NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Delta announced Monday that it would begin offering free wireless Internet access to its passengers, with one very notable limit: Passengers will only be able to use the free Wi-Fi to browse Amazon.
While Amazon wouldn’t get into the details behind its agreement with Delta, one has to presume that Amazon will be paying for the privilege of having Delta give free access to its website for passengers – perhaps in the form of sales commissions, or as a flat fee to underwrite the cost of the Internet access. Whatever the case may be, though, it’s clear that Amazon is hoping to move into the mile-high retail market that was once the exclusive province of in-flight retail catalog SkyMall.
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So why are people on planes such an attractive market for Amazon?
“Boredom’s part of the explanation,” says Adam Alter, an assistant professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “In-flight shopping opportunities… offer people another alternative to sitting still for hours at a time.”
It’s not hard to see why the boredom of a multi-hour flight would prompt passengers to turn toward commerce, and Alter adds that passengers are a captive audience with few distractions, which will also make them more likely to shop while flying. But that’s hardly the only factor driving in-flight purchases, says John DiScala of travel website JohnnyJet.com.
“When people are away from home, they tend to be a lot more relaxed and freewheeling about their expenses, which is great for retailers,” he says. That makes sense: If you’re getting people who are going on vacation, they will be in a more free-spending mindset than someone who’s going to work and sticking to a budget.
So Amazon’s entry into the mile-high shopping club certainly makes sense for the retail giant, which is poised to have a captive audience of bored, free-spending passengers who can’t even navigate to another website (unless they’re actually paying for Internet access). But it also makes sense for consumers on a practical level. DiScala points out that people frequently forget to pack items when they go on vacation, often remembering as they get to the airport that they forgot to tote along the beach radio or the rain gear. Forgetful Delta passengers will now have the ability to order those forgotten items on Amazon and have them shipped to their destination – and it doesn’t hurt that the website has fast shipping and a wider selection than SkyMall.
So Amazon wins, Delta wins and consumers win.
While we love the prospect of shopping at 30,000 feet, not everything about online retail rubs us the right way. Here are 5 things we hate about shopping online.