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Kian Gould Interview Part 3: “You need to be able to order a product with the swipe of a finger”

February 14, 2019
Author Christian HolzschuhChristian HolzschuhMarketing & Communications

What does digitalization mean for airports? What can airports do to avoid beginner’s mistakes when introducing E-Commerce solutions? Why are premium products purchased so frequently in the travel retail environment? And how can airlines and airports work together optimally to achieve a win-win situation for everyone involved? Kian Gould, CEO and founder of AOE, answered these and other questions in an interview with Peter Marshall.

Interview with AOE CEO Kian Gould – Part 3 of 3

Peter and Kian spoke at the TFWA Summit in Cannes about the challenges in the travel retail industry - and how airports, airlines and retailers react to them. In addition, in the third part of the three-part interview, Kian explains how airlines are progressing with the digitalization of their E-Commerce offerings, why travel retail can simultaneously prevent and benefit from digital disruption, and what changes in the basic attitudes of all participants are necessary for digitalization in travel retail to be successful.

Transcript Part 3 (excerpts)

In their three-part video interview, Peter Marshall of Marshall Arts International, and Kian Gould, CEO of AOE, discuss challenges that airports and the travel retail industry are facing. Learn about different approaches to these challenges and find out how Frankfurt Airport, London Heathrow and Auckland International are digitalizing their business cases to optimize the customer experience and create new non-aviation revenue streams.

80,000 SKUs of beauty and cosmetics, liquor and tobacco on a platform is not the solution for E-Commerce at airports

  1. Peter Marshall: So, what do you think is going to be the tipping point? The trigger point for airports to enter into the right kind of conversation with you? What’s going to prompt them?

    Kian Gould: If I knew that, I would be very happy. What we can say is that we have been invited by almost all the big airport groups to do tenders in 2018 or 2017. A lot of them are starting to prepare to tender, are starting to prepare the strategy. Everyone is trying to wrap their heads around “what does digitalization mean for an airport?” If you are talking to ops people and if you are talking to strategy or commercial people, those are two very different stories. If you talk to a CIO about digitalization, they are thinking about tracking, about biometric passport control, about how to ensure much more seamless workflows, baggage handling and so on. And if you are talking to commercial people, it’s an completely different story, obviously.

    A lot of the airports are in this situation now, they are trying to hire the right know-how, because they have never done E-Commerce before, so they do need this know-how. This is a process that we are seeing.


What is the passengers' main focus when buying goods? Who is really driving digitalization in travel retail? Which two questions need to be answered before creating a successful E-Commerce business model? Read the entire transcript of Part III below for answers to these – and other – questions.

Kian Gould

Kian Gould

CEO and Founder / AOE
What we are trying to do is prevent disruption in travel retail and benefit from it at the same time.

TFWA Summit in Cannes: Kian Gould Interview with Peter Marshall

In the first two parts of the interview, Kian Gould explains the different business models for E-Commerce at Frankfurt AirportAuckland Airport and London Heathrow. Among other things, you will also learn how to measure the success of digitalization strategies and omnichannel platforms, which USPs airports have in E-Commerce and what obstacles they face when implementing such solutions:

Aviation & Travel

True Innovation Comes Outside The Cabin

One of the biggest emerging trends I have seen in the airline sector over the last couple of years is the concept of passenger self-serve onboard or order to seat. Despite the almost constant discussion at every industry event, the funny thing is, this isn’t really new at all – almost 10 years ago, a former CEO of an onboard retail technology provider proclaimed: “Over time the duty free model will shift to 100% passenger self-service transactions. One of the biggest reasons being the fact that the trolley only comes down the aisle once a journey, for half an hour – in essence the duty free store is only open for half an hour. If I can make transactions myself, through self-service technology, the store is open for the entire flight.” And yet, a decade later, this isn’t even close to the reality on-board most aircraft. During the pandemic, with the need for social distancing, coupled with a desire for innovation, self-service again bubbled to the fore – it gained a new level of relevance. With passengers across all demographics accustomed to ordering everything from groceries to new cars via their phones, digital transactions onboard an aircraft look to be a natural extension of what has become an everyday digital experience. The aviation sector is obsessed (but occasionally intimidated) by digital answers, and there is much that can already be done. Making a digital store available for browsing and even purchasing is achievable, both on IFE and passengers own devices. The process raises a number of operational implications, such as how crew learn of and deliver orders, how payments are handled (particularly if there is no air-to-ground connection) and how this sits alongside the existing cabin service. All of these issues require significant thought and, in some cases investment; and there lies the heart of the problem.