Retailers Should Look to Lessons Learned from Airports on Returning Customer Confidence


Businesses in all industries have been impacted by the financial strains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, consumers themselves are less likely to spend on non-essential items, which in turn has hurt retailers. Forrester predicts that the global retail market will see a loss of $2.1 trillion and that it will take four years for retailers to see pre-pandemic numbers.

The aviation industry has also seen a massive decline. For months, passenger volume plummeted- and it is still not anywhere near pre-pandemic levels. But as travelers have begun to cautiously return to the skies, airports have made great strides in implementing and communicating health and safety measures. Retailers who are looking to assuage customer fears about in-person shopping can look to the best practices that airports have implemented and adapt some of those same policies for their own locations.

For airports, flight information and concession availability changes constantly. Travelers look for updated information on their phones, on signage, kiosks, printed QR codes and more.

Airports utilize indoor mapping, IoT networks and location awareness technology to help passengers easily locate food service options, browse menus, place orders and pay- all from their mobile browser.

Airports have found that incorporating methods like these that increase communication and awareness about the airport environment is key to earning traveler confidence. These same techniques can be applied at retail locations leveraging buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) options to minimize human touchpoints helps customers and associates feel safe.

The importance of providing real-time information to customers is also critical to minimize store wandering and keeping people appropriately distanced. Displaying accurate information within these wayfinding applications for customers to easily navigate locations and find product availability and placement showcases a retailer's commitment to customer safety.

If retailers had the ability to disseminate current stock information during the “great toilet paper crisis” of 2020, customers may have been spared the frustration of making extra trips to stores. This kind of communication from retailers on future supply levels would no doubt be greatly appreciated by shoppers.

Indoor mapping technology provides actionable insights that businesses can use from a customer's journey through the store. By knowing how travelers move throughout the airport, teams have been able to adjust their layouts to avoid congestion and comply with social distancing requirements. Retailers can space high demand items throughout the store to prevent shoppers from congregating in one area.

Airports have been providing accurate, up-to-date information that puts customers’ safety at the forefront by leveraging indoor mapping technology, and retailers can take this page from their playbook to create successful in-store experiences during the pandemic. Risking close contact for products that aren’t on the shelf, easily accessible or in stock decreases customer confidence. Customer safety is the primary concern right now, and retailers that can offer smart maps, digital information and “contactless” shopping options, like those available at airports, are more likely to bring customers through their doors again.

Campbell Kennedy is VP and general manager, LocusLabs at Acuity Brands.

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