Waitrose is currently rolling out free Wi-Fi in all its stores - and frankly I’m amazed more retailers and supermarkets aren’t doing the same. After all, it’s not just a ‘nice to have’; it offers real and tangible benefits to retailers.
A recent Verdict Retail study predicted e-commerce will grow 50% over the next five years, demonstrating the need for physical retailers to give customers a reason to visit their stores.
In-store Wi-Fi can be that reason. Once a customer has registered for the service, you can identify them every time they enter and leave the store. That creates a mine of data, much of which has not been available previously.
Assuming you can access and act upon that data in real time, you can communicate with people while they’re shopping - or just after they’ve left the store. You can say ‘thank you’ or ask for feedback. Over time, this will extend and strengthen retailers’ brand propositions. And the more you learn about shoppers, the more individually relevant your communications can be.
Wi-Fi also enables you to bring the digital and physical together to enhance the shopping experience. That could be via in-store interactions (Asda, for instance, is doing a fair bit with Augmented Reality) or by making your apps serve specifically in-store purposes (for example, ‘satnav’ apps to guide shoppers to specific aisles and products). Plus, providing access to your full online inventory means more choice and fewer lost sales because that one store is out of stock.
Transparency and security are also critical, of course. Europol recently warned of a rise in Wi-Fi cyber-crime in public hotspots. In order to reassure users and minimise risk, retailers should only request information essential to delivering the service, such as an email address, mobile number and a T&Cs tick-box.
With best practice applied, the benefits of Wi-Fi are huge. By enabling one-to-one communications and empowering shoppers to ‘pull’ the information they want, retailers can help build more powerful, more intimate relationships with their customers.
David Atkinson is managing partner of integrated marketing agency Space