- Over 80% of customers regularly use their phones in-store to enable purchase decisions.
- A majority of shoppers demand in-store Wi-Fi and prefer stores with free Wi-Fi.
- Wi-Fi marketing is a way for retailers to provide free wireless internet access in exchange for user data.
Not only do customers use their phones to shop, but they're often on their phones when browsing in person, too.
From looking up wishlists and previous purchases to comparing pricing and inventory in competing stores, over 80% of customers routinely use their mobile devices in stores to enable purchase decisions.
With this data, offering Wi-Fi in your retail store is a no-brainer.
It can also help you make more sales. According to data from Cisco, 96% of consumers prefer to shop at stores that have free Wi-Fi—and they’re also more likely to return. And Oracle found that almost 60% of shoppers actually demand in-store Wi-Fi.
Let’s dive into what Wi-Fi marketing is and how retailers can leverage it to improve their businesses.
What is wi-fi marketing?
Wi-Fi marketing refers to when retailers provide free wireless internet access to shoppers in exchange for an email submission or a social media follow. Retailers then use this information to communicate messages and promotions.
Wi-Fi marketing is just one of the many ways that physical retailers are embracing the digital world—and creating a multichannel experience for their shoppers in the process.
Basically, your Wi-Fi will have a coverage area, likely within the borders of your store. Anyone on a Wi-Fi-enabled device, from smartphones to tablets to laptops, will be able to see and connect to your Wi-Fi network.
Some retailers provide full Internet access. In other words, shoppers can use their devices to surf the web as they normally would. Others only grant access to certain sites or apps, such as your own online store or mobile app. This is more limiting for the browsers, but it also enables you to control the environment and drive them to your promotions.
And with Wi-Fi marketing, you can also mandate that users view, engage with or share content before being granted access to the network. This might be a splash page that talks about your next in-store event or a form where the user must submit their email address.
FURTHER READING: Want to know more about how to use those customer email addresses when you collect them? Read our retailer guide to email marketing.
In some cases, the network will also periodically send additional messages or mandate additional action from the user so they can continue their session on the network without interruption.
What does Wi-Fi marketing look like?
Here’s how it looks: You walk into a store and join the in-store Wi-Fi network. Upon joining, your phone will redirect to a screen, or splash page, where you’ll likely see a message from the store and more information about the network and its terms of us. You’ll agree to those terms and possibly provide something like an email address or access to your Facebook profile to gain access to the network.
Thinking ahead: The retailer then has some sort of information about you to either add to or create your customer profile. They can send you future targeted messages, be it through email or a targeted social ad, and can use your social media profiles and in-store browsing behaviors to further personalize the content.
FURTHER READING: Personalization is one of the top ways to get a customer’s attention. Learn four ways to personalize the shopping experience for your customers.
The benefits of Wi-Fi marketing
The benefits of Wi-Fi marketing in a retail environment are two-fold: There are advantages from both the consumers’ and merchants’ point-of-view.
For the customer:
- Convenience: Shoppers have access to a potentially faster network than their cell phone service provider’s, and they can also save on data usage.
- Improved shopping experience: Almost 62% of businesses that provide free Wi-Fi report that their customers stay longer, according to Devicescape survey. This could indicate that shoppers are enjoying their in-store experiences more, and therefore willing to spend more time with your brand.
For the retailer:
- Increased sales: The main goal for most retailers — driving sales — receives a boost when you engage in Wi-Fi marketing. That Deviscape survey found that half of businesses report that customers spend more money now that they have Wi-Fi.
- Understand your customers: Wi-Fi marketing grants you access to a wealth of data and knowledge about shoppers. You can use these insights to understand your business, the in-store experience, and what makes your customers tick. (And if you have more than one location, be sure to do a comparative analysis, too!)
- Build an audience: Whether you’re collecting email address or social profiles (or both), these customers are becoming a list of interested individuals to whom you can market in the future. Not only that, you’ll have information about their in-store and/or online behavior, which creates a richer customer profile that you can leverage for more targeted ads and promotions. Toronto’s Tokyo Smoke implemented Yelp’s Wi-Fi marketing platform and gained 35 new sign-ons per week — that’s a passive and effortless way to continually grow your list.
- Promote a product or campaign: There are a number of ways retailers can use Wi-Fi marketing to promote their brand. This can start with the message on your splash page, through to retargeted ads and follow-up email campaigns. Bolivia’s Mall Las Brisas, for example, uses Wi-Fi marketing to promote personalized offers based on users’ activity and Facebook profiles. You can also use foot traffic data (such as how they’ve navigated your store, where they’re converting, where they’re spending the most time, etc.) to inform store layout and visual merchandising decisions.
How to implement Wi-Fi marketing in your retail store
Getting your Wi-Fi network up and running
While you could set up your own guest network and provide shoppers with the password, that’s not exactly Wi-Fi marketing in action. Essentially, that works the same as it would if you were to have a guest in your home. You share the password, they surf the net, and then they leave. With true Wi-Fi marketing, you’ll have that opt-in where you collect some sort of data and consent from users.
Therefore, implementing Wi-Fi marketing requires the use of some tools or partnering with companies that can tailor these Wi-Fi services to your specific needs.
Here are a few places where you can look for Wi-Fi marketing services:
Vincent Panico heads up enterprise architect and corporate sales at Moo Moo Networks, a networking hardware retailer that sells products you can use to create a Wi-Fi network in your store.
Panico points to how each tool has its own set of unique features, and integrating various systems can also provide retailers with more capabilities. That’s why they focus on a variety of integrations and plugins for their products (they use Cisco’s Meraki wireless option).
“For example, we use Purple or Bloom Intelligence to capture customer data and convert that to marketing lists,” he says. “Or we’ll use Aislelabs or Mapwize to physically track customer movement.”
One of Moo Moo Networks’ clients, a well-known convenience store chain, uses the latter, more complex benefits of Wi-Fi marketing.
“They track customer movement in the store and place the highest-margin items where customers are most likely to convert,” Panico says. “We also have a furniture store chain that embeds Bluetooth beacons in their display models to target hyper-specific advertising to customers. If someone dwells at a certain chair or couch for a few minutes, that item will be remarketed to them on Facebook, Instagram, and via email the next day.”
Getting customers to use your Wi-Fi network
If you’re going to all this trouble to provide a network for your customers, you’ll want to make sure they know about it and actually use it.
Leverage in-store signage and the universal Wi-Fi network icon to raise awareness among shoppers. You could also incentivize using the network — maybe they get a discount or free gift for trying out your new fancy new Wi-Fi network.
If you’re looking to take it up a notch, why not make an event of it and throw a launch party to celebrate your Wi-Fi network? You can generate some buzz about your store, drive foot traffic, and prove to the community that you’re a forward-thinking, innovative brand.
Moving forward with Wi-Fi marketing
In today's retail world, offering Wi-Fi to in-store customers is a no-brainer. Not only does it help generate more sales, but it communicates to your customers that you're willing to offer whatever resources they need to feel confident in their purchase decisions.