October 26, 2011, 1:52 PM

Scoring conversions 30,000 feet above the earth

SkyMall.com earns a conversion bump from consumers shopping during flights.

Lead Photo

Shea Beck

SkyMall Inc. has combined its paper catalog, which is ubiquitous in airline seat-backs, with in-flight Wi-Fi Internet access, a move that has resulted in higher online conversion rates, says director of e-commerce Shea Beck. “Conversion rates are generally higher in-flight than when shoppers are not in-flight,” Beck says, noting that most in-flight shoppers log on using their iPads.

And conversion rates tend to be highest when in-flight shoppers browse SkyMall.com’s digital version of its paper catalog, he adds. Beck did not reveal actual conversion rates.

SkyMall, No. 185 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, wants to improve its in-flight shopping experience by developing a more tablet-friendly web site, Beck says. The retailer also plans to make it easier for online shoppers using mobile devices as well as more conventional computers to share product information through social networks.

Through Aircell’s Gogo Inflight Internet service, SkyMall provides free in-flight Internet access to SkyMall.com on a number of airlines including Delta Air Lines, AirTran Airways, US Airways and Alaska Airlines, and on some Southwest Airlines flights through Row 44. SkyMall also runs marketing messages in its paper SkyMall catalogs that tell readers they can use their plane’s Wi-Fi system to access SkyMall.com and shop electronically, without incurring the Internet access fee (generally from $4.95 to $12.95) that most airlines charge to log onto the full web during flights.

While SkyMall covers that fee for accessing SkyMall.com in-flight, it will also cover it for accessing the rest of the web via Gogo if shoppers make an in-flight purchase of about $125 or more.  In that case it e-mails the customer after checkout a code good for free Gogo Internet access on a subsequent flight.

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