As we return to travel post-pandemic, Altavia Travel Retail looks at the role digital design plays in the customer journey and why an omnichannel approach is vital to attract, engage, and convert travellers into buyers.

The integration of digital services and communications in global travel retail has grown exponentially in recent years. It comes as no surprise that, globally, the effects of Covid-19 have heightened the urgency to create a more hands-off approach for those who want it. Consumers’ habits were forced to change overnight, and – two years later – many of these behaviours are here to stay.

This has led to the acceleration of digital adoption and for many consumers, digital services are now an intrinsic part of their shopping experience. Those previously reluctant have now been converted into confident, digital-savvy shoppers, and more than 90% of shoppers now want technology-based solutions that improve their retail experience1.

In the same timeframe, the industry has had a unique opportunity to rethink its understanding of how to attract and communicate with a younger passenger demographic – another example of the massive opportunity we’re presented with in digital. With travel expected to return to pre-pandemic levels over the next two years, Altavia Travel Retail recognises the opportunity for strong digital design and the role it now plays in the traveller’s journey.

Here, we look at how best to design your digital experience in this new landscape, and the importance of making it a fundamental part of your offering.

Digital design with purpose: Be useful or be interesting

All too often there’s a tendency to shoehorn digital elements into GTR activations and campaigns for the sake of box ticking. So, we follow four guiding principles at Altavia Travel Retail to avoid falling into that trap, starting with the following questions to ensure all digital elements serve a purpose:

Is it useful? If not, is it interesting?

Jack Chat’: Designed with usefulness in mind

These two questions may seem obvious, but a quick scan of the digital landscape reveals a surprising number of digital activities that fail to meet even these simple criteria. Fundamentally, digital design should enhance and complement the customer experience – it should make a customer’s life easier, pique their interest, or both. What it shouldn’t do is add friction or confusion to their journey.

Alongside this, digital design should of course solve a brand ambition or communications objective. Setting clear brand objectives in GTR, whether they’re commercial, brand building, or both, helps to ensure communications are laddering up to the overall reasoning a brand has chosen to appear in the GTR space.

Once a brand’s objectives are grasped, digital design can help to answer the brief and deliver on brand metrics – all while enhancing the profiled shopper’s experience.

Ask yourself: Is it useful?

Let’s begin by unpicking our first guiding principle: usefulness. When creating campaigns, it’s important to ask ourselves whether digital elements will enhance our shopper’s experience. Will it save them time or money? Will it make their journey easier, for example via Click and Collect services? Or is it educational, answering their questions or concerns?

We developed our Jack Daniel’s chatbot, ‘Jack Chat’, with usefulness in mind. In a post-Covid world where consumers may still be looking to limit contact, or brand ambassadors simply aren’t available, this function helps to educate the consumer on the Jack Daniel’s range. It also creates a memorable brand interaction that the consumer can refer to in domestic channels, having a halo effect outside of the airport environment.

When designing useful digital services, it’s important to integrate with existing digital services on offer at your location. That could include services like Click and Collect and at-gate drop-off, as well as beacon targeting and an airport’s own social media channels. Integrating with existing services can save you time and money, using mechanics that are already established, which frequent flyers may already be aware of.

Ask yourself: Is it interesting?

Now the question of interest. The landscape of GTR has changed dramatically, and competition for consumers’ attention is stronger than ever. Brands are no longer simply competing with competitor retail and food and beverage outlets. They’re also competing with consumers’ devices, and in some cases, airport entertainment and experience offerings.

Brands must employ a variety of means to stand out. After all, notes Altavia Travel Retail, they are competing with consumers’ devices, and in some cases, airport entertainment and experience offerings.

As such, any experiential digital elements we create need to be bold. Bold enough for travellers to choose to interact with us over that Netflix series they’ve downloaded ready for their eight-hour trip. So, always ask yourself: what is interesting about this digital element? Can it engage and wow?

For brands who want to stand out from competitors, simply being present is not enough to convert into sales. We must produce something truly outstanding to stop and engage hurried, distracted travellers in their tracks. The commercial benefits can be exceptional, with research showing 49% of purchases are made as a direct result of the quality of the in-store experiences2.

So, aim big and go bold. Recent examples like Louis Vuitton’s digital facia at Istanbul International Airport are large and impactful enough to attract attention and generate footfall, with an engaging shopfront that draws people in. The flexibility of digital examples like this, also allows creative to be updated regularly.

Remember, we are increasingly in the business of ‘retailtainment’ and adding digital theatre through the likes of augmented reality allows customers to experience your brand in ways that might not be possible in a physical retail space. AR features that allow shoppers to try on products digitally, for example, are loved by millennials and Gen Z, with 23% of those looking for retailers to offer more of these types of digital services3. The potential of digital experiential gives us endless opportunities to creatively tell our brand stories, so there’s no excuse not to keep things interesting.

Consider the total omnichannel journey

Our third guiding principle is to nurture an omnichannel journey. Now more than ever before, the path to purchase begins before the traveller has even set foot in your shop, with 55% of travellers having decided to purchase a category before entering the store2. For that reason, priming customers pre-travel is vital when designing digital experiences. We must now consider how and through what digital channels we’re communicating with passengers before they even reach the airport.

Use the power of digital to make your brand a must-visit destination, says Altavia Travel Retail

When considering your pre-travel digital touch points, the aim here is to get on travellers’ consideration lists, so talk about those exclusive offerings or experiences that make you a must-visit destination before departure. Look closely at the available digital channels and prioritise those of most importance to your target audience.

For example, Gen Z are now more likely to discover brands and products via adverts on social media than search engines3. Insights like this help to inform channel decisions, in this case prioritising social media interactions over website SEO when targeting a younger audience.

Next, consider any opportunities to target travellers on the day of travel. Out of home, both static and digital can also provide opportunities to talk to travellers in a highly emotive state, one usually of excitement as they embark on their journey.

Then, plan your post-purchase or post-visit digital experience. Digital channels like social and CRM provide an excellent way to keep building brand equity in domestic environments. Have you left your shopper with a memorable, interactive experience? Or an open line of dialogue that you can continue to talk to them on? That’s the beauty of digital. Done correctly, it allows us to continue building brand relations long after travellers have left our stores.

Lastly, don’t forget to take a step back and look at your omnichannel design. Digital enables consumers to enter and leave the communications journey in a non-linear way. So, ask yourself: do your online and offline communications work together throughout the journey? Is there a clear and consistent brand and commercial message? Are there any loose ends or barriers to purchase that you need to resolve?

Be mindful of the digital divide

Our last guiding principle relates to the digital divide. There’s still a large section of the population who don’t have full access to digital technologies, or who simply prefer physical communications and interactions.

Relying solely on digital communications to put your offering across could therefore leave sour grapes in the mouths of those confused by digital experiences, those unable to access them, or those who simply prefer to speak to someone.

When implementing digital services, ask yourself how accessible they are for all your customers, remembering that travellers are often time-poor and distracted. A wise man once said that to truly understand someone, you must walk a day in their shoes, and it’s a good approach to adopt when it comes to digital design.

For example, do you need to send someone to a microsite to find out about your flavour profiles, or could you just show them? Does your customer want to follow a QR code to watch your film or is it more impactful to have it playing on an unmissably large screen?

Once you’ve identified a need and come up with your idea, remember to keep your user experience as simple as possible to encourage uptake. As we know, digital design should improve the customer experience, not get in the way – so the fewer points of friction the better.

Seize the digital opportunity

As the world of travel reopens, there are more opportunities to engage digitally with passengers than ever before. Having strong digital design through experiences and communications will create impactful moments that truly leave a mark. So now is the time to review your omnichannel offering and capitalise on the increased opportunities for interaction.

As you do that, steer clear of gimmicks and ensure your digital design serves a purpose for either the brand or the traveller – or both. And remember, have fun with it. The long-awaited return to travel brings with it high emotions and great excitement. This is your chance to appeal to your audience’s desire for adventure and transport them somewhere with your brand before they’ve even approached their gate.

The Guiding Principles Behind Altavia Travel Retail’s Digital Design

  • Is it useful?
    • Is it interesting?
    • Consider the total omnichannel journey
    • Be mindful of the digital divide


  1. GWI 2021 Digital Consumer Behaviour Report
  2. M1nd-Set Data 2021
  3. GWI 2021 Commerce Report

*The Moodie Davitt Report and ALTAVIA Travel Retail recently launch Design Curated;, a new regular eNewsletter series that offers a curated selection of stories focused on design in travel retail and beyond.

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