Darin Held, partner Bloommiami

Bloommiami Co-Founder Darin Held: “The general store lighting within the cruise ships’ shops is not conducive to retail”

USA/INTERNATIONAL. Better personalisation of the buying experience, improvements in lighting and greater deployment of brand ambassadors are required to enhance the cruise retail experience for passengers.

That’s the view of Darin Held, Co-Founder of retail-focused design and production agency Bloommiami, who says land-based hospitality providers trump cruise ship shops in how they personalise their proposition.

Significant improvements can be made selling cosmetics, jewellery and liquor on cruise ships, he says, while there is a lack of onboard customer engagement in the promenades.

Bloommiami specialises in travel retail, hospitality and experiential marketing, and has installed interactive experiences in those fields for brands such as Zacapa rum, Shiseido, L’Oréal Paris and Carrera Eyewear.

“Brands should take advantage of the opportunity to offer consumers a premium experience”

Held, who co-founded the business in 2001, believes brands can use cruise retail to forge strong customer relationships.

Bloommiami has created experiential activations and merchandising displays on ships operated by Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess and Norwegian. Working onboard Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Equinox, too, the consultancy developed The Whisky House at The Lawn Club – a full lounge solely dedicated to Diageo products.

“There is a captive audience seeking experience-driven entertainment, and passengers are onboard for several days, providing the ability to share their experiences with other passengers, thus creating more awareness and likelihood for additional visits,” he notes.

“The relaxed mindset of passengers while cruising is also conducive to trying new things and perhaps embracing new brands.”

Diageo TheWhiskyHouse_Celebrity_0184

Thinking differently: Bloommiami’s work for Diageo and Celebrity Cruises creates a space for brand ambassadors to engage with passengers

Talking to The Moodie Davitt Report, Held highlights five key areas where cruise ships can develop their retail offering.

  1. Lighting

Lighting is a powerful tool that can be better utilised by cruise ships to aid commercial performance, according to Held.

“The general store lighting within the cruise ship’s shops is not conducive to retail,” he says.

“It’s the wrong temperature, it’s not specific or directional. There’s currently no consideration for the consumer’s journey within the store. Properly designed lighting allows us to guide consumers through the store experience and direct their attention to specific products.”

  1. Set the scene

Placing vignettes throughout ships is a strategy used by retailers and brands to spread messaging about onboard product availability. Held says more can be done to improve the marketing power of vignettes.

Bacardi NCL (1)

Vignettes: “We are able to be really creative in these spaces and dress them up to really speak about the brand” – Darin Held

“Vignettes are displays set up throughout the ship to help set the scene for the available products,” he comments.

“They are usually in glass casings and have not been designed to feature the product. We are able to be really creative in these spaces and dress them up to really speak about the brand and tell a powerful brand story.”

  1. Personalisation = prizes

Held says the cruise industry has made progress in personalising its retailing offers, but he argues the sector is still considerably behind land-based hospitality ventures in this area.

“Brands should take advantage of the opportunity to offer consumers a premium experience,” he notes.

“This can be done through the types of materials used, display methods and techniques, and/or by maximising lighting opportunities. Create an atmosphere where specific products are featured to draw attention which then leads to better sales opportunities.”

Onboard brand-driven experiences can be developed, says Held. He suggests developing scavenger hunts where passengers can explore different parts of the ship while experiencing the brand.

“Provide guests with something they can take with them after the vacation ends,” he adds.

“Focus on something that is tied to their vacation experience and your brand. Partnering with other companies can really help to maximise the opportunities available here, and always remember to take advantage of connecting your branded experience to social media for maximum exposure.”

  1. Create a presence

“Brands should also be capitalising on experiences outside the shops and vignettes,” according to the design expert.

“Offering tastings and samples to guests as they board could be very effective. A promotional placement opportunity with a tasting component could engage consumers as soon as possible into the cruise experience, and could be effective across a wide variety of products including jewellery, cosmetics, spirits or even cigars.”

Diageo TheWhiskyHouse_Celebrity_0011

Drink on deck: The Whisky House at The Lawn Club on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Equinox was designed and executed by Bloommiami

Bloommiami has worked on projects using brand ambassadors to educate passengers about product ranges, and Held feels it is a powerful engagement method for cruise retailing.

“These brand ambassadors could be present at the promenade, bars, shops, or available for private tastings.”

  1. Optimise sales to a captive audience

By bringing specialised experiences into passengers’ cabins, brands can create an element of exclusivity for customers which might have a far-reaching impact.

“These cabin-designed experiences allow brands to introduce sensory elements into the experience while engaging the consumer directly,” says Held.

“Through a memorable brand experience, companies gain the opportunity to convert a consumer into a lifetime customer.”