High Streets Initiative 28 September 2018

Do you run a small independent store? Here’s how WiFi connectivity can help you compete with big brands

Small independent retailers can compete with wifi connectivity for an immersive retail experience

WiFi SPARK’s Rees Flynn explains how WiFi connectivity can power the immersive retail experience for smaller independent stores.

Competition from e-commerce sites, increasing business rates and a growing consumer appetite for new shopping experiences have created a testing climate for bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Most retailers are already aware that technological innovation is the key to retaining and attracting customers, particularly those mobile consumers. Smaller, independent retailers can deliver this immersive experience by capitalising on the latest WiFi technology and analytics.

Digital connectivity is one of the most cost-effective tools at the retailer’s disposal; it has the power to extend the physical perimeters of a store and create an innovative, fully-mobile space driven by what the consumer wants.

With advanced WiFi connectivity, retailers can create an in-store environment which is dynamic, memorable and immerses the shopper in the world of their brand.

Make your retail space limitless

Retail businesses that are not utilising premium WiFi solutions are already placing themselves at a disadvantage. According to a 2015 Infotrends report, retailers who have enabled digital connectivity in their stores are seeing their number of sales, footfall and repeat buyers increase by a third. For SME retailers, this increase can make the difference when it comes to attracting key customer demographics and encouraging loyalty.

Having a high-speed, reliable WiFi connection is vital for appealing to modern consumers who shop on their smartphone whilst in-store. Customers enjoy the flexibility of browsing products, cross-referencing prices and even ordering items which are unavailable in store from their personal device. In this way, connectivity can help retailers to open up their bricks-and-mortar store and make a seamless link to their e-commerce offering.

A lack of WiFi or a slow service which hinders customers from mobile shopping might actively discourage sale conversions.

Retailers want to capture the customer’s imagination and offering special discounts, competitions and rewards is a great way to achieve this. As soon as the customer enters the store you can entice them with the latest offers via your WiFi User Experience. This increases the customer’s brand engagement as the store can share its news, special codes and one-day events which all increases the customer’s propensity to purchase. Having a WiFi solution which facilitates personalised customer engagement is a far more cost-effective way for smaller retailers to expand their offering and appeal to digital consumers.

A brand community

The immersive retail experience is about creating an engaging world within the store space and apps are a fantastic way for smaller retailers to reach more customers and create an exclusive shopper community. Similarly to promoting store events via a fully-branded user experience, retail apps which encourage customers to sign-up for exclusive discounts and special offers make the customer feel as if they are part of a private community – essential for establishing brand loyalty.

In addition to allowing users to browse items, the app can function as a scanning device and digital loyalty card.

Retailers can use apps to send personalised discount codes and share member-only deals which customers can use in-store. Therefore, seamless connectivity in-store is necessary for facilitating this app accessibility and encouraging the customer community to use their rewards for purchases.

 A social-media experience

The digital-native generations make up a huge segment of the consumer market and naturally retailers will want to tap into this audience. For these customers, seamless WiFi connectivity is essential for sharing their store experience on social media. This is a crucial opportunity for smaller retailers to promote themselves on a much broader stage, engage with existing customers and reach new markets.

High-speed WiFi connectivity allows a shopper to instantly share an image of a particularly interesting display to followers or send images of items to friends and family.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, social networks are the number one source of inspiration for consumers according to PwC’s 2018 Global Insights Survey. Customers who positively mention a retailer on social media become important brand ambassadors. Retailers can play upon this by encouraging shoppers to take snaps and share the store’s location, all facilitated by speedy WiFi which removes the need for shoppers to use their own network data. This digital interaction can see a huge impact on physical footfall and the volume of sales.

In-store tablets for browsing and ordering

Increasing the variety of ways customers can engage with your product whilst in-store means that there will be something to suit everyone. Increasing customer satisfaction will thereby reduce chances of losing customers to competitors.

Retailers can revitalise their stores by offering customers new ways to shop. Tablets and interactive screens give customers greater flexibility and choice as they shop, and by utilising the store WiFi these devices are cheaper to run.

It allows consumers to quickly search for items, find product details and check stock availability.

These devices can function as a virtual sales assistant which is especially useful during peak shopping times when human sales assistants are busy. Tablets with ordering capabilities further mean that retailers will never miss out on a sale. A recent study found that 82% of consumers want to feel products in store, confirming that bricks-and-mortars still have a valuable place in the retail industry. Tablets enable shoppers to benefit from the convenience of e-commerce whilst enjoying the physical shopping experience.

Get to the heart of what customers want

For smaller retailers, understanding their customer profile must be the priority in order to create memorable store experiences which make shoppers return time and time again. However, gathering reliable and precise customer data can be costly.

A WiFi solution with advanced analytics capability gives retailers the power to analyse their customer demographic themselves, unlocking valuable insights which transform business performance.

This data might include dwell times and footfall counts provided by heatmaps, visitor origins and highlight repeat vs. unique WiFi users. These insights make a vital addition to your business’s customer knowledge tools. Retailers can use the analysis to create personalised marketing strategies which catch customers’ attention and make them want to visit the store.

The future of retail is about delivering immersive experiences, utilising the latest digital technology, to excite and engage the customer. WiFi connectivity holds infinite possibilities for SME retailers to create this experience and enrich their customer engagement. From enabling smartphone shopping and app access, to powering in-store tablets and building a brand community, WiFi is no longer only an internet connection. The analytics feature provides businesses with a deeper understanding of their customer demographic so that they can best meet expectations. Retailers who can create memorable moments will see a higher volume of customers, increased sales and a more loyal consumer base.

Rees Flynn is the head of retail at WiFi SPARK.

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