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Let’s get phygital

August 15, 2014 Social Media No Comments Email Email

Leading global travel search site Skyscanner predicts a new kind of airport in the not too distant future – one where we’re likely to stay for longer before departure and where we’d certainly prefer to shop rather than lounge.

Imagine an airport where the walls and floors are entirely interactive places dedicated to giving travellers a shopping experience rivalling that of any major mall.

Skyscanner’s Future of Travel report forecasts that by 2024 shopping and eating experiences will be transformed by the convergence of ‘transtailing’ – a new format of transit retail – and a mixture of physical and digital retail techniques called ‘phygital’.  Many major retailers have already begun trialling new ways to enhance the retail experience within airports.

Tesco’s virtual grocery walls, first tested in subway stations and bus stations in South Korea before being introduced at Gatwick airport, have inspired retailers at India’s New Delhi airport to follow suit. Here, shoppers can scan QR codes on their smartphones to buy luxury goods, including perfume, jewellery, cameras and smartphones. Similar initiatives are being tested in Frankfurt, and in domestic departure lounges in many of China’s second-tier city airports and terminals.

Skyscanner’s report says the future of making phygital transtailing a (virtual) reality is through the use of haptic technologies – technologies that provide people with a physical sensation, such as vibration in response to the touch of a finger on a screen.

In 2013, Tokyo’s University of Agriculture and Technology’s ‘Smelling Screen’ – a TV screen that can produce odours that seem to emanate from specific areas of the screen – marked the beginning of what is set to be a haptic technology boom.

By 2024, the concept of the smelling screen will have evolved so that not only will a traveller be looking at a bottle of Chanel No.5 on a screen, but they will be able to hold and touch it, even smell the exact scent of the perfume, without ever coming into physical contact with it.

Skyscanner’s Marketing Manager Australia and New Zealand, Dave Boyte, said, ‘Skyscanner works at the leading edge of where technology meets travel, always with the traveller in mind. That’s why we worked on our Future of Travel report and why we’re so interested in where the future will take us. We can already see the future in airports today. And in tomorrow’s world airports will rival traditional shopping malls and phrases like ‘phygital’ and ‘haptic’ are going to be a part of the airport retailer’s vocabulary.’

Other elements of the future, some of which we can see in our airports of today, are:

  1. Futuristic art and sculptures (Schipol and Heathrow T2)
  2. Digital bag tags (courtesy of British Airways)
  3. Virtual assistants or holograms (credit: Tensator)
  4. Biometric scanners for a faster security experience
  5. Green spaces in departure lounge (Changi x2)
  6. Visual spaces at airports (LAX moment factory)
  7. Personal guidance system to show you the fastest way to navigate airports (Copenhagen Wayfinder app)

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