Tuesday 17 September 2019

Airports want you to shop, not drop, using technology

Business Travel

Dublin Airport utilised technology to power its app information on queueing times
Dublin Airport utilised technology to power its app information on queueing times

Mark Evans

Whether it's robots or phones that guide you to your gate, biometric tech that cuts down on security and boarding paperwork, or speedier security lane procedures, this column has covered what the near future holds in our ever-busier airports.

One software company, Gentrack Group, has sold its Veovo brand offerings to more than 110 airports around the world to deploy big data to smooth the airport journey. The New Zealand-headquartered firm's predictive technology has been deployed in more than 100 airports so far and uses a combination of sensors and algorithms to analyses how passengers are moving - or will move - through terminals.

The buzz words of course are 'passenger experience', with airports keen to remove pain points, and deploy security and other staff where they're going to be needed based on passenger traffic data, instead of much later on any given day, when a crowd has already built up.

Airport operators don't want frustrated passengers, they want your trip to be a pleasant part of the travel experience.

Veovo's BlipTrack technoloy is in use at Dublin Airport to anticipate security waiting times, and keep them well below the half-hour figure.

It's this technology, for instance, which gives you updates on how long the lines are at terminal on the Dublin Airport app.

Another example is Terminal 4 at New York's JFK Airport, which has been using real-time data to keep passengers up to speed about processing time at security points.

The airport's VP of information technology, Daryl Jameson, concedes that "nobody likes to wait in lines" but says signage helps to manage expectations. Not only does the system tell passengers how long they're going to be standing around, but it also alerts airport employees about bottlenecks developing, which in turn allows them to react to the situation more quickly."

The technology has also been used at Iceland's Keflavik Airport, a rival to Dublin as a mini transatlantic hub. Its passenger traffic has grown 450pc since 2013, and it now uses big data to analyse passenger wait times - historically, or even by flight - and find out, if service levels are breached, why they happened, and correct them.

But for all the talk about customer experience, there is another good reason for airports to invest in your happiness: it means they can flog you more stuff.

The typical business traveller spent $13.21 per visit to Starbucks alone in 2017, up nearly 40pc since 2013, according to online business expense firm Certify.

At Dublin Airport, food and beverage was its leading earner, according to its data for 2016. It generated €87m (that's a lot of coffee and buns), or 20pc higher than the airport's retail income from its high-profile The Loop shopping.

Across the world, revenue per passenger is flattening out - hence the need to keep them in the airport happier and in the concourse, rather than the security queue, for longer.

And here Veovo's passenger data technology has a money-making brother, one which aims to maximise retail spend.

Using passenger patterns, and analysing past sales data, including receipts instantaneously from retails, it can predict what is selling - and where to place it. Ultimately, time is the factor, and it found that spend increases by 2.5pc for every minute that a customer is in a retail area rather than a queue. One airport, Helsinki Airport - well known to Irish travellers heading to Asia - boosted retail spend by 12.3pc by cutting overall queuing times to under 15 minutes.

Airport stores have the same problems as their main street counterparts - online competition. Hence the reason why your airport shopping has gone web-friendly, with book-ahead deals and pay-and-collect offers.

London Heathrow, for example, found that every 100,000 visitors to its website translated into sales increases of €750,000. But food is seen as the area with the greatest potential. Although rising more than retail, only six out 10 passengers, on average, buy food or drink at airports, so there's a vast opportunity for growth.

So expect to see more innovations in future, like Deliveroo's gate-based deliveries (15-minute delivery times) at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport or AtYourGate - which delivers everything from fish tacos to coffee and books via app to you at Newark, LaGuardia, Minneapolis and San Diego airports in the States.

So the big message for 2019 and beyond? Less queuing hopefully - just don't go crazy on your card in return.

Sunday Indo Business

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