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Digital Makes a Mark on Travel Retail

Executives at the Tax Free World Association annual meeting discussed the importance of digital initiatives.

CANNES, France — As in the domestic market, digital strategies are increasingly gaining importance in the travel-retail channel for beauty players.

“It’s just something that is a necessity today in the way consumers want to engage with brands — where they’re looking for information, where they’re frankly expecting to be experiencing the brand and what it’s about, what it has to offer and how it makes them feel,” said Bill Brace, vice president of global marketing development and operations at P&G Prestige.

He cited the success of the L.12.12 fragrance advertising involving the folding of a Lacoste shirt. The TV campaign drew a large amount of traffic to YouTube, where people could view it again.

“In France, it was one of the most-watched videos of the year,” continued Brace, adding the Lacoste ad has also been tapping into the brand’s 10 million Facebook friends, a move that in turn helped drive people into stores, where there has been retail-taiment such as polo-folding contests.

“It illustrates that digital is superimportant. It is becoming more critical, [and an increasingly] prominent part of our marketing focus. But it’s not a goal in and of its own right,” continued Brace. He said it’s got to be seamless, authentic vis-à-vis the brand and how it connects online, in-store and with the rest of the touch points.

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In travel retail, Coty Inc. has instigated digital initiatives for some of its brands. In certain airport locations on shelves now are small screens either playing commercials or giving information on a product, for example. There are also 3-D animated light boxes replacing traditional photographs.

With digital, it can be possible to move a brand’s discussion with a consumer from point of sale to the moment when he or she decides to travel.

“Digital is also e-commerce, in a way, and what that means in travel retail is preorder, for instance,” said Olivier Bottrie, president of travel retailing worldwide at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “And more and more retailers look at preorder as a way to communicate ahead of travel with consumers, to make their purchase experience easier for those who choose to buy this way. And for brands, it’s a way, of course, to sell products, but also to communicate with consumers.”

Joël Palix, president of Clarins Fragrance Group, added that preordering could allow companies possibly to develop larger assortments, since products wouldn’t need to be kept on store shelves.

“E-retailing could be something for travel retail in the future,” maintained Eric Henry, chief operating officer at Beauté Prestige International.