Retailers have long battled the dual pressures of online shopping and congested marketing channels just to get people to walk through their door. Now showrooming has moved the war inside the store, as a fragile economy combined with the ubiquity of mobile devices has created a savvy new breed of consumers who use their smartphones and tablets to research products and prices while they browse the aisles. It’s like having scores of invisible competitors whispering in the ears of your hard won customers.
Fortunately, there’s a way to fight back, gain control of the conversation, and provide a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your customers, all while providing them with a service they’ve been asking for: free in-store Wi-Fi.
Your customers want free Wi-Fi
Recent research from Yankee Group finds that ninety-six percent of customers prefer locations that offer free Wi-Fi and return to stores that offer it. Seventy-eight percent of shoppers would access Wi-Fi if it were offered in-store. That alone should be reason enough to consider installing in-store Wi-Fi. However, while most retailers have put in the blood, sweat and tears necessary to make sure their online presence is as good, if not better, than their ecommerce-only competitors, many have neglected the potential digital footprint of their brick-and-mortar stores:
- 26% of retailers do not have any wireless network
- 26% only have wireless available for receiving and other inventory-related tasks
- 29% have wireless connectivity throughout the store, but only for performance, POS, and other product-related operations
- Only 19% provide wireless connectivity for customers
According to Retail Systems Research, “the lack of a wireless infrastructure on the selling floor...is the single biggest inhibitor to improving the in-store experience.”
Free Wi-Fi is more than access. It’s Permission to Engage
While it is true that customers with mobile devices can access the Internet through their mobile carrier data connection, thirty-seven percent of respondents of a recent Deloitte study reported problems accessing the Internet while in a store. In this “always on” world of instant connectivity to information and people, no access or spotty connectivity could actually be driving people out of your establishment. Offering free high-speed access not only provides a richer mobile experience – and goodwill toward your brand – it enables a valuable means by which you can further engage your shoppers. According to an OnDeviceResearch survey, 74% of respondents would be happy for a retailer to send a text or email with promotions while they’re using in-store Wi-Fi.
By being the digital intermediary between your customers and their in-store search behavior, you’re now in a position (and have their permission via your Wi-Fi service opt-in agreement) to engage in the conversation, offer price matching, access to expanded product offerings or personalized shopping lists. These personalized services not only help provide a seamless and customized brand experience that encourage consumers to stay longer or purchase more, but provide invaluable information about their in-store and digital shopping habits.
Wi-Fi Brings Online-style Analytics to Brick-and-Mortar
According to Deloitte 80% of consumers step in and out of the average retail establishment without making a purchase.
Since consumer-behavior data is typically collected at the point of sale (POS), you are basically blind to the interests, influencers and behaviors of an overwhelming majority of your in-store foot traffic.
Wi-Fi changes the equation by providing brick-and-mortar retailers with the type of deep analytics we’re accustomed to with our web and social media presence, including traffic flows, dwell time, mobile platform usage, web destinations and products researched. Access to real-time metrics enables retailers to better understand a large swath of their customers’ behavior – whether they’re buying or not. Data collected can be used for anything from changing signage, product displays or traffic patterns, to providing personalized promotions or offers to individual shoppers.
Reasons Why Retail Leaders Use In-Store Wi-Fi
The Bottom Line
Your customers are going to use their mobile devices to comparison shop in your store. Providing free Wi-Fi enables you to insert yourself into the conversation they’re having with your competitors. Analytics can give you unprecedented visibility into in-store behavior – both physically and digitally – which you can then use to create more value for your customers and brand loyalty for yourself. Consumers benefit by getting what they asked for – free, high quality Internet access – along with customized offers and an integrated, personalized experience across all of your channels. That’s a win-win if I ever heard one.