For years, Changi has held the gold standard as to what an ideal airport should look like. From having numerous eateries, beautiful gardens, snooze zones to being a retail paradise, the airport has its bases covered for all types of travellers. And while it is able to make the entire ecosystem look seamless, two very real issues Changi struggles with in its retail arena are the long queues and segmentation.

"At Changi, the offline checkout queue is the number one killer of sales," Jeffrey Loke, vice president, pricing and commercial strategy at Changi Airport Group said. The long checkout lines turn passengers away from making purchases, especially if they are in a hurry.

To counter this, Changi is now actively working towards making the salesperson the point of checkout/sale by establishing a mobile point-of-sale (POS) system. The system will allow consumers to skip the queue at the counter and work directly with the salesperson who served them to make payment.

Big believers of data collection

Keeping up with technology is a priority for the company which believes in testing and failing to work out its strategy. In 2015, in a bid to ride the e-commerce wave, Changi established the iShopChangi portal to enable travellers to buy their products even before coming into the terminal.  All they need to do at the retail shop would be to pick up the product and as such, skip out on the dreaded lines.

The transportation hub also amasses data from its e-commerce portal iShopChangi, along with its iChangi mobile app, its retail promotion "Be a Changi Millionaire" and even carpark data. Information is also gathered from Changi's own POS system, which according to Loke, is being used by 99.5% of its retail stores.

"We have data down to what brands customers buy, which flight they are travelling on and when they buy it - morning or evening, on departure or arrival. So [the POS System] is one of the key pillars of our system," Loke said.

He added," When our members drive into the carpark, we will know where they are and we can send them an offer to get free parking for that day if they dine at the airport." This helps in creating a bond with the individual and delighting them in small way.

Segmentation an issue

However, unlike airlines or malls that can choose to target high-end or low-end markets, Changi has a myriad of people walking through its doors. It now looks to have 60 million travellers walk through its halls and create a personalised experience for each and every single one of them. As such, data segmentation remains a costly challenge.

Engaging consumers directly means reaching out to them as individuals, not as groups of passengers on a particular flight.

He added that it is no longer right to generalise individuals in clusters based on age groups or nationalities, and assume certain nationalities prefer buying certain products as they are not all similar. With the segmentation it has done to date, Changi hopes to democratise the data to help improve productivity and efficiency of its retail staff. Airport retailers in Changi are, as such, provided with data on the type of flights entering Singapore and passenger demographics via phone or iPad. From there, the shops can roster their staff to ensure they can better serve customers by speaking the same language, for example.

Technology for Changi is not just an enabler for customers, but also for the merchants in the airport. Loke said the group is “relentless” in getting customer feedback and sharing what it has learnt. Loke added that for Changi, at the end of the day, technology is used to “ease areas of friction” and boost efficiency and productivity.

A lot of people think about technology as reaching the passengers. But technology can be used to enable staff, or in this instance, our retailers’ staff.


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