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Wireless set to dramatically boost in-store experience

Providing free wireless connectivity in-store is proving increasingly popular as retailers recognise how it can enhance customer engagement and also enable store employees to better serve shoppers on the shop-floor. By Glynn Davis


Wireless set to dramatically boost in-store experience

Ahead of his presentation at the Retail Bulletin In-store Engagement Conference 2012 in London on July 10 Steve Moore, leader of customer experience at The Carphone Warehouse, ran through his thinking on utilising wi-fi in the mobile retailer’s stores.

With 15% of Google searches undertaken on mobile devices and 20% of the hits on Carphone’s website originating from such technology Moore says it is clear that “particularly in developed nations people are using mobiles as their first point of reference”. Within the multi-channel journey mobile devices are proving an increasingly important component.

To facilitate their seamless use within its stores Carphone Warehouse, like a growing number of retailers, is introducing free wi-fi within its outlets. This is part of a multi-million pound investment with BT to put broadband into its stores that will give its customers free wi-fi and also provide the business with further bandwidth to drive other projects.

“If you can get free wi-fi with a £2 coffee then it should be pretty easy to give wi-fi to customers in most stores. It’s in the first few Carphone Warehouse stores and will take a while to roll out to all the shops but it will [ultimately] enable four layers of wi-fi with some of this visible to customers and some not – this will be for our own devices,” explains Moore.  

To boost customer engagement he says Carphone will be able to push relevant content to devices when customers pick them up. This might involve a certain level of personalisation as some devices are able to detect – via motion sensing and their cameras – some broad characteristics of the customer using them.

This interaction could be fully tailored if the customer enters a specific code or scans their individual QR code – which might then display details of their existing mobile contract and other personalised content.

What makes this valid, according to Moore, is the fact everybody is now becoming technology-literate: “People, our customers, now have the vocabulary set for this. Previously my dad didn’t know about technology but he’s now using an iPad. People are less scared of technology today.”

What many retailers have planned is communicating directly with their customers while they are in-store and logged on to the company’s free wi-fi connection. But he warns that care will have to be taken.

“If retailers are trying to sell something then it’s about the context, it’s all permission-based. When do people want to receive other things on their phone? It’s about the context of the activity they are doing at the time so advertising does not feel like friction. You don’t want to screw-up the customer experience,” says Moore.

He says there are examples of big companies that have been warned about advertising to customers without first getting the “buy-in” from them: “There are a range of sensibilities and regulations around this.”

At Carphone Warehouse the in-store wireless capability will also enhance employee engagement as Moore says it will provide the business with the ability to remotely manage devices – using the broadband capacity and device management tools - changing what they look like in individual stores thereby tailoring the content within certain locations around the country.

Additional benefits involve the potential to remove the traditional fixed Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminals from stores and instead use interactive mobile devices. With such technology now appearing in-store, and connected up wirelessly, Moore suggests it will also provide the opportunity better manage paper levels thereby increasing efficiency and reducing wastage.

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