Without in-store Wi-Fi and digital signage to keep them interested, customers will head for the exit, argues Dan Thornton, head of solution development at Hughes Europe. Read his latest blog for Essential Retail, below
A customer walks into a store and asks an assistant for some information about a product. The assistant shuffles from foot to foot and says he will go and ask someone else. Minutes slip by and he has not returned from behind a ‘staff only’ door at the back. The irritated customer leaves, determined to go to a competitor next door or to shop online.
Now let’s try that again. The customer enters the store and is excited by a product being featured on a digital screen. He approaches an assistant for more details including availability and options. Using a tablet or other mobile device they are carrying, the assistant is able to answer all the customer’s queries in seconds. The outcome? Satisfaction all round and a probable sale.
This is just one example of the many ways in which in-store Wi-Fi and digital signage are now tactical weapons in the battle to attract and retain internet-savvy consumers. These rapidly developing technologies will keep shoppers in the store for longer, bring down the cost of sales and keep staff better informed.
When customers log on to in-store Wi-Fi using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or their email accounts, they open up a rich seam of personal data that is gold dust to those who know how to use it. Immediately the business has access to their social media profiles and can establish detailed customer demographics.
Gone is the old fear that such technologies would simply enable customers to make real-time price comparisons on their smartphones before leaving to make the purchase elsewhere. Offers can be targeted at customers on their mobile devices while they are still in the shop.
Common concerns about the security of in-store Wi-Fi also belong in the past. Wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS) counter rogue devices and the network can be further protected from hacking and denial-of-service attacks.
Digital signage, too, is fast developing into a key retail tool. Shoppers now have direct access to information through touch-screen technology in smart kiosks. At the press of a button, they can look at the entire product range, check availability and place orders. Major retailers like Argos are binning paper brochures in favour of kiosks, as is Marks & Spencer and many pharmacies.
But let’s not overlook the power of display and the ability of digital screens to captivate a customer’s eyeballs within the vital first ten seconds, using local store content, news channels or more complex material, including animation.
The fact is that on these screens, retailers can tailor content to the different age and gender groups shopping at different times of the day in various parts of their stores. Equally, digital screens are used very successfully for online employee training in the breakroom.
Both digital signage and in-store Wi-Fi are easy to install and maintain on robust infrastructure while in dispersed or difficult locations, satellite networking offers a cost-effective solution. The use of the cloud in this context is also bringing greater ease of data analysis.
In a world where customers will head for the exit if they cannot buy what they want, when they want, these user-friendly in-store technologies are proving to be indispensable for smart retailers.