Improving the in-Store Shopping Experience with Wi-Fi

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The way shoppers use their mobile devices while researching products and making purchases in stores continues to disrupt retail. Despite the rapid growth of online retail sales, more than 94% of the $4.4 trillion in U.S. retail sales took place in a brick and mortar store in 2014.

To identify the trends associated with mobile usage in stores, InReality conducted a survey of shoppers across 11 retail categories and collected their findings in their 2015 The Reality of Retail Report. Their overarching conclusion is that the ability of brands and retailers to stay relevant to shoppers depends on their success in rethinking several elements of the in-store experience.

One essential point to remember is that as the in-store customer experience continues to evolve, stores will need to assemble and maintain a robust Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Shoppers Are Conducting Product Research While in the Store

With so many sources of information available to them, shoppers have the ability to fully research products before they make a purchase. Prior to the growth in mobile usage, that research typically took place on a desktop computer. InReality found that shoppers are researching products both online and in store. Of those surveyed, 54% preferred researching products in store.

The takeaway here is that shoppers enter stores at different stages in the purchasing cycle. Consequently, in-store marketing should target shoppers based on where they are in the cycle. The in-store experience should cater to those looking to browse as well as those looking to get in and get out.

Mobile Usage Trends by Gender and Age

Overall, 75% of shoppers admitted to using their mobile device while shopping. Women reported using their mobile device slightly more than men, 76% compared to 74%. As expected, younger shoppers (ages 18-35) use mobile in stores much more (90%) than shoppers aged 36-49 (77%) and shoppers aged 50-65 (52%).

Given the high use of mobile in stores, InReality made a point of highlighting the fact that stores must ensure that they are making Wi-Fi available throughout the store. Stores should also make Wi-Fi easy to access and support this marketing effort with more effective, mobile-friendly websites that contain valuable content that helps shoppers along their purchasing journey.

Mobile Loyalty Programs Aren’t Achieving Their Full Potential

InReality found that while loyalty programs are still in their infancy, they have a huge potential to provide value to shoppers. The survey found that 71% of shoppers who used loyalty programs on their mobile devices used them for price comparisons. However, only 55% of shoppers who did not use loyalty programs used their mobile device for price comparisons.

Also, only 40% of shoppers surveyed actually used loyalty programs while shopping in store. Of those who use loyalty programs on their mobile device, only 46% ranked it as an important factor in their decision to purchase.

The low usage of mobile loyalty programs and their relatively low perceived value demonstrate that they are not driving loyalty as expected. Brands and retailers must begin to rethink loyalty. By adding benefits to their loyalty programs that cater to the specific needs of shoppers they can improve the shopping experience.

In-Store Marketing Matters, but Needs to Be Improved

According to the findings of the 2015 The Reality of Retail Report, shoppers still think traditional in-store marketing is important: promotions and discounts (81%), packaging (56%), advertising (54%), product demos (53%), and point-of-purchase displays (50%).

However, InReality found that two traditional elements simply aren’t impressing shoppers. Only 12% of shoppers cited sales associates as an important factor in their decision to purchase in store. Also, only 9% of shoppers reported that interactive digital displays were an important factor.

Now that shoppers have become more self-sufficient, their interest in what a sales associate offers has changed. InReality suggests that sales associates must become more consultative and knowledgeable to be helpful to shoppers. Likewise, digital displays must be used to support the shopper’s path to purchase and add unique value to the experience.

Wi-Fi Is the Backbone of the Evolving in-Store Shopping Experience

The trend towards shoppers using their mobile devices to research products and compare prices will continue to grow. In response, retailers will need to beef up their loyalty programs as well as improve and retarget the online information available to shoppers and their sales associates. As they focus on improving the in-store shopping experience, retailers must continue to strengthen and add capacity to their Wi-Fi to accommodate the resulting increase in demand.