Most Retailers Have WiFi, But Many are Not Leveraging its Full Potential

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Most Retailers Have WiFi, But Many are Not Leveraging its Full Potential

By Tim Denman - 04/08/2015

 The successful use of WiFi requires more than simply flipping a switch and offering the service to employees and customers. In order to fully maximize its use retailers need a multilayered strategy that turns the solution from a passive service into a revenue producer.

At RetailTechCon 2015 a select group of retailers participated in a pre-conference workshop on the use of WiFi in the store environment sponsored by AirTight Networks. AirTight executives shared their unique perspective as industry insiders on the use of WiFi and offered a product demonstration on the vendor's solution.

The highlight of the event was a kick-off presentation from Greg Buzek, principal, IHL Group. Buzek presented IHL's latest research on the "Impact of Store Networks and WiFi on Customer Experience" that was sponsored by AirTight and Earthlink but conducted independently by IHL.
 
Although the use of WiFi in -store has become a staple of the retail industry in some capacity, only 40% of retailers have an up-to-date WiFi infrastructure according to the report. Another 48% of retailers plan to upgrade their offering in the next three years. With nearly 90% of the industry planning to have next-generation WiFi systems up and running in store over the next few years the payback must be huge — it is.
 
According to the research, the use of WiFi by associates and shoppers has a huge impact on customer loyalty and sales. Twenty-eight percent of the retailers surveyed stated that offering customer's WiFi has a positive impact on customer loyalty and report a 2% sales lift thanks to the service. Providing associates with WiFi has an even bigger impact on loyalty and sales, thanks to the information available to mobile-equipped associates — shopper profiles, inventory information, POS capabilities, etc. Forty-eight percent of retailers report that granting employees access to WiFi boosts shopper loyalty, resulting in a 3.4% increase in sales.
 
Implementing WiFi has a direct influence on the bottom line. According to the report, the 3.4% increase in sales enjoyed by retailers that have deployed customer and associate WiFi corresponds to a 17.3% increase in EBITA.
 
Despite the obvious benefits of a robust in-store WiFi network, retailers are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the technology's true power. According to IHL's research, less than one in five retailers are leveraging WiFi to provide shoppers with opt-in offers. With the rise in demand for personalization, not targeting a captive in-store audience with relevant marketing messages and promotional offers is a lost opportunity.
 
In addition, the use of WiFi as a data collection tool that can be leverage for next-generation analytics is still in its infancy. According to the report retailers are using in-store WiFi for analytics purposes sparingly: 56% use it for traffic counting, 39% to monitor time is store, 37% to monitor social media use, and just 17% to collect demographic information.
 
Although the vast majority of retailers are offering some form of WiFi service in-store many are failing to take its use to the next level and are leaving shopper insights and increased sales on the table.