• Play Retail Ltd.

Destination Beauty

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

- Play Retail x Pure Beauty Magazine

Travel retail has been a key driver for cosmetic giants in recent years and as airports report record numbers of passengers, independent experts reveal how you can stand out from the crowd.

Travel retail sales are set to reach record highs of US $85bn by 2020, with cosmetics & fragrances sales claiming 45% of the market. Travellers have unprecedented spending power and brands have a uniquely captive audience. For L’Oreal, the category has been a sales success story, as the 'sixth continent' revealed a soaring growth of 27.1 % to break €2bn. But the space is not just for conglomerates to innovate, it's also a platform for SMEs to share their message with open-minded travellers.

"What other channel can expose your brand to travellers from South America at the same time as Asia Pacific travellers?" says Lawrence Scott, Industry Advisor travel retail and duty free for The NPD Group. "What other channel knows the exact passenger mix - down to the hour - of who will pass through their store doors?" So, how can your brand take off in the sector?


Interactive digital initiatives have been growing in popularity in travel retail as consumers expect more ways to engage with and be entertained by brands.

Mark Howell, Managing Director at Play Retail

"The changing face of global retail from bricks-and-mortar to online has led a revolution in the way consumers interact with the brands they love and purchase the products they want," Mark Howell, MD of retail design agency Play, explains to Pure Beauty. "Today's consumers have a wide variety of innovative tools at their fingertips when shopping online on their mobile device. Access to ratings, influencer reviews, video content and personalised recommendations means that online retailers have been able to gain a significant advantage over traditional retailers in recent years."

"More importantly than this, however, is the integration of new mobile technologies such as augmented reality [AR), virtual reality [VR] and image recognition into the purchasing journey, led by the cosmetics, beauty and fashion sectors. These tools, adopted by online retailers, have led to a fundamental change in the basic expectations of shoppers. As a result, we are seeing more and more retailers and brands looking to adopt these digital initiatives in­-store; creating engaging digital experiences which aim to connect with today's shoppers."

NARS saw 71,170 new website visits from its mobile-first pop-up, which allowed consumers to digitally try on its lipsticks

Keen to target the rising demand for make-up by Chinese millennials, Shiseido Travel Retail has ventured rapidly into the arena. In partnership with Play, the beauty giant created a mobile ­first pop-up for NARS' lipstick range in Bangkok's King Power Downtown Rangnam Complex. Shoppers were encouraged to play with the motion-sensor activated Digital Lip Wall and take branded photos using the 'With Love from Bangkok' messaging. According to Play, the travel installation results in more than 38,000 shades trialled and 71,170 new visits to the NARS website.

"Beauty in duty free was the first category to truly adopt digital into the core of its business model," says Scott. "What we've seen this year is that this digitalisation has ramped up a gear and now means a multitude of options; from direct-to-consumer (OTC) brands, blended retail, digital activations and social media alignment. What this means this year is that duty free beauty brands are being daring in their use of digital and have even started to bioengineer a product suite that benefits the traveller."


"Brands need to consider the mind-set of potential customers in the travel retail environment," says Howell. "Travellers can be in a higher state of stress as they navigate the airport, with limited attention as they focus on completing their journey. This means that it is vital for brands to create retail activations that are highly attractive and disruptive, forcing passers-by to stop and take notice of the products and engage with the brand.

"Brands can tap into travellers and holidaymakers' sense of excitement and joy by providing engaging branded experiences. Retail gamification, delightful moments, shareable content, personalisation and gifting experiences can all be used to enhance the feeling of joy, drive sales, create a buzz and inspire brand loyalists in travel retail."

Newly opened this summer, YSL Beauté and China Duty Free Group's (CDFG) partnership is a great example of how brands can bring the 'play factor' to retail. Encouraging consumers to unleash their inner rock-star, the ‘Make It Yours’ pop-up has an E-­Drum on a LED stage which consumers (of all musical abilities) can play to activate the attached LED floor tiles and animate the Yves Saint Laurent Beauté icons. Shoppers can also personalise a range of YSL products, including the Mon Paris fragrances, with sentimental messages via a digital screen.

Meanwhile, Coty-owned nail care brand OPI - along with Play - focused on time-poor travellers for its travel retail offering. In an effort to streamline the decision-making process, and to cut out the mess of testing nail polishes in a time-restricted environment, the companies created free standing units with in­built AR to allow passengers to try-on shades. The device is said to have led to 24% uplift in global sales.

YSL allows customers to personalise products; while OPI uses AR to take the fuss out of trying nail polish shades

"Often travellers love to keep themselves occupied before their flight. This can be due to them feeling anxious (as I do myself) so they end up buying special treats for themselves," says June Jensen, Executive Director of UK beauty at The NPD Group. "There is a change in the retail landscape at the departure hall so it feels like an interactive department store that is a big pick-n-mix for most consumers. Finally, it is less expensive to purchase your items there along with finding some interesting travel exclusives that consumers love."

To help holidaymakers with their pre-flight nerves, more brands are exploring how they can simplify the shopping journey. "We are seeing the emergence of convenience led innovation such as click and collect, vending machines and home delivery," says Howell. L’Oreal was one of the first to create a click and collect system to enable passengers to reserve products, pay for them online and pick them up at the airport.

There is also an opportunity for brands to provide customers with other services, such as such as flight information, charging points or comfortable seating; "things that savvy brands can leverage in their retail space to increase dwell time, brand awareness and the likelihood of increased sales," he adds.


At fast glance the travel retail arena may seem dominated by beauty heavyweights, but it is fast becoming an inspiring environment for shoppers to discover independent and niche players, as evident by Foreo, 3ina and Charlotte Tilbury recently entering the space.

Independent and niche brands like Foreo have the opportunity to offer travellers something different

"Travel is definitely an environment in which indie brands can prosper," urges Scott. "When I'm analysing behavioural trend data of high-spending nationalities - typically for beauty this means the Asia Pacific buyer - I always see a key driver of purchases being that they want something that is exclusive or looks new and different from their domestic offer.

"Pivoting on these features, indie brands are made for the space. If they are brave - and enter duty free - I'm sure they'd see some fantastic growth realised in a relative short space of time." Jensen agrees: "I also believe when in the mood of jetting off somewhere you are more likely to experiment with various solutions and new brands." While it may seem like a daunting costly and time-consuming venture for indies, consumers are demanding a point of difference unlike ever before - so travel retail might just prove your ideal choice destination.