In the third feature of our new series examining travel retail and airport sector ‘disruptors’, we talk to dutyfree.buzz Founder Amit Butani who wants to better serve the new generation of savvy airport shoppers.
This series focuses on companies challenging established models through risk-taking innovation, and Butani says his price comparison website can be a pivotal tool for the travel retail sector during a period of digital transformation.
Dutyfree.buzz was unveiled at Trinity Forum 2016 as part of a session that analysed the dual threats and opportunities to travel retail offered by e-commerce and digital media in general. The site is now receiving hundreds of product searches a day, and is designed to become a central hub for the travel retail world.
The advent of online shopping in the wider retail world has increased price transparency and shifted the balance of power to consumers, and Butani believes airport shoppers are becoming increasingly discerning when purchasing.
“It’s a win-win situation for all the stakeholders in the travel retail business”
Dutyfree.buzz’s premise is to help travellers, duty free operators and brands by providing information on prices, promotions, new product launches and duty free allowances. Butani says the tool is ideal for millennial shoppers, who demand information, products and services “at the click of a button”.
Q&A: AMIT BUTANI ON DUTYFREE.BUZZ’S POTENTIAL IMPACT ON TRAVEL RETAIL.
Firstly, tell us about your background and how dutyfree.buzz came about
AB: I started my career in the oil and gas industry. With more than 11 years of sales and business development experience, I was then employed by Flemingo to kick start a new concept in the travel retail sector running an online mail-ordering service for diplomats and diplomatic associations across the globe.
This is when I realised my passion for the online space. This last successful stint prompted me to start new ventures focused on providing technological services exclusively for the travel retail sector.
“More and more people are travelling every year and travellers are always looking out for the best deals and bargains”
Based on different price points for duty free goods across the world, I thought it would be great if there was a way to know from which airport of your trip’s itinerary you should actually be doing your duty free shopping. What if after landing at your arrival airport you realised the price of that same product is -15-20% less than your departure airport or there is a promotion running? [Before dutyfree.buzz] you couldn’t have done much about it, since you would have already purchased it from your departure terminal.
Why is there a need for dutyfree.buzz?
AB: An essential part of every vacation abroad is shopping. People love to buy items from abroad and most of the time these are souvenirs or gifts for loved ones, often including chocolates, fragrances and cosmetics from brands we adore. These are often purchased while at the airport and in duty free stores.
But people need to know the duty free allowance for every country they plan to travel to and from. It is crucial to avoid any unnecessary hassle at an airport or in a foreign country.
People buy under the general assumption that all duty free stores have the same prices, but this is so not true. One fact often missed by even frequent travellers is that every duty free store has a different price point. Also, consumers would be surprised to know that while getting stuff from abroad sounds cool, the same could be available at the duty free store of their own country at much cheaper prices.
“[Following Trinity Forum 2016] there was an overwhelming response to this platform from both the operators and brand owners”
Dutyfree.buzz provides information about duty free products available at various airports across the globe, their prices, relevant promotions and details related to duty free allowances.
Tell us simply how it works
AB: To compare prices of different products online, follow these steps:
- Visit dutyfree.buzz download our Android or iOS app
- Enter the flight details such as departure, stopover (if any), arrival airport and click on ‘Show Products’
- Select the products from the list, or simply search them if you know the name
- Prices of the product at the three different airports will be displayed along with any promotions
- If the pre-order option is available at an airport, this will be displayed
- You can click and pre-order the product
The information you will then have in front of you will be:
- Price at the three airports you entered for your product
- Pre-order option wherever applicable
- Savings you can get if you buy it at the airport with the lowest prices
The app and the website has a dedicated section for duty free allowances of all countries, thus making dutyfree.buzz your go-to place for all the duty free shopping needs.
Tell us about your team
AB: This is certainly not a one-man show and we have a very young (we still like to call ourselves young!) dynamic team of developers, digital marketing specialists, content writers, creative designers and strategists.
They each have years of experience in their respective fields, dashing out innovative ideas and executing them with zest.
Who stands to benefit most from your service?
AB: The following list shows those who stand to benefit, and what the tool provides for each party:
- Get to know the cheapest prices and promotions available thus saving them money
- Allowance information, which can be a frequent cause of anxiety
- Product recommendations
Duty free operators
- Robust and simple-to-use reporting tools enabling them to make informed decisions
- Price Match Assurance coupon feature to drive traffic to their retail store or pre-order website, if available
- A platform to launch new products
- Focused marketing rather than mass marketing
- Competition analysis brand ranking reports
- Data on consumer preferences
- Coupon feature to promote brand
It’s a win-win situation for all the stakeholders in the travel retail business.
Who’s using it so far and what are the results?
AB: Currently we see the usage from all the three areas – travellers, duty free operators and brands. It’s a very healthy blend. Mumbai Duty Free (a partnership between Flemingo and DFS) is one client.
More and more people are travelling and millennials are going to account for a significant share of this traffic. They are extremely tech savvy, they want information, products and services at the click of a button. These are the travellers who will be using our apps and services.
But is there consumer demand for this tool? Do people really plan their airport shopping that far in advance?
AB: More and more people are travelling every year and travellers are always looking out for the best deals and bargains, and we at dutyfree.buzz can help satisfy this urge. We are getting more than 600 product searches a day across various airports and this is growth which speaks for itself
When a traveller is at a duty free store he or she is on the last stage of the so-called shopping funnel. If they have our app all they need to do is type in their departure airport and arrival airport and, voila, they have the best deals and promotions at the click of a button.
What was the response to dutyfree.buzz after last year’s Trinity Forum event, where you presented the concept?
AB: There was an overwhelming response to this platform from both the operators and brand owners. There were concerns on pricing transparency but then this is the digital age when all information is freely available to everyone. Either you get on the bandwagon or you’ll be left behind.
What else can we expect from you in the future? We’ve heard about Proxymate – what’s that?
AB: There are couple of exciting ventures that we are working on and the next one out from our stable is Proxymate, available at Goproxymate.com.
How often has it happened that we really want a product, but it happens to be available in another city or country? We either go ahead and buy it by paying extra shipping and custom duties or just ask our friends/relatives who are travelling there or visiting us from that location to buy it on our behalf.
But what if our friend/relative is unwilling or not able to do so, or you are not travelling anytime soon? How to do you get it then? This is where Proxymate comes in – our simple app allows buyers to meet willing travellers who agree to get the product for them. The buyer gets the product he/she always wanted. The traveller, on the other hand, can earn some commission for his/her services. The tool is available on the Google Playstore and will soon be launched on the Apple Store.
What makes you a disruptor?
AB: E-commerce business has disrupted the traditional bricks and mortar retail model in most countries and it is only a matter of time before we see this kind of online disruption in the travel retail sector.
Either the airport owners and duty free operators adapt to this digital change or they will be left out. Our services platform serves the interests of the existing duty free players and we will ensure we are there to support them once these new digital changes occur within the travel retail industry.
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