The National Academies

ACRP 03-70 [Active]

Incorporating Technologies into Airport In-Terminal Concession Programs

  Project Data
Funds: $499,541
Staff Responsibility: Joseph D. Navarrete
Research Agency: ICF SH&E
Principal Investigator: Stephen Freibrun
Effective Date: 5/9/2023
Completion Date: 11/8/2024


The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technologies in consumer purchase behavior and concessionaire operations. This is being reflected in airport in-terminal concessions. For example, e-commerce is often preferred to in-store purchasing of retail goods and food services, and some airports have started to implement omnichannel e-commerce platforms to deliver an advanced retail experience for passengers. The success of airport in-terminal concession programs will rely on much more than simply rolling out new technologies. Airports need to understand the challenges and opportunities these technologies might offer, how they would meet customer needs, and their impact on airport and concessions operations. However, there is little information and few resources available for airport operators to make informed decisions as they consider the incorporation of technologies into their in-terminal concessions programs.


The objective of this research is to develop a primer, framework, tools (e.g., flowchart, decision tree, checklist), and case studies to help airports identify, evaluate, select, and incorporate appropriate technologies into their in-terminal concessions programs.

The primer should define and describe relevant current and emerging technologies and document the role of technology in airport in-terminal concessions programs, with an emphasis on developments since 2019.

The framework and tools should be practical, scalable, and adaptable to specific airport characteristics (e.g., size, governance) and needs. They should address, at a minimum, the following topics relative to airport concessions and technology:

  • Assessing consumer buying habits;
  • Evaluating the impacts of existing and emerging technology on internal (back-of-the-house) and external (passenger-facing) concessions processes;
  • Determining technology preferences of various customer demographics;
  • Identifying potential risks (e.g., data privacy, operations, security);
  • Defining capital expenditure (e.g., hardware) and ongoing operating (e.g., software, personnel) costs;
  • Developing revenue projections/business cases (return on investment);
  • Defining key performance indicators and success measures (e.g., revenue and operational metrics, customer experience);
  • Identifying operational efficiencies and challenges;
  • Use and stewardship (e.g., transparency, privacy, accountability) of data;
  • Interoperability and compatibility with other technology infrastructure;
  • Developing a cross-functional team within the airport’s organization to launch technology-related initiatives;
  • Considering challenges and opportunities for local and/or small-business concessions;
  • How an airport’s concessions business model impacts the identification and adoption of new technologies;
  • How new technologies can impact existing and/or foster new business agreements;
  • Identifying relevant external stakeholders for coordination/buy-in; and
  • Potential impact of technology on concessions workforce (e.g., staffing level, skillsets, training, employee well-being, retention).

The case studies should be used to both inform the research and provide lessons learned and examples of a variety of successful uses of technology in airport in-terminal concessions and relevant non-airport concessions programs.

STATUS: Research is underway.


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