I recently discovered Anthropologie has Wi-Fi in its London Regent Street store.

While this might seem like an insignificant detail, it meant I spent a lot longer in there than I planned, which then resulted in me spending far more money than I should have.

What can I say? I’m a consumer cliché - and a great example of why retailers should be offering Wi-Fi in-store.

Despite many retailers introducing it quite a few years ago, a suprising number of others have failed to do so.

Here are five reasons to explain further.

Immediate affinity with a brand

According to research, more than 90% of consumers now use their smartphone while shopping in-store.

So, first and foremost, that is a huge percentage of people walking through the door that a retailer could potentially target. 

If a store does not have Wi-Fi, I doubt it would impact the customer’s perception too negatively. 

But on the flip side, customers are much more likely to have a positive response towards those that do.

Regardless of what I used it for, I certainly appreciated Anthropologie allowing me to log-in whilst perusing their irresistible over-priced candles.

Aids the path to purchase

So why would a person use Wi-Fi in-store, other than to check their WhatsApp messages? 

SessionM's 2015 study found that approximately 54% of consumers use their smartphones to compare prices, while 48% and 42% use it to search for product information and read reviews respectively. 

You’ve probably heard of 'showrooming' – a phrase that refers to when a customer browses in-store before buying online. However, ‘web-rooming’ is apparently becoming even more popular, meaning to browse online before buying in-store. 

Rather cringe-worthy terms, I know. 

But the point is that Wi-Fi enables both. Even a combination of the two.

John Lewis is one retailer that introduced Wi-Fi into stores a few years ago, with the aim of facilitating this new type of consumer behaviour.

By making it easier to shop in-store, and ensuring transparency, the retailer is able to deliver on its famous promise of being ‘never knowingly undersold’.

Encourages more time in-store

Unsurprisingly, Wi-Fi means that customers are more likely to linger in a store for longer.

More importantly, around 50% are likely to spend more as a result.

With many people using Google Maps and various apps to find where they can access Wi-Fi, it also has the potential to increase foot traffic, acting as a great incentive to enter a store.

While this has been standard practice for coffee shops and cafés for a while, only the biggest department stores and flagship shops tend to have it as standard.

Marketing opportunity

Many Wi-Fi solutions allow brands to create custom-made landing pages before a user even signs in. This is a great promotional opportunity.

Whether it’s a current deal or or simply a nice bit of copy saying 'welcome' – it allows the retailer to engage with the customer at this first point of contact.

Retailers can also use it to promote special or unique services that are exclusive to in-store shoppers only.

The Foyles branch on Charing Cross Road is a great example of this. 

On opening the WiFi, users are met with a map of the store that allows them to find specific books as well as search the store to check if an item is in stock.

While my colleague Ben found both positives and negatives to the in-store digital experience when it first launched, it is still a great example of how to increase value for consumers.

Captures customer data

Lastly, one of the most obvious reasons a retailer should offer Wi-Fi – the opportunity to retarget customers once they have left the store.

With many people more than willing to enter an email address in exchange for the service, retailers can easily follow up with related offers or promotions depending on what a customer did or didn’t purchase.  

Likewise, valuable customer data such as demographic information and dwell time can help retailers gain a much better understanding of exactly who is walking through the door.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 28 November, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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