Frankfurt Airport is ahead of many other airports in offering passengers home delivery of retail goods, abandoning its unnecessary mobile app, and unifying its customer databases for savvier marketing.
E-commerce was already threatening the impulse-driven model of airport retail when the pandemic struck, depriving the shops in their terminals of customers. Frankfurt Airport is one of many that has been responding to changing realities.
A look at Frankfurt’s digital game plan — offering home delivery, killing its native app, and unifying its consumer databases — suggests some practices that may be relevant to airports worldwide.
Even before the crisis, Frankfurt Airport was attempting to adapt to the changing shopping behaviors of the 70 million passengers passing through it each year. In 2015, its parent company Fraport said it wanted to make online shopping a bigger part of Frankfurt Airport’s overall revenue. But it also wanted to use digital marketing and other tech tools to boost in-store sales — rather than sacrifice its shops on the altar of Amazon.
“We set up an online marketplace,” said Jens Paul, vice president, head of retail, digital, at Fraport. “The main idea was to extend the retail experience by showing our concessionaires’ retail products before journeys happen.”
Exhibit A: Frankfurt Airport worked with La Prairie, a premium cosmetics brand, to promote the brand’s products on the airport’s website and through its email list. The airport set up a promotional area in a heavily walked passageway to encourage passengers to sample the products.
Home Delivery Is a Hit
“Another focus for us was on click and collect,” Paul said. “We had a lot of consumers browsing our online store to secure the availability of items for pick-up when they arrive.”
But the March 2021 shutdown led Frankfurt Airport to take a pure e-commerce approach for a while via an online shopping portal. The airport began selling a certain range of products via home delivery to consumers who never set foot in the airport.
“The popularity of home delivery was a big surprise,” Paul said. “We helped drive volumes up when we started using marketing channels like affiliate marketing and price comparison sites.”
Home delivery has remained popular since, Paul said.
All revenue is welcome at Frankfurt and other airports during the crisis. Airport revenue worldwide for 2021 is on track to be 54 percent below the 2019 level, according to Airports Council International (ACI) World.
Killing Its Mobile App and Unifying Customer Databases
Frankfurt Airport decided to concentrate on its highest-value digital efforts by abandoning glamorous but less profitable projects. For instance, it killed its native mobile app.
“We found there’s not enough use of our airport app to justify the investment,” Paul said. “We saw we could deliver the same information and capabilities to passengers via mobile Web pages. We’re enhancing this by introducing a progressive Web app, which doesn’t require downloading.”
Frankfurt Airport’s parent Fraport decided it was more cost-effective to outsource the work of building and running the software to support its efforts. It hired AOE, a tech specialist for airlines and other corporations. It renewed a five-year contract earlier this year with AOE subsidiary Omnevo.
The airport is unifying its computer database systems across its touchpoints, so their systems will recognize someone who books a parking reservation if they then also buy an item in a terminal shop.
The airport recently debuted FRA-ID, an online customer profile. After customers have stored their details, their future online purchases for retail items can be completed faster.
To incentivize sign-ups, the airport offers exclusive discounts to those who join. The airport plans to integrate the parking reservations accounts in 2022. Pre-booking airport parking is common in Western Europe.
Updated Jun. 17, 2021