Retail Sales Take Flight with Free WiFi Service
WiFi is becoming more widely available and affordable in flights. As such, e-commerce is increasingly taking place at 35,000 feet with a crop of deals enabling online shopping for free.
During the month of June, travelers with web-enabled laptops, smartphones or tablets on Delta planes could access Zappos.com for free. Under the promotion with the shoe e-tailer and Aircell, which owns the Gogo Inflight Internet brand, travelers on WiFi-enabled Delta flights clicked through a Zappos promotion banner at the Gogo access page, where consumers normally enter their payment data to buy in-flight web access. Clicking through gave them access to the whole Zappos website all the way through payout.
For the month of July, Gilt Groupe, the operator of the gilt.com flash shopping website, is offering a similar deal with Gogo-equipped flights on Delta, United, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines and US Airways. For Gogo, the leader in providing in-flight web access, the first e-tailer-centered freebie was (perhaps not surprisingly) Skymall.com, the website for the eponymous in-flight shopping catalog, for the month of December. Facebook and Google has also partnered with Gogo on free-access promotions.
Free or not, e-commerce is expected to become more common on flights with the arrival of much cheaper and more accessible internet access. Prices range from $4.95 for a short flight to $12.95 for a long one. Gogo also charges $35 for unlimited monthly access ($20 for mobile).
In an interview with Jaunted, the culture travel guide, Niels Steenstrup, VP of sales and marketing for Gogo, said 68 percent of passengers on planes come with their own WiFi-enabled device. Ultimately, Gogo is hoping to entice travelers with an “in-flight library” of movies and TV shows, much wider than those available from the airlines, while also offering videochat and other services.
Speaking to USA Today, Amy Cravens, an analyst at market researcher In-Stat, estimates that only seven percent to 10 percent of passengers on WiFi-equipped planes use the service due to concerns over the quality given the cost but also because of a lack of familiarity. The free-access deals are hoped to reduce that unfamiliarity, although Gogo officials admit the ploy doesn’t come cheap.
“This isn’t like offering free WiFi in a Starbucks,” says Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo’s chief marketing officer. “It is an expensive undertaking, and we are sensitive to reasonable pricing. It’s like asking Verizon and AT&T to give away 4G.”
- Complimentary Gogo inflight access to Zappos.com on Delta Air Lines in June – Gogo
- Gilt Groupe and Gogo Team up to Offer Airline Passengers Exclusive In-air Deals – Gogo
- Gogo Inflight and SkyMall team up for complimentary in-flight shopping access – Gogo
- Miles above the earth, no shoe store in site–unless you’re on Delta – Internet Retailer
- Inside Gogo InFlight: A New Gogo Logo and What’s Next for WiFi in the Skies – Jaunted
- Airlines offer free in-flight Facebook – USA Today
Discussion Questions: What do you think of the e-commerce in-flight retailing opportunity? How should retailers be preparing for more accessible and affordable in-flight web access?