Interview with Birgit Aust, Managing Director TVG Touristik Vertriebsgesellschaft, Munich, Germany
“Best Digital Media Concept“ – For this category, the trade association POPAI awarded the flagship store of the Touristik Vertriebsgesellschaft (TVG) with its ”POPAI Digital Signage Award“ in Gold. In September at their head office in Munich, the tourism experts opened up the award-winning ”travel agency of the future“. Digital Signage is part of the infrastructure here. Yet what counts is not just the technology, but also the design. Now the concept is scheduled to be transferred to 250 stores.
Congratulations on your POPAI Award. What does the TVG do?
The Touristik Vertriebsgesellschaft was established in 1996. The TVG is a 100 percent subsidiary of FTI Frosch Touristik based in Munich. The TVG combines different travel agency franchise models with the brands sonnenklar.TV-Reisebüro, Flugbörse and 5vorFlug under one roof. This way we are represented throughout Germany with 190 travel agencies.
What needs to change in Germany travel agencies to survive against the Internet?
I see the future of travel agencies in service 2.0: Here the local sales office and the Internet cooperate with each other. That is to say that at the “travel agency of the future“ personal and individual service is combined with the most modern technical capabilities of sales approach. Those who wish to survive in the marketplace in the long run, actively incorporate the benefits of the Internet in their sales consultation, for example information from providers like www.holidaycheck.de or Google Earth. With the aid of multimedia options – like for instance travel movies on large screens – customers can get inspired in their search for the right trip. In addition, customers should be able to reach their travel experts at any time via Facebook or Skype – regardless of time and place, for instance also from their vacation spot.
What is the equipment concept at the “travel agency of the future“?
Our store concept goes beyond a modern “furniture concept“ and combines all benefits of a local sales office with the online world. It is our goal to create a world of experiences for the customers and to present emotional products in a functional and at the same time highly emotional environment. The interior design of the offices is therefore conceived to where it also caters to young people who prefer to book online: With retro chic furnishings, large monitor screens, clear lines and iPads for travel research we impart the travel agencies with a young image. Our little visitors can spend their time at the “Kinderinsel“ (children’s island/play zone), until their parents have found their dream vacation. The “travel agency of the future“ is also a meeting place for the online community and offers a stylish lounge as an offline platform for the individual exchange of pointers and experiences.
250 stores of franchisees are scheduled to be opened based on the Munich model. The photo shows the store in Trostberg. © TVG
What role does digital signage play?
“Digital signage“ and multimedia are a central topic in our “travel agency of the future“. We use large screens in the shop windows as well as in the actual travel agency. We use 46-inch monitors in the windows, which get populated with local, various offers, pictures and movies by our headquarters. They replace the traditional sales flyers. The screens in the sales room also wet your appetite for a vacation with photos and videos.
When did the travel agency open? And what comes next?
In September 2010 the first “travel agency of the future“ opened in Munich. Aside from the flagship store in Munich, agencies in Stuttgart, Osnabrück, Gotha and Trostberg have already become a reality. Before long, agencies in Chemnitz, Gera and Rheinberg are to follow. The travel agencies of the franchise brand sonnenklar.TV and Flugbörse are meant to also continue to grow on this basis. Until 2013 in every German town with over 30,000 residents, we would like to be present with a ”travel agency of the future”. That’s why in the medium term there are 250 agencies planned.
We had the outfit for the “travel agency of the future“ designed in three store sizes: The smallest unit has 25 square meters, followed by 46 or 70 square meters. In doing so, everybody is meant to be able to afford a “travel agency of the future“. Twenty-five square meters can be furnished starting at 10,000 Euros. There are additional options to get a loan. Next we will also introduce our “concept of the future“ for airports.
How are the screens being used?
On the screens, customers see vacation pictures, movies and offers. The offers are matched to the geographical market, specials can also be displayed. Since the customer is surrounded by numerous screens during the consultation at the travel agency, these offers are also incorporated in the talk. Until the end of the year, the plan is for the agencies to be able to have access to respective movies during the consultation. This way they can make the vacation destination an even more real experience for the customer.
How important was the design?
The design is very crucial, since it represents an eye-catching package, because the design of our “travel agency of the future“ does not match the picture of a classic travel agency. Through the design we put the emphasis back on the service of “travel agency“ for the customer.
How do you succeed in the integration of technical screens into a feel-good shopfitting concept?
By creating a feel-good atmosphere with other elements – like a rug, the lounge or the consultation at a round table. The customers and his travel expert sit next to each other just like at a kitchen table and not across from each other like in the typical “doctor/patient situation“.
Digital signage with external effect: Passers-by on the street also see the large screens in the interior of the store. Digital columns in the shop window replace the sales flyers. © TVG
What role does the shop window play for the use of digital signage?
For the time being we passed on using further options like touch control on the window pane, since we also always keep an eye on the financial limits of our franchise partners when it comes to technical innovations. However, we constantly look into innovations which we try out in our flagship store in Munich.
In the “travel agency of the future“ do you also use kiosk terminals for customer self-service during waiting times?
Aside from the large screens, customers of the franchise chains sonnenklar.TV-Reisebüro and Flugbörse can pass the waiting time with iPads. We are presently only using kiosk terminals in our flagship store; however these are seldom used by customers.
Who provides the content on the screens?
The TVG main office populates the screens with regionally varying photos and movies. Here we benefit from the large film library of the travel shopping TV channel sonnenklar.TV. The daily updated offers can also be exchanged in the shortest amount of time. Another advantage: On the TVG Intranet, the travel agencies have access to the current playlist at any time.
Do you anticipate advertising revenue?
We use the topic of “digital signage“ specifically as an advertising platform: Hosts can book a slot on the screens to call customer attention to their top offers. The advantage is that the partners are represented 100 percent at the POS and are able to relate to this based on the playlists. This is absolute effective marketing.
Interview by René Schellbach, EuroCIS