Wi-Fi in stores essential for cross-channel selling and customer service
Whilst the overwhelming majority of retailers is still afraid of the show-rooming phenomenon, where shoppers use the Red Laser or Amazon app in store, price-check products and order online - in some cases while still on the premises of a retailer - we believe that Wi-Fi will become ubiquitous in stores in future. In store Wi-Fi lets shoppers make better use of the multitude of innate functions on today’s and next generation’s smartphones and could even - once all the components are integrated in the right way - lead to a revival of the high street.
Among the many possibilities Wi-Fi and smartphones enable already today are location functions for stores and increasingly also what’s in them, social media, so shoppers can access other’s opinions and ratings of a product and retailer and also leave their own online footprints and new mobile payment solutions, with PayPal making a concerted push into this area.
Moreover, loyalty programmes have already been transformed by smartphone apps. The potential for more granular data collection in real time and better understanding of customers (who, where, when) is another key factor for retailers to launch these services. Naturally augmented reality and QR codes also receive an immediate boost from better connectivity. In store QR codes are predominantly used by retailers to direct customers to the websites, where the retailer wants them to go, so there is an incentive to make access as easy as possible.
We believe that in future the retailers who will be able to integrate the various components will be the ones who thrive. As many retailers already have real time information on stock levels and inventories at hand, it makes sense to open this pool of knowledge to their customers as well. Many US retailers do so already, so that shoppers are able to see what stock is actually in store, making shopping trips more efficient and avoiding disappointment.
Crucially location functions on a product basis could be the key to unlock a lot of value potential. Let us give you an example. If a shopper enters a store and engages with the store’s app and looks for the location of say a TV, then this is a huge sign posted that a purchasing intention exists. Retailers can then respond to this by sending personalised vouchers and recommendations to the shopper’s phone or send a sales representative towards the customer and the relevant area in store. In the UK players such as Tesco look well placed to integrate the various components: loyalty programme, the in-store Wi-Fi offer and SKU finders offered on apps.
Looking ahead, with the arrival of smart TVs imminent another key step in the evolution of marketing looks to be realised soon. As shoppers will log into their new TVs with their loyalty details (perhaps their iTunes accounts on Apple’s soon to be released TV), there is a distinct possibility that they will receive targeted advertising – based on their past shopping behaviour and data collected previously. This advertising can then accompany the shopper on every step of the customer journey, pop up on the smartphone screen, once checked into the store’s system through shopkick or a similar app, appear on shelf edge digital signs and could be displayed near the check outs.
Crucially the after sales service could also follow the shopper on the journey home and into the customer’s home, naturally this has to be managed with care, so the efforts do not become seen as too intrusive.
One principle that applies to all of this is that the retailers who offer Wi-Fi and harness the new technological possibilities will gain a head start on the competition and a real advantage. They will also be perceived as a lot more customer-centric than others and as a result will be able to draw better footfall levels to their store estates.
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