A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on the shop of the future. Inspired by architect Ali Mangera’s talk on Radio 4’s Four Thought it looked at the game-changing impact of digital retail on the physical environment, and the opportunities this might throw up for brands.
To continue in the vein of futurology I would like to take you away from the supermarket and into the airport, with reference to a recent article by architect Bill Hooper on Fast Company’s innovation blog, Co.Exist.
According to a 2010 survey* nearly 25 per cent of UK individuals find travel hub experiences as traumatic as moving home. However, this could all be about to change…it fact, it’s already started!
What was once a sterile, stressful environment, little more than a gateway to more enjoyable times, is evolving into a relaxing destination of choice. Airports around the world are installing pools, golf courses, cinemas, even licensed wedding rooms, all in the name of reconnecting with the distressed air traveller.
Take a moment to consider what your ideal holiday would look like. There’s a chance that sunlight, tropical plants and wildlife, and maybe even a babbling brook might feature – an oasis of calm to soothe away the stresses of everyday life. Well, look no further than Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, where a new, six-level terminal is set to open in 2018. Designed to look and feel like an airborne terrarium it will also include two central parks, a stage for live performances, and even more deluxe shopping at an airport already renowned as one of Asia’s finest retail destinations.
And it seems everyone’s at it. Take Munich airport’s authentic Bavarian wonderland, with its onsite brewery, indoor beer garden and slick Audi showroom. Visit Hong Kong airport and you can enjoy a quick round on the outdoor nine-hole course, followed by a film at the 350-seat IMAX, proud home of the largest projection screen in HK. And in Lagos, Nigeria a planned airport is expected to become the go-to destination for African shoppers looking to buy duty-free international appliances.
With non-aeronautical revenue being critical to airports and airlines, especially in this age of mergers, bankruptcies, and consolidation of flights, there is significant commercial opportunity in ‘aspirational’ airports. And the more retail outlets and other concessions paying for exposure to the millions of people passing through the world’s airports daily, the lower the operating costs for airlines.
We can draw considerable comparison here with the shop of the future, with both environments making the move from functional necessity to social and entertainments hub. With the opportunities this transition presents, what can brands do to attract the ‘new’ airport consumer, with altered objectives and frame of mind? And how might they capitalise on the scale, diversity and interactive potential these spaces offer? It can be all too easy to focus on the digital world as the main driver of change, but with the change in physical spaces and their function continuing apace it is crucial for brands to look in all directions for their next big opportunity.
* carried out by credit card protection agency CPP