Today’s smartphone wielding consumers expect WiFi to be readily available wherever they go. Having grown accustomed to encountering WiFi hotspots in coffee shops, hotels, airports, trains, buses, sports stadiums other public locations, they’ll actively seek out connectivity when deciding where to spend their leisure time and money.
No wonder then that retail outlets offering free WiFi connectivity are viewed as preferred destinations by UK digital consumers who, according to research firm Deloitte, collectively glance at their mobile devices over a billion times a day.
The benefits of offering free WiFi access are clear. It provides a powerful way to attract customers. Research also shows consumers will consistently spend more time and money in a retail location if they’re able to take advantage of free WiFi.
Mobile devices have changed how we shop in-store. Digital consumers use their mobile devices to peruse options and reviews, check a retailer’s product availability, access interactive store maps, view available discounts and loyalty offers, and even make online purchases. According to recent research by Google, almost half of shoppers use their mobile on average for 15 minutes or more per store visit.
These consumers are also using social media to validate their purchasing decisions – that’s particularly the case for consumers in the 18-24 age group. For these digital natives, free and reliable WiFi is a ‘must have’ as they expect to engage with social media and share their experiences wherever they go.
Valuing every opportunity to tag where they are, post pictures of purchases or share their opinion of a product or service with others, appealing to this cohort of digital consumers equates to valuable free additional promotional and marketing for retailers who benefit from highly engaged digital consumers acting as brand ambassadors.
Enabling high-quality connections is a priority
A poor quality WiFi experience represents a real turn-off for today’s digitally empowered consumers who vote with their feet if they fail to get online the instant they want, or encounter a WiFi network incapable of delivering services fast.
In today’s omnichannel shopping reality, shoppers view visiting the brick and mortar store as an integral part of the purchasing journey. These connected consumers expect retailers to engage with them providing customised offers and recommendations while they’re in-store. Forward thinking retailers are now looking to capture these ‘I want to do’ moments, transposing them into an online or in-store purchase.
What’s more, with ‘self help’ the new norm, the mobile phone is increasingly the in-store shopping assistant consumers look to for answers. Rather than hunting down in-store personnel, they’re content to discover information on their mobile devices in preference to depending on traditional information sources like product displays or sales literature on the floor.
With a growing number of UK shoppers now toting 4G-enabled devices, retailers also need to ensure they can support consumers looking to view short-form video content while shopping in-store. According to Google, more than 50 per cent of smartphone video viewers list YouTube as their number one destination for finding information out about a brand or product.
Clearly, providing high-quality public WiFi coverage and connectivity represents an increasingly important utility when it comes to attracting and retaining shopper’s in-store, or bringing disparate retailer channels together into a single, seamless omnichannel consumer experience.
Robust and secure WiFi is a must
Offering ease of installation with existing network infrastructures, today’s 4G LTE routers represent a cost-effective way to deliver the superfast and reliable connectivity today’s digital consumers expect. These cloud-delivered routing solutions integrate easily with enterprise applications and offer the remote centralised management capabilities that make it easy to monitor the network to minimise the risk of poor user experiences.
The flexibility and agility wireless routers offer make it easy to augment, complement, extend or even replace complex legacy networks. These solutions make it easy to separate non-critical applications from applications transferring sensitive date – like Point-of-Sale.
Having the ability to process credit card transactions on Parallel Networks, or physically ‘air gapped’ networks also ensures the high level of security required to keep customer and financial transaction data safe and enables PCI Compliance.
The rapid deployment capability of this technology means retailers are able to capture and optimise opportunities during lucrative peak periods. For example, retailers can use 4G LTE routers for mobility to initiate seasonal pop-up venues or outlets in remote locations – like an empty storefront in a mall – or support additional in-store concession partners with dedicated trading space.
Alternatively, retailers can take advantage of zero capital infrastructure cost associated with 4G LTE networks to establish a back-up network that mitigates risk and delivers additional agility.
Enabling a robust guest WiFi network, capable of supporting multiple users and devices, is just part of the challenge – security is also a significant concern for retailers and consumers alike. With 80% of retail data breaches occurring in stores with less than 100 employees, criminals view small stores and initiatives like pop-ups as soft targets.
The future of shopper engagement
The race is on to evolve the physical brick and mortar store to distinguish it from the online experience, creating exciting new engagement models and experiences that delight shoppers.
Robotic sales assistants are already making an appearance in stores in the US and retailers anticipate that the Internet of Things will play an increasingly important role in creating better customer and more personalised experiences that generate enhanced value for shoppers – and increased shopper loyalty for retailers.
Digital parity is becoming an absolute necessity for physical stores, especially when it comes to enabling new, ‘gamified’ in-store shopping experiences and interactive displays. Forward thinking retailers are moving beyond discount clubs to offer individual customers what matters most to them – upgraded parking as they approach the store, for example.
These retailers are also exploring how to use technology to enable sales associates to recognise shoppers and their preferences, so they can deliver a more personalised service or offer personalised additional in-store services.
Taking advantage of these opportunities, however, depends on augmenting or complementing existing network infrastructures to enable such interactions – and, with mobile payment becoming increasingly mainstream, offering in-store WiFi is going to become a must have.
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Other ‘future store’ implementations already making an appearance include dynamic displays that target promotions to shoppers who value immediate availability and ‘memory mirror’ technology that allows customers to record, share and compare how outfits will look without the hassle of spending time in the changing room.
Smart sensors, face and object recognition, and wearable technology all look set to become increasingly core to the in-store shopping experience, with retailers using historical and real-time customer data to tailor each shopper’s experience.
Serving the changing needs, preferences and behaviours of the consumer means the trend for hyper-personalisation is set to continue. That means curating the in-store shopping experience and delivering more real-time interactions, tailored recommendations and ‘concierge’ style services.
Enabling a new era of customer-centred experience, based on convenience and value will, however, be dependent on network agility and future-proofing for emerging technologies.
Sourced from Peter Warren, Head of EMEA Channels, Cradlepoint