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3 ways Wi-Fi can help retailers this holiday season

Sharon Goldman | Dec. 9, 2015
Sure, it might be a nice perk to give your customers free in-store Wi-Fi access while they’re shopping. But there are a number of ways Wi-Fi can connect to your bottom line, too.

“Wi-Fi is an infrastructure enabler — so software service providers are offering interesting options for sales associates to give them information about loyalty program members, about individuals entering the store, and about what customers purchase,” says Andreatta. “The next step is giving associates information before they approach a customer, such as alerting the associate that a customer has arrived or that they interacted with that customer the last time they were in the store.” 

2. Wi-Fi helps identify traffic patterns and dwell times throughout the store 

As the cost of Wi-Fi installation has dropped and the capability to manage services has improved, rolling out new Wi-Fi access points is now easy, says Andreatta, allowing retailers to use the technology to identify and understand traffic patterns in a store — which can result in useful insights. By tracking a customer’s phone as it moves through the store, retailers can gather data that helps determine peak traffic behaviors, conversion rates and dwell times in the stores. Stores can use analyze the results to help plan or reconfigure store layouts and merchandise displays. 

Sometimes the insights can be unusual and surprising. For example, Andreatta says, a counter-based mall bakery put Wi-Fi access points near their POS terminals to understand how often customers came to the counter. They found that franchises were turning off their ovens too early for the number of customers arriving at key hours, leading to missed opportunities to attract customers with the smell of freshly-baked bread. 

3. Wi-Fi and beacon integration can increase engagement 

As consumers have become accustomed to receiving highly relevant alerts, coupons and promotions based on what they are researching online, they have come to expect the same, if not better, experience in the store, says Suzanne Dickson, senior global product marketing manager, WLAN, Zebra Technologies. By integrating wireless access points and the resulting analytics or loyalty program data with the “micro locationing” of Bluetooth-enabled beacons, consumers can receive timely, customized alerts/promotions to their devices, as well as marketing games/contests to increase the in-store engagement and excitement. 

For example, this Thanksgiving Macy’s launched a “Walk in and Win” game on its mobile app. In over 700 stores, shoppers at more than 700 Macy’s stores with the retailer’s mobile app were given the chance to instantly win prizes, through push notifications triggered by their proximity through beacons placed throughout the store. “Aside from motivating users to download the app for the game, this contest inherently promoted their loyalty program and mobile app which can be used on all return visits,” says Dickson. 

Easy, fast, user-friendly onboarding is key for Wi-Fi

A robust, in-store Wi-Fi network offers a variety of opportunities, but it’s essential that customer access is pain-free. “There needs to be an easy, fast, and user-friendly onboarding process, so the guest can access Wi-Fi worry-free without burdening an IT department,”  says Dickson, adding that while the busy holiday shopping season is the best time to take advantage of Wi-Fi’s powerful potential, retailers have to overcome many challenges, including the possibility of downtime. “Retailers have to minimize or eliminate any network downtime that can impact business-critical apps,” she says. 


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