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In Person


James Woudhuysen


As a professor in forecasting James has his finger on the pulse of consumer trends and tells it straight when it comes to looking ahead. Richard Williams hears his views on the passenger experience


James Woudhuysen PROFESSOR OF FORECASTING AND INNOVATION AT DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY James helped install Britain’s first computer-controlled car park in 1968, before graduating in physics. He was editor of Design and co-founder of Blueprint magazine. He led a multi- client study on e-commerce in 1988 for the designers Fitch. At the Henley Centre for Forecasting he proposed that the web be delivered over TV in1993. He was head of worldwide market intelligence at Philips Consumer Electronics, the Netherlands, 1995-7; and director of the product designers Seymour Powell, 1997-2001. He has been independent since 2001.


Retailing onboard seems obvious, but how can providers maximise their success? JW: By selling products that aren't just trying to get across the airline's brand values and that aren't over-priced. Sell things people actually want to buy so when the flight attendant announces 'Duty Free Goods' it isn't in a tone that shows she fully expects zero sales.


Do passengers buy what they need, or more on impulse? If the merchandising of products was better, people would buy more, for both of these reasons.


How should airlines tailor the products they offer to the specific route? Fly London to Ancona with Ryanair and you are currently offered hot chocolate (which tastes of cardboard), or burgers (which taste of cardboard). Fly British Airways to Nice and you are currently offered a chicken wrap (which tastes of paper, way more than chicken) and maybe a vegetarian wrap. What about a proper coffee and some prosciutto on an Italian flight, and a salad Nicoise if you're on route to Nice?


What is the best channel to use to connect with the customer, and why? Whatever happened to our old favourite, multi-channel retailing? Still, much will be done by mobile, especially when mobile phone use is more widely available on planes. As for other marketing channels, I suspect Twitter will be more important. It's easier to use than Facebook.


What should airports be selling before and after the flight? In the departure lounge: painkillers, face wipes, eyemasks, earplugs,


58 WWW.ONBOARDHOSPITALITY.COM


newspapers, Sudoku, headrests for sleeping, 'Twelve phrases you need to know in Arabic', Rosetta Stone language kits, maps of the destination, histories of the destination, information on how much it costs once there and how long it takes to get out of the airport to your final destination, maps of the airport. For arrivals: painkillers, face wipes, NICE razors and tooth care; information on local events, consulates, doctors and dentists, information on how to return earlier or later, SIM cards.


What trends do you expect to see in passenger retail in the next two years? In just two years, very little will change. If, and when, airlines recruit more experienced retailers


with proper product and display knowledge, then both merchandising and visual merchandising may improve. Looking five years out: some products may be a little more intricate, personalised and lightweight through 3D printing. More will be orientated to older people. But don't hold your breath!


How does 'unbundling' improve the consumer experience? Perhaps not at all. The example of mobile phones, for which you now need a PhD to understand the full range of options on your bill, shows just how important it is to go about unbundling in ways that do not lead straight to what Barry Schwartz some years back described, in a book of the same name, as The Tyranny of Choice.


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