The Economics of Mobile Connectivity

This past week, SkyMall, the stalwart companion for shoppers in the sky, filed for bankruptcy protection. They reported revenue was down by roughly 50% in 2014 compared to the prior year. That’s a pretty big hit. One may not think so, but SkyMall flourished in one of the last realms of limited connectivity — being in transit on an airline where mobile phone use was banned.

Once the restrictions on mobile devices were lifted and as the availability of wifi connectivity spread throughout the stratosphere, those who felt the urge to shop at 30,000 feet were able to do so on sites traditionally available only on terra firma.

It’s true that airplane wifi has been available for years, so why the big change?  Well, have you ever tried opening and using a laptop in coach? It’s a little difficult these days. Mobile devices are much easier to use effectively in a cramped space and once they were allowed to be used, people fought the boredom of air travel by doing what they do elsewhere: browsing the web, updating Facebook, tweeting about the fun of air travel, and shopping.

Mobile connectivity continues to influence the economy and will not stop its advance into the untouched corners of the traditional commerce world. Skymall’s unfortunate bankruptcy is just the most recent in what is sure to be a string of failures for retailers that have focused efforts on marketing to consumers who are isolated either by location or by lack of connectivity.


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