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Designing Connected Retail Experiences

The rise of the self-service customer: Why retailers need to give their customers greater freedom of choice
Written by Amy

By Paul Leybourne

 Given that most shoppers now use their phones to conduct online research before buying, assist with their shopping instore, research for a discount or voucher, shop online whilst waiting in the queue to buy, and increasingly to pay as well, the argument over whether retailers should have in-store Wi-Fi is surely now won. Of course, they should have Wi-Fi!

Moreover, it is no good installing the same quality of Wi-Fi that most consumers have in their homes, because it simply won’t work. Fake Wi-Fi I call it; you can see it on your Wi-Fi settings on your phone but it either does not connect at all or looks like it has connected but won’t actually access the Internet.

With the customer increasingly in control of their entire shopping journey and experience, they are making it clear that they expect Wi-Fi and will quickly leave the store to find a friendly connection elsewhere or simply not make the purchase. Of course, they will make price comparisons, often at the retailer’s expense, but this longer holds sway as an argument to exclude them from getting connected. It is the consumer that is creating their own experience, the retailer’s role today is to make it easier and more rewarding, not try to control it.

In short, digital and physical retail are virtually indivisible in the mind of the consumer and they will happily move between them seamlessly. Consider what consumers are doing on their phones; they enjoy the flexibility of browsing products, cross-referencing prices and even ordering items which are unavailable in store. 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.

Cost is sometimes raised as an issue, with retailers worried that more investment in tech will simply erode margins without giving an uplift in sales. The figures are clear. When it comes to in-store connectivity, two-thirds (72%) of UK shoppers report they would more likely convert, according to research by Savanta. One third (35%) of this say they would make a purchase and another (37%) revealing free W-Fi would make them buy more in a single shopping trip. Similarly, more than half of shoppers (52%) agreed that Wi-Fi at their disposal would make them spend longer at a traditional store. Cost therefore is not a factor, given the uplift in sales.

Quality of Wi-Fi however is, so it is important to use commercial level connectivity. Fewer than a half (43%) of UK shoppers report that they don’t use Wi-Fi offered by retailers due to security concerns, worrying that the network isn’t safe or their personal data might be compromised. A further 44% of UK clientele avoid using the service as they feel they’re required to give too many personal details-a tricky trade-off for retailers dealing with GDPR regulations around double-opt-in and re-consent requirements on customer data.

Ultimately, with margins instore under pressure and footfall in decline, the decision to implement Wi-Fi is a competitive issue. Stores retail is about delivering immersive experiences, utilising i-store connectivity, to excite and engage the customer.

In-store connectivity holds infinite possibilities for 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, retailers who can create memorable moments will see a higher volume of customers, increased sales and a more loyal consumer base.

Examples of forward-thinking retailers include Lush, the hand-made cosmetics retailer, which wanted a solution across all its stores in the UK to drive customer engagement and educate shoppers around its ethical products and campaigns.

Vodat rolled out an in-store Wi-Fi solution to all Lush’s UK outlets, providing the IT backbone to enable this and consolidating the IT infrastructure. The retailer can balance connection bandwidth between store and customer usage depending on demand. This can mean up weighting stores for staff training or allowing customer devices to stream live feeds from events at other Lush locations.

And jewellery retailer Beaverbrooks needed technology that made the sales process more personal and enabled store staff to complete a transaction with the customer, instead of having to guide them to another part of the store.

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