With ever-advancing competition from e-commerce continuing to impact retail footfall, traditional retailers are fighting to entice shoppers into their physical stores. While free in-store WiFi has long been seen as a reluctant necessity by businesses, it has the potential to be so much more than just a perk for customers. By integrating a WiFi solution with their broader IT world, businesses can quickly open up a world of new efficiencies that could mean the difference between lagging behind and forging ahead.


Boosting data capture with in-store WiFi

Some of the integration tactics are simple but can deliver an immediate return for the business. For example, retailers can connect the WiFi solution to their CRM and ERP systems, meaning that every customer that provides their details at the WiFi login stage enriches these back-end databases, populating email marketing systems with new emails to target.

In-store WiFi also provides detailed analytics and customer behavioral insights – regardless of whether they are logged in or not. This insight is invaluable to store managers, feeding Business Intelligence systems to improve business performance by tracking customer footfall and in-store behavior.


Improving marketing efforts

When we look at tracking in-store behavior, the biggest challenge many retailers currently face is the data black hole that exists between their sales information and online and offline marketing efforts. The missing link is how effective their marketing is in driving people to their stores, and once they’re there, what determines whether they make a purchase.

By integrating in-store WiFi with POS systems, marketers can gain a new level of insight about which customers make purchases and how specific promotions or offers can drive conversion levels, leading to the creation of far more targeted and precise marketing efforts – both online and in-store – further down the line.


Helping sales teams add more value on the shop floor

Historically, there has always been a human intermediary between the shop floor and back-end IT systems. Sales assistants engage with customers – check stock on their behalf, answer questions and place orders, as well as their other shop floor duties. With the customer directly connected to the retail systems, sales staff are released from many routine tasks and able to concentrate on what they do best – selling.

For example, we can flag a returning customer to a sales assistant’s mobile device, allowing them to greet the customer with a “Welcome back”. A personal touch goes a long way, and with individual customer details being shared with them over in-store WiFi, sales staff can personalize their interactions, drawing attention to relevant promotions and new products or menu items that have appeared since the customer’s last visit.


Promoting mobile apps with in-store WiFi

Most retailers now provide mobile apps for their customers. These apps encourage customers to stay connected to the brand, offering tailored offers and personalized messages to maintain loyalty. The challenge is to get customers using them in the first place. Many smartphone users will only download apps when connected to in-store WiFi to avoid data charges. Stores that actively promote their free WiFi can easily increase app uptake. However, retailers can go further by seamlessly integrating their mobile app with the in-store WiFi, allowing customers to bypass the login process.


Enriching the in-store customer experience

In the store of the future, we can go use rich customer insights to provide a better customer experience. This could mean promoting a loyalty program to someone logging in for the first time. In contrast, a repeat user might see a special promotion or incentive rewarding them for their loyalty. Alternatively, female customers can be given specific vouchers for relevant products. The possibilities for personalized promotions are endless, with every additional nugget of customer data gleaned used to improve the personalization still further.

CIOs have already found that providing fast, reliable in-store WiFi is no mean feat. Challenges relating to network resilience, security and user authentication and WiFi solution management complexity grow exponentially with every additional service and system delivered through WiFi.

However, with real opportunities in 2017 to deliver greater operational efficiency and an improved in-store customer experience through smarter use of WiFi, the pressure is on CIOs to start looking for WiFi solutions that can offer seamless integration with their wider IT world.

Now is the time for CIOs to start building the store of the future, using existing technologies to transform their retail operations and give everyone on the board a reason to be optimistic in the year ahead.