Offering free wi-fi in stores means that customers can use their mobile or tablet devices without any frustrating connection issues.
It is most commonly seen in coffee shops and restaurants, but there are strong arguments for offering this in retail stores, and many retailers are going down this route.
In this extract from our How the Internet Can Save the High Street report, I look at the arguments for retailers to provide mobile internet access for customers.
Why offer wi-fi?
This is a relatively new innovation, and may seem counterintuitive at first, but retailers such as Debenhams and Tesco are beginning to roll this service out in their stores.
Some retailers may be concerned about the threat of mobile comparison - and Amazon's excellent mobile apps do present a challenge - but this is a trend that needs to be embraced as there are more pros than cons.
Customers are going to use mobiles in store anyway, and this is an upward trend. In the UK 43% of respondents said they had used their mobile to compare prices and look at product reviews while out shopping, up from 19% in 2011. .
As with purchasing on mobile, the likelihood to have researched price information and reviews increases among younger respondents.
Q. Have you used your mobile to compare prices and look at product reviews while out shopping?
In conjunction with in-store prompts like QR codes and barcodes, and with the retailer’s mobile app, wi-fi can be used to improve the in-store experience for mobile users.
Retailers attempting to resist this trend are akin to King Canute. Whatever they do, customers will increasingly use their mobiles to check prices, look for reviews, and find more detailed product information.
Retailers can harness this trend and turn it to their advantage by using mobile to enhance the level of information available to customers.
For example, they could prompt customers to visit web pages with reviews of the products they are considering in store. This could be a powerful driver of sales.
Why do customers find in-store wi-fi useful?
3G mobile internet connections can vary in quality, and users have to eat into their data allowances to use them in store. Customers will appreciate free and good quality wi-fi that allows them to carry out their product research in store.
Wi-fi in store also provides a way to capture customer details and target them with offers. In fact, many customers would be willing to receive some offers in return for the convenience of accessing a decent wi-fi network.
Tesco recently introduced this in its larger stores. It does require a slightly clunky registration process that involves entering Clubcard numbers, but the retailer is then armed with your purchase history. If Tesco can sweeten this process with a discount or two, it may well be worth the effort.
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