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What drives the traveller's shopping behaviour?

Eugene Theodore, consumer insights leader for Pernod Ricard Travel Retail Europe, tells us about the key trends and insights that are informing how brands should be operating in global travel retail

Eugene Theodore Pernod Ricard

Describe your role and the work you do with Pernod Ricard Travel Retail Europe?

In a nutshell, I am the team’s in-house consumer knowledge and market dynamics specialist—a mouthful to be sure! In practice, this means being the expert on everything including passenger traffic movements, geo-political dynamics which affect travellers (and their shopping), local market and global trends which affect the full range of consumer demographics (Millennials vs Women for example), and profiling the consumer and shopper habits of our top 30 nationalities that travel through Europe from all over the world. I also need to have a clear understanding of what is happening across our various brands and categories in both domestic and Duty Free channels; after all, we ‘borrow’ our travellers from their domestic environments where brand messages and category influences affect their opinions and decisions before they enter the travel retail channel.

In your research to date, what are the most prevalent facts/trends that are informing your work right now?

What still surprises me today, no matter how many times I think about it or review it with my team, is how many passengers we have flying into and around Europe. Europe represents almost 65% of all international travel — with British travellers being the #2 nationality travelling globally, which is driven by the diverse range of countries, cultures and wonders that are jam-packed into this continent. As in the arenas of fashion and food, Europe sets the tone for the rest of the world in trends and brand experiences, which are then adapted locally. Europe Travel Retail can therefore act as the ideal idea-testing- ground for innovations, executional mechanics and technologies.

There is so much scope to grow our brand volumes but also our brand equities with these consumers travelling through Europe who will carry that feeling back home (domestic) where they will continue to be advocates of our brands. We just need to understand what the right triggers are for them. That is why I’m shifting my focus to shopper psychology in the airport environment and identifying the needs of typical travellers and their larger human profiles.

You mention research into typical traveller profiles and exploring how to meet each of their needs individually, can you tell us about some of the profiles that you have defined?

Traditionally, traveller profiles have been thought of at the brand and nationality levels. For example, British love Malibu, the French adore Aberlour, Spaniards cannot get enough of Beefeater and the Russians love prestige brands such as Royal Salute, Chivas and Martell. This has led to the modelling work that the GTR insights team developed which matches specific brands to specific nationalities, in the key airports, borders and cruises they travel through. This allows us to maximise our chances of getting the nationality in question to buy the brand they already know and love. This also builds the potential to trade them up to more valuable variants when they get to Duty Free.

The next step in this thinking is to take two steps back and ask ourselves: what does the traveller actually want? Are our brands truly delivering against this? In short, it’s about shifting from a “brand first” mentality to a “shopper first” orientation. If my French passenger is coming back from Vietnam a week before Christmas, they will probably be in a “holiday shopping” mindset which can lead to them buying a special treat for themselves or a special gift for someone back home. That same French passenger flying back from Vietnam in the height of the summer holiday season, however, will probably have a slightly different mindset: getting some kind of souvenir from their holiday or perhaps not even buying anything at all. These are two very different state of minds that the same individual can have, so would Aberlour still be the right brand to use to draw their attention? With this new way of thinking, we look at what the shopper needs from their own lives and how brands can fill those needs—as opposed to what brands are trying to sell. The new traveller profiles we are developing look at their global needs—and not just necessarily travel related—not just what they may want from the Wine & Spirits shelf at Duty Free which in most cases is nothing at all since the majority of travellers still don’t enter Duty Free to begin with.

If you had to make three predictions for the next 10 years in GTR based on your consumer insights, what would they be?

Nothing is as uncertain as the travel environment. We have seen in the past 6 months alone that the smallest of local events can have crippling international implications on travel trends and the Duty Free environment. However, what is certain is that travel always rebounds because travelling has become such a key part of modern life that no matter how many “incidents” there are, people will still find a way to leave home and explore. This leads me to three unavoidable conclusions for what will happen in the next 10 years within GTR: As passenger numbers continue to grow (exponentially at times), travelling shoppers will increasingly look for brands to act as gateways into new worlds. Put differently, brands, which go beyond their category (I’m a long-lasting mascara or Try my new cinnamon flavour) and act as guides and curators for an amazing travel experience will be the ones that win disproportionately with shoppers. At the moment, few brands are taking this lead role which means Pernod Ricard has a fantastic opportunity to be the first-mover and set both the tone of this conversation and its content—convivial travelling anyone?

We’ve all heard this soundbite: “Digital is King”. Brands are increasingly shifting more and more of their budgets on digital executions and related investments. In GTR where we have our Travel Trail, it is paramount that we know where and when to connect with passengers digitally. However when it comes to travel, the winning digital brand will be the one that makes the passenger’s travel experience smoother while not intruding on their personal lives.

As cultures continue to diffuse across domestic borders as more and more people begin to live somewhere other than where they were born (or even where their parents were born), there will be a need to consider more sophisticated methods to profiling than just by “nationality”. After all, how do you ‘profile’ a Chinese-American living in Brazil who’s traveling to South Africa? Do they love Cognac? Beer? Caipirinha? This is why consumer/nationality profiles and segmentations need further insight, because they do not answer the question of what is the consumer looking for? Knowing that German consumers disproportionately love (dark) rum does not mean that they buy it Duty Free. Perhaps the reason for that is because Duty Free (and DF Rum) does not help them meet a specific shopper need. In other words, GTR will really have to take a global view to its travelling consumers and what drives their shopping habits beyond previous, domestic market behaviour. 

11 July 2016