As we all know by now, the “mobile invasion” is here, and it’s quickly reshaping how consumers shop. For those retailers who haven’t fully embraced mobile, now is the time to get in the game. More than half of U.S. consumers own smartphones, and according to a recent Google Shopper Marketing Council survey, 84 percent of those consumers use smartphones to enhance shopping while they are physically in stores. The same survey also found that this trend doesn’t just apply to millennials in coffee shops – it spans age groups and retail categories, with over 80% using smartphones when shopping for appliances, groceries, baby care products, electronics, household care products, health and beauty aids and apparel.
The good news is that mobile activity within stores represents far more opportunity than threat. Many retailers were initially concerned with “showrooming”, whereby consumers would evaluate products within their stores, and then purchase at the best price online. But this turns out not to be the case. Surveys consistently show that customers prefer to visit a retailer’s website for additional product information and reviews while in that retailer’s location, rather than visit competitor sites. And while 57% of shoppers regularly begin the shopping journey online, 92% of transactions today still occur in the store according to Cisco IBSG.
Many retailers are already responding to these trends by giving customers access to fast, reliable in-store WiFi and mobile applications to streamline operations and strengthen their connection with consumers. From mobile point-of-sale to product and inventory access via tablets, 75.2% are in some stage of planning, pilot, or deployment in 2014, according to the recent Gartner/RIS Retail Technology Survey.
With the right WiFi solution, retailers can also drive loyalty by encouraging customers to “Like” them on social media in exchange for guest WiFi, and can gather valuable data for shopping analytics. This includes presence and WiFi usage data as well as demographic data for those who connect via social media.
As retailers develop their in-store digital strategies, it’s important to consider a number of factors when selecting an enterprise-class WiFi solution that will support their mobile application roadmap. Some of the key criteria to look for include:
- •Security and PCI compliance: Retailers need to ensure that their WiFi solution is PCI compliant, with integrated Wireless Intrusion Prevention to prevent unauthorized access to cardholder or sensitive corporate data.
- •Centralized control: Features such as cloud-based management and plug-and-play installation simplify management, and are essential for retailers who don’t have in-store IT staff for WiFi installation and maintenance.
- •Business analytics: Retailers should select a WiFi solution that can provide metrics for analyzing shopping behavior, such as foot traffic, repeat customers, and WiFi usage.
- •Social media integration: These should be viewable at store level or in aggregate. As noted earlier, social media integration can drive loyalty for guest WiFi users, and can also provide valuable demographic data.
EarthLink recently announced a new, secure WiFi service featuring a top-rated Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (WIPS) ideally suited for multi-unit retailers and restaurants, as well as healthcare and financial service providers. EarthLink Secure WiFi enables distributed enterprises with multiple locations to easily deploy and manage highly secure private and public wireless networks, connect with customers through their mobile devices and social media, and gather data for visitor analytics.
Learn more about our new Secure WiFi service, or visit our Retail Solutions page and contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss how you can take advantage of the mobile invasion to improve store efficiency and engage your customers.