Going Mobile – Why Retailers are offering In-store Wi-Fi

Times are changing. No longer can retailers rely on their customers glancing at an item, seeing a price tag and waltzing straight up to the counter without any thought as to the options in other stores. The shopping by numbers experience, if you will.

Smartphone in hand, shoppers of the modern age can have a whole marketplace at their fingertips if they wish. All it takes is a connection to their 3G or 4G network and they’re all set. Customers can check prices, read product reviews and assess the range elsewhere in a matter of seconds.

Mobile owners will happily bring their shopping experience out of the store, so businesses must surely be trying to prevent this? Not exactly. Many stores are not only opening up to idea of promoting the use of in-store smartphone browsing, they’re rolling out the red carpet by providing wireless internet – for free!

Baffled? Well here’s the argument for retailers to provide mobile internet access for their customers.

Why offer Wi-Fi?

The fact is that consumers will use their mobiles in-store anyway. Online shopping has skyrocketed over the last ten years and people are now well aware of its advantages. What businesses need to do is for the shopper to use their smartphone for research, but for searching offers and other types of activity from the store they’re in. That’s the aim here – to have customers utilising their phone as a virtual shop assistant.

Activity could involve the scanning of QR codes or barcodes which take the user to a targeted web page, or maybe even use of the store’s own mobile application. Other retailers have taken to providing a free connection to every customer that opts into their SMS or email updates. So, there’s lots of scope for retailers to harness this trend and use it to enhance their in-store experience.

What the customers get

Most smartphone users will have 3G mobile internet, but their allowance of data is unlikely to stretch through until the end of the month. Those that aren’t on unlimited data plans are often found scrimping on their internet to avoid receiving a hefty charge when their bill next comes in. Furthermore, mobile internet can vary in quality and if the store is edging towards the outskirts of a city, there’s little chance of customers being able to surf anyway.

Customers will be grateful for the offering of free and good quality internet that allows them to browse on their devices in store. This should go some way to boosting their satisfaction, possibly encouraging them to pop by next time they’re around the town.

A boost to sales?

Wi-Fi isn’t just about giving customers the freedom to browse on the devices – free connections can also help boost sales. Through shopping with a mobile-optimised site or app, the ‘out of stock’ issue is a thing of the past. Sure, the item is still very much out of stock. However, customers can use the site or app in front of them to have their product delivered to the store for pick-up at a later date – maybe even at their house.

If this is found to be an effective way of ordering, the retailer might even be able to limit the amount of products they need in store – giving them a few more yards of space to play with. It’s for this reason and many more that the high street is deciding that if you can’t beat the ever-growing smartphone population, you have to join them.

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