- Gatwick Airport, the second-busiest U.K. airport after Heathrow, installed 2,000 beacons to help travelers navigate through its gates, baggage claim and other facilities. The beacons help to get more accurate personal coordinates on a smartphone’s GPS map, according to MediaPost.
- Gatwick, which has 43.1 million travelers a year, plans to add an augmented reality (AR) feature that will help guide travelers through the airport. The app will display digital arrows on a smartphone’s camera view to direct individual users based on their desired in-airport destination. The airport is also talking to airlines about integrating the indoor navigation tool into their respective apps to push notifications like boarding alerts or flight schedule updates to travelers.
- Eventually, the AR features will allow retailers and restaurants inside the airport to insert location-based ads into the smartphone view to promote special offers, TechCrunch reported.
AR features are a positive way for airports to engage with travelers who are willing to download an indoor navigation app that they may end up using just once. With North American airport retail sales estimated to more than double to $9.9 billion by 2020 from $4.2 billion in 2015, airports' mobile apps should leverage new consumer trends and highlight promotions at stores and restaurants. Much of this growth comes from international travelers, which means those apps also should have multilingual features for non-English speakers in order to boost its accessibility.
Heathrow Airport, the fifth-busiest airport in the world with 75.7 million passengers last year, is particularly dependent on retailers for its revenue growth. The airport’s retail sales grew 8.8% in Q1 2017 from a year earlier, compared with a 2% increase in aeronautical revenue collected from airlines, according to its quarterly report.
Because airport apps aren’t nearly as popular as airline apps, airports should strive to implement their location-based systems with their airline customers. Apps for the largest 25 airlines were downloaded 117 million times, or 14 times as many downloads for airport apps, according to one estimate. By next year, 80% of airports will have implemented mobile apps, according to an airport IT trends study by SITA that suggested airports are wasting money on developing apps. Retail sales may be one way to justify the cost.