What is available right now when searching as a consumer?
Mainly due to higher mobile phone useage and access to the internet, there is now an increased level of transparency of information at point of purchase by consumers (such as at the duty free shop). That initial thought on transparency led me to think and wonder about the current status on price comparison websites, focusing primarily on Duty Free.
I would expect that most people within the industry will agree that there could be potential benefits in principle for these type of sites if managed properly and communicating all of the variables contributing to an enhanced value perception (i.e. benefit through increased penetration levels, spend, etc online to extend beyond offline offer). However, there is also an inherent risk that they could create issues due to misinterpretation or misunderstanding by consumers of the value proposition and thus, negatively impact on Duty Free/ Travel Retail as a whole.
The maintenance and enhancement of the Value Perception of Duty Free shopping by consumers is paramount and this is one of the reasons for the focus on the price variable by retailers against the respective domestic market, such as in the example below taken from the UK.
As a quick exercise, I googled the term ‘duty free price comparison’ and looked only at those websites available on page 1 of Google Search (below), in which there were 4 available: Easydutyfree; Duty Free Addict; DutyFree.Buzz; Live Price Duty Free (or DutyFreeonlinestores.com).
There seems to be other websites out there but either they have now ceased to exist (such as DutyFreeBee.com launched in 2014 and no longer functional) or they have not ranked high enough when googling for duty free price comparison sites (such as Duty Free Hunter which seems to focus more on news items relating to duty free channel).
Another site available for price comparison is Dutyfreeonarrival.com which claims to be “the original global consumer information site for Duty Free and Tax-Free shopping”, with the website and database originally established in 2009. As stated on their website: “We have no association with any other website offering such information or price comparison facilities for travelling shoppers. Our advice and comment is independent, with the intention of assisting shoppers to discover accurate and informed details, before they travel.”
So back to the four websites found in page 1 of the Google search conducted tonight (Wed 12th October 2016).
There is an accompanying app available to download and they seem intent on helping reduce the stress by making duty free shopping more convenient. As per the comment from its founder, Karan Ahuja, extracted from the Times of India article:
When you land in Mumbai, you can switch on your phone and visit Dutyfreebuzz.com. After you have homed in on the product you plan to buy, the site will direct you to the Mumbai duty-free website DFS.com, and then, in 15 minutes, your order would be packed and waiting to be collected.
I think this is definitely a website worth keeping an eye out for how they develop going forward. DFS/ Flemingo are actively working with them in India as per this article on The Moodie Davitt Report. No direct comparison to domestic market seems to be in place but it helps to explain your allowances which can be a concern for potential shoppers.
Next was probably Duty Free Addict. This site helps compare price for different airports once again (rather than against domestic), it is only focused on price and helps to explain more about tax and the potential benefits to consumers. An interesting feature is the ranking from least to most expensive airports based on product categories (see below) or even by brand. I have not tested how accurate this information is in actual fact, but still is a neat way to display price ranking information.
Both of these seem to offer the possibility of purchasing online and collecting the benefit (the tax free element) either by having the product delivery directly to you or by re-claiming it for passengers leaving outside the EU but visiting France for example. Clearly I have no idea how well these websites work and operate as I have not tried to buy any goods through these sites. If anyone out there has, I would be keen to have the feedback.
It seems at first glance at least that all of these four websites found whilst googling offer only a limited benefit to the average consumer out there, either due to the type of information available, the service on offer or because of its sole focus on the price variable which is unlikely to gain support across the Trinity of stakeholders within travel retail, in order to allow it to develop and engage with the industry in full.