Inflight retail recast for omnichannel era
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A handful of data-driven partnerships have highlighted renewed interest in travel retail’s inflight channel, as industry stakeholders look to agile new digital retail solutions in a post-Covid economy.

When inflight entertainment services, F&B and duty-free retail combine there are multiple omnichannel opportunities. This is the premise for a new strategic partnership between Boeing Horizon-X invested company,  Immfly and Tourvest Retail Services that have combined the former’s connected cabin digital services and entertainment platform with the latter’s integrated retail technology to provide air and retail operators with new ancillary revenue opportunities. 

“This collaboration demonstrates our platform’s agility to interface with airlines’ key strategic partners, to deliver industry-leading digital services,” says Maria Cardenal, Immfly’s vice-president, Product and Digital Services.

Tourvest Retail Services CEO Clive Jones said: “By combining our individual strengths through this strategic partnership, we are able to leverage the synergies created to benefit our customers. This collaboration allows us to integrate our retail value proposition into the on-board digital platforms, enhancing our omnichannel e-commerce journey, whilst maintaining a single, seamless and personalised customer experience.”

Tourvest Retail Services Head of Business Development, Strategy & Innovation Michelle Green added: “We have been developing our digital strategy both for customer facing solutions as well as back office functionality. Our API stack ensures a seamless end-to-end approach that drives customer satisfaction as well as, the integration into the back of house supply chain and waste management elements.”

Inflight retail specialist Gategroup has launched Shopamore, an e-commerce operation local to Swedish residents that sells a range of fashion accessories and beauty products and targets customers that would usually be flying in and out of Scandinavia. 

The online store is an alternative domestic delivery offer for passengers who, pre-pandemic, were regular shoppers via Gategroup’s Holiday Taxfree shopping platform. The company says the shopping platform was devised as a new and creative way to offload some of the duty-free merchandise the retailer is carrying. These products are now available on the Shopamore website, but with direct delivery to customers’ homes and original tax prices further reduced, says the retailer.

“While we are all waiting for the return of air travel, Shopamore is a way of keeping customers in touch with one of the fun aspects of travel while bagging a bargain at the same time”, says Director Gateretail Digital and Marketing, Sweden Åsa Råd Vaher.

Singapore Airlines had already shifted its inflight sales to online with the launch of its KrisShop e-commerce partnership [with AOE] in 2019. In spring 2020, the airline suspended circulation of its physical inflight magazine in a bid to stop the spread of Covid infections onboard its flights and instead offered a pre-order to seat delivery service for KrisShop purchases. 

“Pivoting to the ‘right sales channel’ means we have been able to make the most of the opportunities presented by an omnichannel platform. With everyone on lockdown [in Singapore] online seems to be the only channel that people are looking at. It’s the defacto channel while physical stores are closed; it means the idea of pivoting to ecommerce is even more important for airlines,” says KrisShop CEO Chris Pok, talking during an interview in May. 

“Pivoting to the ‘right sales channel’ means we have been able to make the most of the opportunities presented by an omnichannel platform. With everyone on lockdown [in Singapore] online seems to be the only channel that people are looking at. It’s the defacto channel while physical stores are closed; it means the idea of pivoting to ecommerce is even more important for airlines,” says KrisShop CEO Chris Pok, talking during an interview in May. 

For its latest December promotion, KrisShop has launched a Gift of Christmas campaign that offers a digital advent calendar with daily deals and promo-codes available to unlock via mini games on the platform’s social media channels. It also partnered with brands such as Banyan Tree, Lego, Sulwhasoo and technology names for surprise vouchers and miles redemption deals. KrisShop is offering home delivery for its Singapore-based customers.  

Malaysia Airlines chose 3Sixty Duty Free as its digital retail partner to develop its online shopping platform Temptations into a bigger business. New features include a more flexible, global shipping delivery option to customers’ homes, as well as collection on-board. 

The airline and retailer partnership also means there is a new frictionless journey attributed to the Temptations platform, which is now integrated with the airline’s Enrich frequent flyer programme and allows members to shop while they earn miles. 

“We immediately observed a 55% increase in traffic since the launch of the enhanced e-retail site,” 3Sixty Duty Free Executive Vice President Asia Lee Hwee Ming tells DFNI. “We’re actively collaborating with our airline partners to deliver all-new retail experiences for our customers. We continue to invest in our omnichannel vision and have introduced a new facelift along with the ‘click and redeem service’ for Temptations.” 

Airport e-commerce specialist AOE has pivoted to also offer its omnicommerce expertise to airlines looking to give their inflight operations a digital boost. The Germany-based company has recently announced a partnership with inflight supply chain operator Shifteo that promises to offer airlines an end-to-end model that can accelerate their ancillary and onboard sales. 

AOE has launched a partnership with Airfree for onboard e-commerce solutions that incorporate IFE accessibility

Michael Raasch, CCO AOE Aviation comments: “AOE’s new platform provides airlines with powerful operational and competitive advantages that will drive new and stronger ancillary revenue opportunities.”

AOE has also launched a strategic cooperation with on-board technology experts Airfree, in order to leverage digital solutions on inflight and IFE [inflight entertainment] transactions. “The aim is to accelerate airlines’ recovery from the current crisis but also deliver stronger long term performance.”

Echolution takeaway: Inflight retail has become an unlikely developmental channel for an expanded trinity relationship between travel retail stakeholders. With airlines holding key passenger data there are now four parties contributing to this industry dynamic; the trinity becomes the quaternity. Passengers look set to benefit from a truly omnichannel shopping experience as airlines increase their e-commerce offers and global shipping options become the new normal.