In response to demands to include more detail on Duty Free product packing, Nikki Fisher, head of staffing at Blackjack Promotions outlines a complementary way to convey complex information to customers in an accessible and easy-to-use way: face to face. 

Packaging is an integral part of what makes luxury brands luxurious – but there’s a major storm cloud on the horizon, over demands from consumer affairs watchdogs and regulatory bodies to provide a greater level of detail in the product information on packaging. 

As the Duty Free World Council (DFWC), which is spearheading attempts to find an alternative to packs covered in text, says in a recent statement:

“Ever-increasing levels of detail in product information which must be communicated to consumers across many product categories presents some unique challenges for our industry. Not only is the volume of information required increasing but greater complexity is being added in terms of local language requirements and a myriad of formats through which the information must be presented.”

The DFWC warns that these requirements “will continue to become more onerous in the future,” and says they are impacting the confectionery, fine food, wines and spirits, and beauty categories. The brutal truth is that in Duty Free, for many products, “viability requires volumes which disappears if the same format cannot be sold across many markets.”

The problem is particularly acute for products which are sold in the Duty Free retail space, because these are often limited-edition, exclusive ranges; even when they aren’t, it simply wouldn’t be possible to print on the packaging every ingredient and provide total disclosure of production methods, sourcing of ingredients and ethical treatment of staff and animals in every language for every country there is an airport with retail space. The pack would have to be the size of the shop!

Not to mention the fact that aesthetically it would look awful and completely undermine any attempt to support a premium brand image. Luxury brands often try to reduce their packaging to the bare essentials – less is very definitely more.

One solution, currently being developed by the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), which is a member of the DFWC, would be to put all the product information that regulators and lobby groups want made available to consumers online, via a digital platform which can be accessed via a shopper’s mobile device or by in-store screens.

Basically, the idea is that consumers or staff can scan the product barcode and get all the information they want, in the language that they prefer, on screen.

Personally, I think this is an excellent solution – but I also think that there is a complementary way to convey complex information to customers in an accessible and easy-to-use way: face to face.

Professional, well-trained brand ambassadors should be on-hand to advise shoppers about products and help them access the information they need. There are travellers who will find it difficult to use a screen-based system, either because they can’t understand how to scan the barcodes or because they don’t have a smartphone which can handle the scanning process (not everyone has the latest smartphone!).

A digital platform where you can put all the information people could possibly need about products in Duty Free will also be enormously valuable for shop staff and Brand Ambassadors. 

The ETRC’s pilot of digital platforms would be massively useful, as its robust formula will ensure consistent delivery of information. At the same time, it would help keep Brand Ambassadors focused on what they do best (and what is most valuable to the brands they are working for) – engaging passengers, communicating brand stories, enhancing luxury service and maximising positive customer experiences.

In Duty Free, there is a tiny window of opportunity to engage the travelling consumer (far less than in traditional High Street retail). Anything that would help maximise the impact of engagement is something we would heartily welcome!