Creating memorable experiences for travelling customers

With a pre-existing business model, airports have to be creative to stand out from one another and ensure they’re remembered long after their customers take off.

Capturing the imagination of shoppers can be challenging at any time, even more so for airports where customers are simultaneously dealing with flight times, check-in, gate information, luggage and the behaviour and wellbeing of their travelling companions. Retail precincts within airports are conquering this challenge through a combination of architecture, access to unique dining and brand experiences by creating an environment that showcases the best elements of their home towns. The result is transforming airport retail from a necessary evil into a memorable and lasting impression of the travelling experience.

Melbourne is widely known as the world’s most liveable city and as such Melbourne Airport is making a concerted effort to bring the city to life at the airport. This is evident in the airport’s recent T2 Luxury Precinct upgrade, which combines a number of key elements that Melbourne is renowned for including a culturally diverse mix of dining options, street art, magnificent architecture and of course, shopping.

As soon as travellers step into the elegant luxury precinct they are treated to the same calibre of designers that can be found towards the Paris end of Collins street. After spending time shopping the latest trends in an environment that resembles Melbourne’s grand shopping arcades, travellers’ transition through to the dining precinct that features cafés and restaurants with some of Australia’s most iconic chefs and dining brands including Shannon Bennett’s Café Vue, Frank Camorra’s Bar Pulpo by MoVida and the Angele brother’s Brunetti café.

Airports are often either the first or last touch point in a traveller’s journey, which is why it’s so important to deliver an experience that, strengthens a customer’s connection to a city. Almost 100,000 people fly through Melbourne Airport each day, and by 2033 this airport is forecasted to service more than 60 million travellers overall per year. In order to fulfil the needs of all travellers the retail offering must cater to a range of markets, from the Australian domestic holidaymaker and the business traveller, to the international traveller visiting family and friends.

Customers should be at the forefront of every choice and the T2 Luxury Precinct upgrade had their consumer’s interests front of mind. With two and a half years of extensive passenger research, Melbourne Airport was able to identify key consumer desires to incorporate in the upgrade process.

In retail there are consistent elements that are vital to success and they include experience, entertainment and customer enjoyment. Bricks-and-mortar retailers need to ask themselves what is going to attract the right customer and keep them interested. In my experience, I’ve found that uniqueness is key. Retailers should be asking the questions, what can we deliver that is new? What can we deliver that is exciting and unique? Retailers must understand customers will buy products that resonate with them. Therefore if you can develop and executive a plan that’s unique, you’ll keep customers coming back.

Andrew Gardiner, a retail industry expert with over 35 years’ retail experience in Australia and abroad. Andrew has spent 10 years in the travel retail business, as Managing Director at DFS Galleria Australia, General Manager of Retail at Sydney Airport and now Chief of Retail and Chief of Launceston Airport at Australian Pacific Airports Corporation. Learn more at



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