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WiFi: the key to getting customers back on the high street

4 minute read | 24/07/2018

WiFi: the key to getting customers back on the high street

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Here, Rees Flynn of WiFi SPARK tells us why a premium WiFi connection is essential for the future of high street shops.


Modern technology and changing consumer behaviour is heralding a new era for the shopping experience.

With reports of declining high street sales and well-known brands closing stores, retailers are naturally concerned about the future of in-store shopping. E-commerce is creating more competition and it is clear that retailers must evolve in order to retain and attract customers.


However, this evolution does not have to mean the death of high street shopping.


Bringing digital in-store

While bricks and mortar retailers are struggling, the past three years have seen increases in weekly bricks and mortar shoppers, from 40 per cent in 2015 to 44 per cent in 2018. Consumers still crave a sensory shopping experience. At the same time, they want the convenience and variety of online shopping.


Stores today must adapt; they must be able to combine the physical and digital experiences in-store if they hope to strengthen customer loyalty. Incorporating the latest WiFi connectivity and analytics is the future for retailers, allowing stores to create exciting experiences which blur the boundary between physical and online shopping.


Seamless digital connectivity in-store is essential for powering the omnichannel shopper, as well as enhancing brand engagement. Choice is everything for the modern consumer who wants to shop in stores and use WiFi to access information online simultaneously. The majority of shoppers will use their smartphone at some point in the customer journey, often to search for an item or order something which is not in-store.


If there is no WiFi connectivity to facilitate this the customer might be less willing to use their own data, and stores will have missed a sale.


Equally, in-store devices such as WiFi-powered tablets are increasingly popular as they allow shoppers to ‘help themselves’, removing the need for sales assistance. Customers want the freedom to shop independently and these devices create a more efficient shopping experience for the busy consumer.


The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology in retail is sure to depend on advanced digital connectivity, and bricks and mortar stores should prioritise their WiFi solutions to meet the demands of mobile consumers.


Indeed, WiFi accessibility is a decisive factor for whether a customer will choose one retailer over another. A Hughes Europe report found that almost 50 per cent of consumers would choose a store which offered free WiFi over one that did not. 53 per cent believed free WiFi should be widely available in stores and 47 per cent think it should be easier to use than current offerings. Digital connectivity is a must have for retailers to increase their footfall and influence how long customers spend in-store.


Engaging customers

Customers will often connect immediately to the free WiFi upon entering a store, making the initial login page the retailer’s first interaction with the customer. Retailers can use this opportunity to connect with the customer through a fully-branded user experience. The user experience is where retailers can share their latest news and offers, rewards and competitions, thereby increasing the customer’s brand engagement.


Apps are another way retailers can bridge the gap between the online and the offline. Apps give shoppers on-the-go access to loyalty schemes, personalised discount codes and even scanning items. It is crucial that retailers have robust WiFi in place which supports the usage of these apps in-store. Customers will then enjoy a tailored shopping experience as they engage with a fully-branded app, whilst retailers benefit from increased sales conversions.


According to research from analyst house, Forrester, a quarter of European shoppers would be more likely to use coupons in a store if they could store them on their mobile phone. In this way, retailers can deliver the omnichannel experience which customers desire.


Retailers can also benefit from their WiFi analytics to gain deeper insight on their target demographic. Advanced analytics give retailers the power to analyse their customer information, from where shoppers are coming from to footfall data and dwell times. This analysis is invaluable for creating a rounder view of the customer profile and highlighting where brands could better meet expectations.


This insight further feeds into targeted marketing approaches so that retailers can deliver a unique, tailored customer experience.


The possibilities of digital connectivity present an opportunity for bricks and mortar stores to revitalise the in-store experience. Retailers should look at incorporating seamless WiFi connectivity to create a hybrid physical-digital store that appeals to mobile customers.


Premium WiFi is essential for powering the innovative ways customers now shop, whether that is via a smartphone or app. The analytics element further gives retailers intelligent insight on their customer profile which stores can use to anticipate shoppers’ expectations.


Through bringing the benefits of online shopping to the high street, retailers can create a stand-out experience which strengthens customer retention and entices new shoppers.


Rees Flynn is head of retail at WiFi SPARK.