to inform customers of live availabilities, for example directing them to sale items or offers that might suit their destination.

The journey begins at home

In the future, the consumer journey will start well in advance of arrival at the airport. Digital technology means we can anticipate seamless and consistent messages from the time of booking online to arrival at destination. Moreover, if the airport of the future places emphasis on a more rewarding journey then this creates another opportunity for more relevant targeting from brands to personalise what consumers receive as discounts, upgrades or way finders.

Creating an app-y tech traveller

Airports are already beginning to experiment with the use of technology such as beacons, which provide travellers with hyper-localised messaging and personalised connections. Again, this could be vital for streamlining the airport journey and the app could alert users to anything from passport control queue times to the notification that their gate has been announced.

Further, innovation is reducing pain points for travellers and businesses and in the process creating opportunities for brands to increase revenue. In a recent example our LinkUK joint venture partner, Intersection, worked with OTG Management at airports including La Guardia to bring iPads to restaurants and cafe chains, speeding up ordering and payment times and in the process boosting sales by up to 20%. Customer service improved and as a consequence travellers could relax, enjoy their surroundings and importantly, spend more.

Alongside this partner-led innovation, airports can also look to capitalise on localised hi-speed Wi-Fi from companies like Meshh and Wi5. Both technologies are able to deliver a rich content experience in specific locations, therefore presenting a valuable opportunity for brands and commercial partners alike to serve passengers contextual information.

The future airport passenger will be more knowledgeable than ever, and with greater access to technological tools than ever before. Airport technology that incorporates the traveller’s personal devices will help brands succeed creatively and resonate with consumers.

Future challenges

The future airport presents a multitude of opportunities, but it also offers up a few challenges as well.

A key point will be creating meaningful collaboration between partners with shared interests; the app owner, the retailer, the airline and the airport infrastructure operator will all have the same desire to see the creation of improved commercial and customer experiences.

For out-of-home airport advertising, the focus will be on maximising engagement through seamless digital integration and immersive experiential activity. Today’s passenger is more likely than ever to share a positive experience, so the passenger of the future will be a worthy advocate indeed.

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