Bringing The Onboard Shopping Experience Online – OneFi From Inmarsat

Inmarsat has today announced a game changing new platform for inflight passenger experience. Called OneFi, the new portal will help airlines provide a retail experience that is more akin to online shopping from home. Simple Flying caught up with Nathan Clapton, VP Inflight Media at Inmarsat Aviation, to find out more about this interesting new product.

Sunset aircraft
Inmarsat has launched a new portal for a better inflight experience. Photo: Getty Images

A flexible, customizable platform

OneFi has been developed in response to Inmarsat’s in-depth research into the needs of both airlines and their passengers. After more than a year of conversations with stakeholders on both sides of the fence, Inmarsat has concluded that passenger experience will be a key driver of loyalty in the post-pandemic environment.

The outcome of this is the development of OneFi, a flexible, fully customizable portal that works with any hardware or internet service provider. The portal can be branded up to reflect the airline’s look and feel, and has the capabilities to take the onboard retail experience to the next level.

Nathan Clapton, VP Inflight Media at Inmarsat Aviation, spoke to Simple Flying about the portal, noting that,

“Many airlines still have the duty free trolley which comes down the aisle… that’s a 40 or 50 year old system of retailing. The rest of the world is buying online now, so through making duty free and other retail offerings available through a device in the palm of your hand, there’s an opportunity to target better, to personalize more and to give people the experience that they expect. We’re very excited about seeing the different ways that the airlines might want to use this portal.”

Out of the box, the portal lets airlines provide free and paid for WiFi, control and update inflight content, capture passenger data and accept multiple payment types in real-time. The software uses open architecture and is entirely scalable, letting airlines future-proof their onboard offering in a simple manner.

OneFi is open for airlines to customize their offering. Photo: Inmarsat

OneFi brings together some powerful ancillary revenue opportunities for airlines. For passengers, it allows the onboard shopping experience to better reflect the ease and personalization that we’re all used to on the ground. It’s a win-win for everyone, and an exciting prospect.

A revenue driver for airlines

Airlines already benefit from advertising partnerships with third-party brands. Whether it’s advertising in the inflight magazine or running ads on the IFE, airline passengers are seen as a superb captive audience to whom they can promote a whole variety of products and services.

But these forms of advertising are static and only get updated when a new magazine is produced or a new season of IFE content uploaded. That can limit the offers advertisers can make, and reduces the revenue possibilities for airlines. With a portal like OneFi, airlines can present real-time ads, benefitting from CPM advertising and opening up the opportunity to more third-party firms.

Delta WiFi viasat
Connected advertising has so much more revenue potential. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Even better than that, with the portal connected to the web, there is the potential for revenue to be driven on a cost per click basis, as Clapton explained,

“When the portal is connected, we can whitelist the target sites. So, as well as just doing brand advertising, which is what you might do on a disconnected portal, we could whitelist the retail site itself. Passengers could go through to it and that does open up the opportunity for cost per click advertising.”

The potential for this is huge. Airlines could even partner with complementary brands on an affiliate basis, letting them capture a portion of the passenger’s spend on the third-party site. The way in which this capability is utilized will be down to the airline customer, but the flexibility has some next-level potential.

Retail through passenger devices

Many airlines are already looking at making retail available through passenger devices while they are onboard. But without the connectivity element, this potential to drive revenue comes with some tricky baggage too. Without communication with the outside world, payments have to be reconciled once back on the ground, stock cannot be managed in real-time, and airlines are missing out on capturing valuable data about their passengers. Clapton explained the benefits of connected portals like this, saying,

“We believe connectivity can make a step change again, because it makes payments more fluid … it’s all done live, that has a benefit for fraud. Also, you can see immediately what people are ordering on board, and that’s good for reducing wastage and being able to track stock.”

Food and beverage offerings can be tracked in real-time, reducing wastage. Photo: United Airlines

Notably, when a system is fully connected, passengers will access the portal via a web-based URL. This small difference can begin to make a big change in the way airlines present offers and products to different passengers. Just as Amazon might remember what you like to order, and will present you with offers for products you love, so too can airlines learn about their passengers and begin to tailor their retail in a more online shopping-esque manner.

Dragging onboard shopping into the 21st century

Inmarsat has set out to better the way we all fly in the future. From its ORCHESTRA multi-spectrum solution to eliminating WiFi not-spots to its constant scaling of the already industry-leading Global Xpress connectivity solution, the British firm is keenly shaping a better connected future in the skies. OneFi is just another string on that very large bow.

In terms of launch customers, Clapton was keeping tight-lipped, but he did note,

“We have not one but a number of customers that are in advanced discussions regarding the deployment of the portal. We’re hoping to make an announcement by the end of the year on that.

“We’ve been doing a lot of testing with the available architecture and processing power on board, and we’ve seen that it functions very smoothly. I’m very confident about launching, because we can now have conversations where the airlines can kick the tires and we can demonstrate to them how it works.”

With Inmarsat’s determination to bring inflight connectivity into the modern age, our onboard experience could soon get a whole lot better.