In my opinion: mobile charging could help airport retailers’ sales take-off, says ChargeApp


By Joe Giordano, co-founder of ChargeApp

With millions of travellers heading for UK airports in the peak holiday season, there is an untapped opportunity for retailers operating in this unique retail environment. 268 million people travel through UK airports every year, offering a ‘captive audience’ of consumers who spend around £2.8bn each year at stores and restaurants within UK airports.

The growing appetite of consumers to spend their money on pre-flight refreshments and last minute holiday items has seen travel retail revenues rise rapidly in the last ten years. And, according to consultancy Verdict Retail, sales at airports are expected to increase by 73% by 2019, offering a lucrative opportunity for brands looking to seize a share of this market. Indeed, WH Smith revealed last year that its stores in travel environments had outperformed their high-street counterparts over a 20-week period. This success has informed the retailer’s expansion strategy, with 17 new international units opening during a six-month period, bringing the total to 181 stores in international and travel locations, and clearly demonstrating the success that brands can enjoy by including travel retail as a key part of their growth strategy.

In a travel gateway setting, consumer mobile usage has become of particular importance when it comes to the retail shopping experience. Smartphones are an integral part of our daily lives and, over recent years, have becoming a necessity in the world of travel, whether it’s travellers using a phone for online check-in or electronic boarding passes, or holiday-makers accessing updates on arrivals and departures. With passengers increasingly using their mobiles in this way, it’s vital that retailers operating in this competitive environment tap into new technologies to attract consumer footfall and expenditure.

The prospect of a phone running out of charge at an airport is a particularly grim one for travellers who have become reliant on them for access to important electronic travel documents and journey information. Yet flight delays combined with use of battery-sapping apps to while away the time in departure lounges means that this is a growing concern.  Statistics show that half of mobile users run out of battery at least once a day, while only one in five carries a phone charger around with them.

We’re seeing an increasing number of charging stations being installed in a variety of locations, such as travel settings, to meet this growing demand for power for electronic devices. Airport retailers themselves are also starting to capitalise on the opportunity to fulfil a consumer need by implementing charging stations in store. A number of apps have been launched to help consumers to identify the closest charging point to them, and these are helping drive footfall into retail stores and food and beverage outlets, giving those brands a competitive advantage.

Retailers can also now benefit from the latest generation of smart apps, such as ChargeApp, to boost consumer spend while they are in store. Whilst travellers are charging their phones at an in store charging station, there is a lucrative marketing opportunity for retailers to engage with them by sending push notifications to their mobile with promotions and offers. These can be used in a variety of ways to meet the brand needs. For example, a typical ‘buy one, get one half price today’ offer could help to increase basket-size on last minute holiday essentials and refreshments before they travel; while ‘money off your next visit’ vouchers can incentivise repeat purchases with the brand, as well as customer loyalty.

Travel gateways offer a unique retail environment – a purchasing pattern that is based on last minute essentials, personal treats and gifting. Rather than competing for attention with travellers’ increasing use of smartphones in and around departure lounges, savvy retailers wanting to win a greater share of consumer spend in an airport setting are embracing new mobile technologies. The latest generation of apps are helping to drive consumers into stores by directing them to much-needed mobile charging facilities, while also growing retailers’ market share by enabling them to target shoppers with relevant offers and promotions in order to boost sales, customer loyalty and ultimately their bottom line.