From helpless to happy – Guestlogix redesigns airline retail to give passengers more control

Guestlogix is determined to help solve the biggest point of friction between airlines and passengers: the fight for control.

In a white paper published in October, Guestlogix argues that the various pain-points of travel identified by IATA can be compared to a known psychological dynamic: learned helplessness.

That occurs when individuals find themselves in environments designed to limit their own agency, where decisions large and small are made by others.

This learned helplessness can have negative effects on sentiment and physical health, and becomes habitual. The more time an individual spends in this environment, the more negative sentiment and physical discomfort intensifies, regardless of whether the situation is significantly worse, because the expectation of a negative experience alone induces stress.

If that sounds a lot like the conditions of air travel to you, Guestlogix agrees. As stated in the white paper:

“The unique angst air travel provokes is not merely due to the discomfort of delays and missed flights, but rather the perceptions of an uncontrollable environment.

“Much of air transportation involves following requirements with limited latitude for negotiation.

“Arriving sufficiently early to meet carrier requirements, clearing uncertain wait times in security lines, meeting luggage requirements, making connections, having the correct documents, and suffering through limited meal options, etc., all necessitate a good deal of planning and mental gymnastics which can provoke anxiety.

“Even ‘doing everything right’ is no guarantee that all will go according to plan or that the journey will be stress free.”

This effect also affects airline crew, who may themselves have learned helplessness in various  aspects of their jobs.

Guestlogix believes that a little retail therapy can go a long way to address learned helplessness in air travel. But it’s not so much about selling things, as it is about ensuring that customers get to decide what and when to buy.

During IATA WPS tnooz talked to Robin Hopper, senior vice president product & marketing at Guestlogix who explains the gap in the passenger experience the company has identified:

“What we’re trying to do is help passengers take some control back. That whole day of journey, most things are dictated to you: how much you can pack, when you have to be at the airport, when you can line up, what you can eat and when you can eat.

“That creates a level of stress because things are out of you control. This doesn’t really give them control because they are still picking and choosing from a pre-defined set of things but it gives them the illusion of control and reduces their stress level.

“They are wiling to part with money to get that feeling of control back. It could be anything from comfort items to virtual goods. I, as a passenger, should be able to tailor my experience on the day of travel as I like.”

Guestlogix’s response to this market need was to build a comprehensive digital suite of software which can link-up passengers, crew and operations to make customizing the experience easier.

Hopper says:

“We have rebuilt a complete airline commerce platform.

“Instead of being focused on once the doors close, we think our sweet spot is the day of journey. It’s a sales, marketing and commerce platform for the day of journey.”

The first step forward in this journey is to encourage passengers to buy more onboard in a way that feels natural, something akin to ordering food or retail goods from a favorite delivery service or e-commerce platform at home. Passengers get to browse, tailor their purchases, and are also alerted of a delivery time to their seat.

“One of the key components we introduced are passenger applications.

“This could be the airline’s brand or we can break it into components, so that airlines can just put the feature inside the existing mobile app as a retail catalog that could sell anything directly to passengers. Passengers should and need to have these tools in their hands.”

“The other big shift for us is the flight attendant focus, following the lead of on the ground retail, which focuses on the customer.”

Guestlogix has also developed a planning suite which operations and retail management can use to monitor sales activity and design special promotions, which can help airlines better manage their inventory and evaluate their product decisions.

Payment pain

The company integrates multiple payment options, even alternative payments, so that airlines can better capitalize on the impulse to buy. Accommodating mobile payments is an important element of the experience.

APEX CEO Joe Leader said during IATA WPS that airlines can lose 90% of transactions if customers have to reach for their wallets, but it comes with some complications in the air. As Hopper explains:

“We support a variety of payments from traditional credit cards, to chip and pin and tap to pay, but also the emerging suite of ways to pay: Apple Pay, Alipay, WeChat pay, all those forms of payment. But those are dependent on connectivity onboard.”

Connectivity can also improve credit card transactions, because airlines can verify payments in real-time, reducing fraud risks.

The lower probability of a rejected payment might encourage airlines to offer higher ticket items onboard. That could include selling seat upgrades for a connecting flight in advance, for example, when available.

Inmarsat has released a study by the London School of Economics which calculates the total value of the inflight retail market (e-commerce and destination shopping) enabled by in-flight Wi-Fi to be $2.9 billion by 2028 and reach $6 billion by 2035.

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Marisa Garcia

About the Writer :: Marisa Garcia

Marisa Garcia is the tnooz aviation analyst. She has covered travel technology, design, branding, and strategy for leading publications, including Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX Magazine, AirlineTrends, and Travel+Leisure. She also shares industry insights on her site Flight Chic. Fly with her on Twitter.



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  1. IM Smith

    Ground retail across a multitude of destinations, cultures & languages is extremely complex, not to mention the relevant Customs or Security regulations associated with this. Until such time as these tech innovations have a proper understanding of this facets, it will be hard to generate new revenues. A good example of this is for Airlines like AA/Delta/United or Turkish… who do not retail goods on board anymore. So what exactly are all these Consumers going to buy, when there are no goods carried inflight? If these systems go to ground stores… who are they going to go to, where and how?


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