UK retail sector faces significant connectivity issues


Research from consumer group Which? and analyst OpenSignal has found that fewer than two-thirds of internet users in the UK have access to 4G, which means that the average availability is 65%, with some of the biggest cities having the worst connections.

The research compared 20 of the largest cities in the UK, with the north of England faring better than the south. Middlesbrough came out on top, with 83% 4G availability, while Bournemouth was bottom, with only 67.5% 4G availability. Worryingly, London appeared in 16th place on the list, with only 73.6% 4G connectivity. Overall, this puts the UK’s coverage at 54th in the world, behind Estonia and Peru.

Between the beginning of December 2016 and the end of February 2017, more than 500 million data readings were taken from the mobile phones of more than 30,000 users. It showed that the mobile data experience varied from city to city, with 4G connections being faster in Stoke-on-Trent than London, and 4G signals being found more frequently in Middlesbrough than Manchester.

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Which? has attributed the below-par connectivity to the lack of infrastructure in built-up urban areas and hard-to-get-to rural locations, which also lends weight to the argument that it is too early for operators to focus on 5G when the framework underpinning it is inadequate.

The findings will be of particular concern for businesses in the retail sector who rely on robust broadband connectivity as a vital part of their business intelligence, communications strategies and continued economic growth. Internet access isn’t only a ‘nice to have’, it is a requirement, and, where possible, vendors should look to WiFi to fill the 4G connectivity gap to keep business booming.

Customers expect to be able to access the internet when they are out and about, and tend to favour brands who can offer them a convenient and personalised experience with a high-quality and agile service. A robust WiFi service is a business necessity, and coupled with advanced data analytics, it can assist retailers in a variety of ways if implemented correctly.

Research shows that 12% to 15% of the most loyal shoppers produce 55% to 70% of all sales. To drive customer loyalty and increase dwell time, retailers need to unlock the value of their WiFi to create a deep understanding of customer behaviour using real-time data analytics to build a full and complete customer profile by identifying and tracking devices in store.

Retailers need to do more than simply ‘collect and display’ data. The use of advanced analytics and mobile device tracking on-site should provide a granular view of the customer demographic, including socio-economic circumstances, repeat versus unique users, age groupings by time of day and location, and understanding where your customers are travelling from to your catchment area.

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An expertly installed WiFi infrastructure, real-time data analytics that feeds into CRM, coupled with a fully branded and personalised user experience portal allows for a level of engagement which drives customer satisfaction and loyalty, and increases business revenue. With the stakes so high, retailers simply cannot afford to lose this extent of business intelligence due to poor 4G connectivity, and it is vital that they look to feature-rich WiFi solutions to help boost their economic growth and reinforce future business objectives.

Box out: The business benefits of WiFi and seven steps to get the most from it.

Customers favour brands who can offer them a convenient and personalised experience with a high-quality and agile WiFi service. The steps below will ensure that businesses can deliver a feature-rich and scalable solution for both consumers and staff.

1. WiFi should always be integrated with any retail loyalty programme. A speedy WiFi service that is easy to use is key for customers who don’t want to waste valuable shopping time by logging onto multiple systems. Integrating WiFi and loyalty systems makes logging-in a simple, one-step process for your customers. It also makes customer data collection straightforward for marketing teams, so they can better understand customer requirements and provide enhanced services.

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2. Use your WiFi to build your business intelligence and recognise who is visiting your venue in real time. Understanding customer demographics is vital: these include how far customers have travelled to get to you, how long their visits are and how frequently they return. WiFi data is incredible, with retailers now having the ability to understand how many people and devices pass through their front door each day.

3. Optimise your digital marketing strategy and use the WiFi portal as an additional channel to communicate with your customers by using tailored communications, such as a personalised ‘welcome back’. Real-time feeds to the CRM can also help retailers to communicate with customers from the moment they walk through the door.

4. Use a branded User Experience Portal to offer targeted incentives to customers in order to make them valued and increase dwell time.

5. In order to cater for a wide demographic, retailers should also offer customers the option of accessing the portal in their preferred language.

6. Guarantee that your marketing data is robust and accurate via customer email validation. Customers only need to click on a link once to confirm that their email is valid to receive WiFi in your venue.

7. Make life easy for your customers by recognising them when they come to any of your venues by automatically logging them into the WiFi to enable seamless roaming.


Sourced by Matt O’Donovan, founder and CEO of WiFi SPARK


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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