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).
At first glance, the most impressive website was DutyFree.Buzz. This website also seems to have the most PR available online with articles including one from The Times of India.
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.
The other remaining price comparison websites were less impressive in their display and presentation in my opinion: Easydutyfree and Dutyfreeonlinestores.com
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.
AmandaDecember 11, 2016
I just read your article on the Duty Free Comparison sites. Just to clarify, are you saying that comparison sites regarding duty free prices, are not going to get any lift off, because the travel industry dont want comparison sites?
I understand their reputation when it comes to comparing DF prices with high street prices and therefore being concerned their tax free component doesnt stack up to high street pricing. But if the comparison site is comparing the duty free price of a product in London airport, with the duty free price of the same product in Sydney airport, why wouldnt the travel industry be behind that?
I hope that all makes sense.
Thanks so much,
Andre de AlmeidaDecember 12, 2016
Thanks for the question on the topic.
For clarification, I am stating that in my personal opinion, these price-comparison websites tend to have the risk of being one dimensional as they only concentrate on price as a factor. As per my comment on the blog, “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.”
So if the websites were to focus not just on price comparison (whether vs domestic or other airports) but also on other variables that influence the perception of value in the eyes of the consumer, then they are more likely to have the support of the industry in my opinion.
Hope that clarifies. Thanks for the question!
AmandaDecember 12, 2016
Thanks for your response Andre. I like your theory. Though, when you say ‘other variables that influence the perception of value in the eyes of the consumer’, what do you mean exactly? Info on allowances and stock availability type things?
Andre de AlmeidaDecember 13, 2016
Other variables could be a gift, personalisation of the item being purchased, informing the consumer of how exclusive the product is (i.e. duty free exclusive), additional services being offered, etc.
IM SmithFebruary 1, 2017
Just found this post and it provides an interesting insight from an Industry Insider. Let me explain… firstly, we “duty free on arrival” do not compare prices at all, this is not our ethos. What we do is provide accurate information to shoppers, their allowances and simple links to online Duty Free stores by destination, so the consumer makes their own choice. The authenticity and birth of our site can be checked via the domain date of registration and wayback machine as well as on our Facebook page. As can the others.
Some of the other sites you feature are not Duty Free sites at all. One is a “traffic gatharing” SEO site for affiliation or online ad revenues, effectively piggybacking off the Duty Free market, but actually with no real relevance, apart from use of the high traffic keywords.
Another is an online retailer selling goods, allegedly at Duty Free prices, but of course real Duty Free cannot be sold and delivered online at all. Again, the keywords have been usurped and effectively to the detriment of real Travel Retailers.
The end result, the consumer is totally confused, probably mislead and primarily because the Travel Retail Industry has not got really (yet) to grips with digital, online and e-commerce. Nor the ludicrous state of google search, where machines think they understand context when they don’t! Result, Travel Retail sales and traffic is being acquired by others, bringing no real benefit to the Duty Free Retail Industry at all. The situation will only get worse, until TR cooperates with those who are trying to bring added value to the actual Industry.
NeilJuly 2, 2019
Thanks alot for sharing this post- Albeit a couple of years ago. I would be interested to have your thoughts (as well as IM Smith’s) on how you feel the world of online Duty Free has evolved- if at all. I have to say I feel that it’s still pretty confusing as a consumer.
Whilst I take on board your comments around added value, as someone who travels a lot for both work & leisure- often passing through multiple airports in one trip, it would be great if I was able to compare the price of the same product in each of the airports before I travel.
For example, I am flying from Manchester to Nairobi via Dubai- am I best buying my favourite aftershave from Manchester, Dubai or Nairobi?
Is this data accessible? In real time?
moshe maskJune 27, 2020
I would like to recommend on another site: https://dutypare.com
I think you should add it to your list. what do you think?