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By: Pepi Sappal   •   email: info@trunblocked.com.com

Recent cultural marketing gaffes made by luxury brands such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry have demonstrated that a diverse workforce – particularly in global organisations – is a must. All three incidents (Dolce & Gabbana’s commercial of an Asian model trying to eat Italian food with chopsticks; Gucci’s ‘blackface’ sweater controversy; and Burberry’s hangman-noose hoodie) provide huge lessons for any brand operating globally or in DF & TR. They highlight the importance of hiring diverse employees with adequate cultural knowledge/insight to guide brands through the complexities of race, religion and local social norms – particularly if you want to avoid damaging your brand’s reputation, lose customer loyalty, or suffer from financial losses and lost opportunities.

Thankfully, the international nature of TR makes it one of the most diverse departments of any global organisation. ”We embrace diversity throughout our workforce and Bacardi employs 7000 people from a wide range of nationalities”, confirms Bacardi Global Travel Retail. As a result of this diversity, Bacardi says it is able to successfully tap into both local and global traveller needs to select the right products for local DF & TR markets, as well as curate the right message in its promotions for specific travelling populations.

Bacardi boasts a diverse workforce capable of creating the right campaigns for its diverse travelling populations, particularly during auspicious occasions like Diwali.

Beauty brands like L’Oréal and Shiseido are also continuing to make a huge effort to ensure its brands are not just creating products suitable for diverse consumers, but also that diversity is reflected in its campaigns and promotions. (see: https://trunblocked.com/how-major-brands-are-satisfying-diverse-traveller-needs/ )


Recruiting diversity alone, however, is not enough. Successful communication with international shoppers – whether it’s face to face or through advertising/marketing campaigns – not only depends on how diverse your DF & TR team is, but also how well trained they are to deal with increasingly diverse traveller needs. A diverse customer-facing workforce – especially staff who have the right language skills, cultural knowledge and a good understanding of travelling customer needs – are key to uplifting sales in DF & TR. This is according to the latest Duty Free World Council (DFWC) KPI Monitor. The latest report for Q1 2019, carried out by m1nsdet, reveals that travel retail staff are not only a key contributor to the overall shopping experience in airports, but are also influential in converting browsers into buyers.

Sales staff who understand ”the specific needs of travelling consumers” and ”have the knowledge and skills to cater to those needs is key for DF & TR”, confirmed DFWC President Frank O’Connell. However, the DFWC report reveals that, on average, less than half of global shoppers (48%) interact with staff in airport shops. ”Given that half of shoppers globally interact with staff in duty free shops, there is huge potential for the industry to make a concerted effort to train staff to be more proactive in engaging with shoppers and positively influence the sale”, added O’Connell.


In short, diverse and adequately trained customer-facing employees, capable of dealing with diverse travellers, are a must. L’Oréal Travel Retail Managing Director, Vincent Boinay, believes that brand ambassadors with the right product knowledge and language skills on the shop floor are key to TR success. ”It’s vital for our beauty brand ambassadors to not only have the product knowledge, but also the cultural and language skills to engage with international customers”.

That’s why L’Oréal Travel Retail has invested in tools to help its staff engage better with its international shoppers. ” We have an e-learning app to help our brand ambassadors and beauty advisers access not only up-to-date information on all our brands and new products, but also knowledge about our global shoppers, too”, explains Boinay. ”For example, the app can provide facts about different travelling nationalities and guidance on how to communicate with our customers depending on their background”.

L’Oréal Travel Retail provides its brand ambassadors an e-learning interactive app to help them gain knowledge about brands and access to training.

The interactive app also has games to test the brand ambassador’s knowledge and informs them of their progress. ”It’s a great way
to transfer knowledge to our brand ambassadors and ultimately helps us in our mission to connect continents”, adds Boinay. He believes tools like this have helped L’Oréal Travel Retail achieve its best performance in more than a decade.

As this case highlights, providing your diverse staff with the right training/tools to help them deal with the diverse needs of international shoppers, effectively goes a long way to not only improve the customer experience, but also uplift sales.

To that end, DFWC has created an industry first – an Academy dedicated to offering accredited, online training programmes specifically for people working in, or planning to join, the Travel Retail industry. The DFWC Academy’s first course – a Certificate in Duty Free and Travel Retail – will start in September this year. For more information, check out: https://iiretail.com

The DFWC Academy has launched its Certificate in Duty Free and Travel Retail to upskill employees in the DF & TR sector.

Peter Marshall

Founder: trunblocked.com/Marshall Arts

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