When marketers think about target demographics, normally descriptors like age, location, gender, and occupation come to mind. But what about when an audience is temporary or transient, like in an airport? How does that affect marketing strategy?

It would be remiss for marketers to treat target markets in an airport the same as they would street-side, mainly because their situation is so unique and fleeting. They are catering to a typically more stressed and fast-paced audience that might be more prone to irritation or impatience.

Not only should businesses in the airport offer the same level of service that customers have come to expect outside TSA, but they also need to consider service factors specific to the airport, consistency and speed of service in particular.

A recent article on Fast Casual by Matthew Harper looks into the airport market success of food chains Au Bon Pain and HMSHost and the marketing and sales considerations they make to ensure a delightfully consistent experience for their customer.

Managing Partner at Au Bon Pain, Diego Ortiz, told Fast Casual, “The airport sector gives us an opportunity to bring our fresh, quality offering to a high volume of repeat customers every single day — both regular travelers and airport workers — and new customers.”

In this statement, Ortiz touches on the significance of marketing to both return customers that have certain expectations for an establishment as well as new customers that may be forming their first impression of a restaurant in the chaotic environment of the airport.

Changing the traveler’s perception of an airport dining experience has become a priority for food vendors in airports. Just because something is fast, doesn’t mean it will cut it in the airport anymore, especially larger travel hubs. Marketers know that the establishment’s physical image, quality of food, and strong customer service all have to be communicated to ensure success for an airport unit.

Injecting an element of personalization is, of course, key for today’s consumers, but can be particularly tricky for establishments that tend to be focused on speed. This is where increases in technology adoption in addition to impeccable customer service behoove airport vendors. More and more customers are looking for fast, seamless purchasing experiences that utilize technology they are comfortable with and don’t slow the flow of their travel plans.

Steve Johnson, CEO of HMSHost, shared with Fast Casual that, “In many cases, this technology is helping the industry improve efficiencies and enhance the customer experience. But it is important to realize that technology is not the only answer and it will not always provide the ideal experience for all of our guests. While some customers are increasingly using technology to make restaurant choices, to place orders, to pay, etc., technology preferences are still as diverse as the travelers we serve.”

Given the choice, I always opt for the airport with better food options (both in quality of service and food), especially since I plan to be spending a good amount of time there. So it’s encouraging to see establishments like Au Bon Pain and HMSHost taking that into account with their evolving airport marketing strategy.

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