Onboard retailing to undergo radical changes in 2016, says report

INTERNATIONAL. Smart selling techniques and a further expansion of the self-service model will be two of the key innovation trends in onboard retailing in 2016.

That’s according to a new report from technology company GuestLogix, called “˜Six for “˜16: What New Retailing Experiences Await Airlines and their Passengers in 2016?’.

Smart selling makes use of data taken from booking engines, customer records, loyalty programmes and mobile interactions to provide special offers and targeted promotions. By gaining a better understanding of the customer profile, the report says airlines will be able to more effectively segment and market to passengers, based on metrics such as the amount spent on previous trips or their role in the booking process.

The report’s authors, GuestLogix EVP Corporate & Business Development Chris Gardner and SVP Platform Craig Proud, say airlines will also have to fully embrace a self-service model to keep up with passenger expectations. “Passengers want to be able to pre-order items before they leave the ground or as they book their flights, for delivery to their seats once they are in the air,” they note.

The self-service “evolution” is also predicted to extend across the entire travel journey in 2016, with the report imagining airports featuring self-service kiosks and smartphone-swiping passengers able to pre-order meals and buy duty free products or souvenirs for delivery onboard.

Looking ahead: GuestLogix EVP Corporate & Business Development Chris Gardner (left) and SVP Platform Craig Proud, the authors of the report

This change will force airlines to alter their supply chain and inventory systems to make sure they have enough of what passengers pre-ordered and will order in real time, the report’s authors note.

“The self-service model will not emerge overnight, and it will not be free of challenges, but the evolution is inevitable, and it brings a host of benefits for airlines, retailers and passengers alike,” the report says. “It will be shaped by data, pent-up passenger demand and airlines’ ability to adapt to new circumstances, technologies and service models as they search for smoother operations and increased revenues.”

Many of the changes to onboard retailing will be underpinned by significant improvements in internet connectivity, another of the six trends identified in the report. Solutions will come from a variety of approaches, it predicts, including more satellite-provided Wi-Fi services, networks, and faster, higher-bandwidth, in-cabin Wi-Fi technologies.

Ordering opportunities: Better onboard connectivity will mean more retail possibilities, but the self-service model will also extend to the airport

Internet connectivity will also allow “evolutionary” changes in mobile payments, “fuelled by passengers’ growing use and trust in mobile (and digital) wallets such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and the like. Already built into their smartphones, these new methods of payment will serve as the transactional foundation for seamless, real-time retailing and sales.”

The report authors conclude that the greater adoption of Wi-Fi connectivity by airlines will “profoundly” alter air travel, with 2016 the year that “true change” materialises. “Combined with passengers’ heavy reliance on mobile devices for all aspects of travel, airlines will phase out old ways of doing business and embrace new ways of identifying, selling to, serving, communicating with and transacting with their passengers.”

The full report can be read here.

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