Free Wifi : The Always Connected Customer

As I was on the bus into Winchester the other day, I noticed some signs around the bus stating that there was free WiFi on board. Now I confess to not always noticing much around me as I catch up on a few texts and emails on my way into work. However, this sign caught my attention. Brilliant! So, I logged in to the free WiFi via a surprisingly easy process that did not request any of my details, and I happily continued my journey to work with a slightly faster data connection.



This got me thinking about how we live in a permanently connected world where more and more businesses are offering free WiFi to customers. Why do they do this? Is it to make customers feel at ease? In the retail environment it can also lead to more in-store engagement.

Lots of our work for retailers revolves around understanding how customers are looking for more than just a bricks and mortar retail experience. They want to be connected, empowered and able to choose how they shop.

With the help of WiFi in-store, a customer can search for products online, check for new arrivals, place orders, check prices, shop elsewhere, go on social media, reply to emails etc.



To put it another way, many customers hate being offline as it prevents them from accessing information, which is something that we are valuing more and more over time. Social networks, forums, review sites and emails all help us to stay connected and keep accessing information.



Many people believe that uninterrupted availability of in-store WiFi can help a retail business to actually grow. Others worry that it simply encourages ‘show-rooming’ – a common theme of customers buying online from elsewhere at a cheaper price after having handled the product in-store.

I believe there can be advantages for a store to offer WiFi. As it is offering a service, many retailers may receive some information related to behaviour, buying patterns and usage. This kind of information can be highly useful and enable a retailer to understand customer behaviour better.

Retailers offering WiFi is a clear attempt to boost in-store engagement and offering a great customer service. There are studies which claim that free WiFi has actually changed their customer’s behaviour in-store. Customers are actually spending longer in places with free WiFi, and indeed, in some cases are spending MORE money. One article states that 62% of shoppers say customers spend more time in their shop / facility since the introduction of WIFI. Here in the office, Richard Snoxell told me how he frequently uses the IMDB app while in store shopping for DVDs to see which one gets the best reviews. This is all great for retailers, a more considered customer who is using their own device to help them to make shopping decisions.

Does it make me feel any different about my bus journey? Possibly. Perhaps I feel more inclined to use the bus service, knowing that I can access emails and whatsapp messages easily on the go. Or perhaps it has become part of the expectation of living in an ‘always connected world.’

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Amy Nichols
01962 842211
Article date - 18/09/2015
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