People Power: How to unlock the next level of service

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By Marco Passoni

What is the most important part of the physical retail experience? For me, the answer to this is clear. While price, presentation and digital integration are vital, people are what sets the in-store retail experience apart – both for shoppers and for brands.

It has been encouraging to see in recent weeks that both the latest travel retail events, the TRBusiness Consumer Forum and the DFNI Cruise Conference, highlighted the important role that people play in engaging consumers in the new normal.

Our current customers are big on digital engagement, and they expect to find this seamlessly continued and enhanced in the physical realm. In most cases, people are the key to the second part of that. They provide what the online world never can – the human touch.

People are the key to enhancing the digital experience; they provide what the online world never can – the human touch.

During the trying days of the pandemic, many said that Covid-19 would spell the end of human interaction in stores. They predicted that people would shy away from interaction, maybe never lingering in stores again. Thankfully they have been proven very wrong. Like those naysayers who loudly proclaimed the end of travel retail during the shutdown, they have now disappeared as the new normal proves the opposite is true. Data on current shopping habits makes it clear that not only are many shoppers seeking out human interaction in stores, that interaction also has a big impact on their purchase decisions.

This underlines the importance of not just providing staff in stores, but also ensuring they have all the training and support they need to provide the perfect brand experience from beginning to end. We have all stepped into travel retail stores and seen harassed or unenthused staff and that apathy is immediately passed on to shoppers and they do not spend.

In fact, just recently I stopped at a branded tasting bar in an airport. There was a new variety on show and I wanted to try it for myself and consider a purchase. There was a very attractive display, with bottles, promises of perfect serves and an invitation to try. But there were no staff. Shop staff passing by showed no interest as we waited for someone to help us. Eventually, I lost interest and walked away, deciding not to purchase that brand in future. This is how important staff are; they are what makes all the other work worthwhile in store.

This is how important staff are; they are what makes all the other work worthwhile in store

This has been driven home recently as it was announced that many leading luxury brands are fighting to hire enough staff and properly train them to meet the demand in stores as shoppers continue to return in huge numbers. It is worthless to hire staff if you cannot properly train and educate them, and the fact that leading luxury brands understand this is why they stand apart in the service they offer for consumers.

At 2.0 & Partners, we experience this first hand with our Retail Academy 2.0 service. This is a bespoke programme which delivers training and insights for brands, airports and retailers, ensures that staff are equipped with all the knowledge of the products, ideals and the consumer demographics, to deliver the perfect experience in-store.

All of this is supported by our dedicated app, which offers real-time insights and tracking for team members to measure performance and data. Every time we host one of these events for a partner, we hear from staff how vital the insights and understandings are. Our staff are our best possible ambassadors and our most valuable assets. They must always be invested in.

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We also recognise that this is as true for our own team as it is for our partners. That is why I am delighted that we have recently welcomed both Monica Casali Belostock and Vittoria Passoni to the 2.0 & Partners team as Senior Partners. Monica is an expert in the beauty sector and her wealth of experience and insights will be a huge bonus to all our clients, both new and existing. I am personally also very happy to see my daughter Vittoria join the team, she is a passionate advocate for the luxury sector and possesses great experience across the hospitality and luxury markets which will help take our offer and service to the next level. It is wonderful for me to see her join me in the industry that I love, and I am proud of the work she is already doing.

This pride is how we should all feel about our teams; our people are the biggest benefit we have and they are how we can take our offer to the next level – in any business.

Marco Passoni has decades of experience in the travel retail sector. He has spent the majority of his career in senior leader positions throughout the market, including a 12-year tenure as CEO of a leading international Duty Free distribution company and a further 8 years running a retail firm that operated fashion mono-brand stores in several international airports.
Today, as Senior Executive VP and founding partner of 2.0 & Partners, he leads the company’s efforts in developing and innovating services which create new opportunities and partnerships for all members of the travel retail Trinity. A former elite-level sailor, with a World Championship to his name, Marco now spends much of his time airside, experiencing the changing travel retail industry first-hand, to better guide partners and clients on the best way to do business in this vibrant and unique market.