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Travel Retailers: Groundbreakers for traditional Retail?

January 30, 2017
About the author Alain VeuveAlain Veuve
Managing Director, AOE Switzerland

I think we are only at the beginning of fundamental changes in travel retail. The market, already bearish in 2015, lost additional momentum in 2016. Margins are also under considerable pressure. Moreover, the statement that duty-free prices are cheaper than elsewhere hasn’t applied for a very long time. And more and more consumers prefer online shopping to the offline variety.

Don’t stand idly by

The providers, above all airports, which are important for the overall market, do not want to stand idly by. Though airports, technically speaking, aren’t retailers, they nevertheless structure their leasing models for stores in such a manner as to have a stake in revenue. If sales decline, airports lose as well.

Airport E-Commerce is a complex business, as the various order-, delivery- and – to some degree – returns options must be structured for both on- and offline channels. The learnings gleaned from the multi merchant omnichannel project with the Frankfurt Airport are groundbreaking. The E-Commerce architecture exhibits a complexity that is without parallel. The worldwide interest by airports in our OM³ solution is correspondingly high.

A Retail 2.0 Pioneer

After all, traditional retail is in quite a similar situation. Here too, decreasing revenues and shrinking margins can be found everywhere. Retail needs to move forward.

Here, the players that control the market are mainly brick-and-mortars too – and they are systematically losing market share simply by the fact that revenue streams are flowing more and more toward online offerings. Until now, the logical strategy was to simply establish an own online version of the stationary store – a strategy, however, that hasn’t been followed through with much consistency. We are all familiar with large department store chains; huge stores in the inner cities and an amateurish online shop. Accordingly, most of these endeavors are correspondingly low in revenue.

What astonishes me repeatedly is that conventional retail doesn’t really use its strength – physical presence. For this fact, even if pure-play protagonists naturally fail to recognize it, is also a considerable advantage. An advantage, which in my opinion decision-makers in traditional retail interpret incorrectly. For, instead of thinking in comprehensive customer journeys and thus creating a seamless, greatly improved customer experience, they never tire of touting personal contact, the ambiance, brand worlds, etc. as advantages.

This might have been correct – and important – during the past millennium, in today’s world, however, those players win who can provide the best and most integrated customer experience across all channels. And those players win who make things for their customers as simple as possible. It is here that airports in cooperation with their duty free vendors are currently performing pioneering work.

Integrate Online Commerce into the existing Business

So, instead of merely developing a separate E-Commerce branch the order of the day is to integrate online commerce into the existing, stationary business.

I’m constantly amazed how bogged down the idea of the E-Commerce business model has become. It really is quite simple though: All you have to do is examine all of the processes and evaluate how you can redesign them with the help of new technology to reach the goal faster, at lower costs and – most importantly – in a way that is easier for the customer.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Retailers have many monolithic systems and, quite often, organizational structures that rarely make this endeavor any easier. But is there a future-oriented alternative? I don’t think so, at least no alternative that does not result in long-term significant losses.

Shopping Centers

Now the situation with the classic shopping malls is quite similar to the one airports are facing. For the most part, shopping malls also close rental contracts that are revenue-based. Mall operators are well-positioned to enable their tenants entry into true multichannel E-Commerce. They can simply copy the model from the airports. And learn at the same time.



Press release: Omnevo and Fraport extend long-term partnership by 5 more years

Frankfurt, July 14th, 2021 - Omnevo, leading provider of revenue-increasing digital platform solutions for airports and airlines and part of the AOE Group, and Fraport AG, owner and operator of Germany's largest airport, announced today that Frankfurt Airport goes live with the latest advanced version of Omnevo's award-winning omnichannel e-commerce solution. Additionally, the two companies announced that they have extended their long-term partnership for another five years to further develop the digitalization of the airport's range of products and services for the almost 70 million passengers (before COVID-19) who travel through Frankfurt Airport each year. With go-live, the existing digital solution platform, which Omnevo’s parent company (AOE) had originally developed for Fraport, was migrated to the latest Omnevo product version. Through its original partnership with AOE Fraport utilized the OM³ digital platform (now known as Omnevo) to become the world’s first omnichannel airport focused entirely on omnichannel both before and, especially, during the pandemic. The newly enhanced Omnevo cloud solution enables the operation of a complete airport marketplace solution for all travel retail sales at a fraction of the costs previously required for such a leading ecosystem, creating new revenue opportunities for crisis-hit airports of any size. Thanks to the highly flexible SaaS solution, Fraport has also effectively future-proofed its digital strategy by integrating directly in the Omnevo product roadmap, enabling it to benefit from Omnevo’s strategy of continuous improvements to the solution.


A personal perspective on leadership

The past year has been extraordinary in so many ways and, while the tragic impact on lives takes precedence, we’ve also had to deal with the huge changes in our working life too. As the crisis developed early last year, I was busy planning in my new role as CEO of Omnevo - AOE’s new specialist product division - positioned as a digital solution pioneer in the travel industry, launching in early 2021. As the crisis grew, this became the most challenging experience of my career, but I’ve been surprised to find that it’s also become one of the most instructive and rewarding experiences too. Creating and launching any new company is always a huge challenge but we suddenly faced extraordinary new barriers as the way we do business had to be transformed. Much of 2020 was spent planning the new company and today, still operates almost exclusively remotely. Many of us, including some of the founders, worked together for almost a year but have still not actually met in person! Yet we already operate successfully in a global network and are scaling and winning new business. Omnevo is a truly virtual organization; this is how we were born and that is how we thrive. In this short time, we’ve already made our mark on this industry, with a culturally diverse, agile and highly committed team working alongside customers of all sizes around the globe. We’re gaining a lot of attention because we are recognized as game changers - and that innovative spirit is integral to our team spirit. We are committed to being the digital challengers and innovators in the travel and mobility industry – an ethos drives us every day. And it’s working. But what is the glue behind this, what makes us successful? Why is it working and, in these bizarre working conditions, how did we manage to get the team so well and engage with our customers so quickly? I’m obviously proud of what we’ve achieved but I want to share my personal perspective on how we made this happen and hope that it will resonate with others in the industry - and, hopefully, help you with your management challenges too.