Mobile devices are the nexis of consumer purchasing power, as they now give consumers the ability to comparison shop, purchase and share likes/dislikes from practically any location. Retailers who embrace and encourage mobile-shopping with free in-store Wi-Fi will compete more effectively for longer-term loyalty vs. those retailers who attempt to limit or block access.
Nordstrom is one of the smart-thinking retailers who is encouraging smartphone usage in-store. In order to accommodate customers who desire immediacy, Nordstrom installed Wi-Fi in its 187 retail stores in 28 states. By fall 2011, the company wants to equip its employees with handheld mobile devices. Nordstrom said mobile would change the shopping experience for customers and employees: Customers in dressing rooms would be able to text or call employees to get a different sized clothing item. Merchants would be able to know when a customer left and send a thank- you note for visiting or purchasing products. “We’re on this journey together” Blake Nordstrom (president of the Nordstrom chain) said in a February, 2011 interview. “E-commerce is the subject the customer truly values. Reduce the complexity for the customer experience.”
Tesco is quickly following Nordstrom’s lead in the UK. Currently piloting the service in 4 stores as of late July, 2011, Tesco is expecting to expand the free Wi-Fi service across its 2,700 UK sites. Tesco’s chief information officers said customers were already using smartphones in-store to check prices. The free wi-fi will also help drive additional shopper usage of Tesco’s in-store app shopping-route “map” app. Tesco’s new app directs shoppers to their “shopping list” via the shortest route. When a customer enters a Tesco store, the app will create a store map with all of the items on the shopping list laid out on it.
How can retailers leverage Wi-Fi as a competitive advantage? First, your store’s Wi-Fi should be free. It goes without saying that retailers should be more concerned with making money from purchases vs. internet fees. Second, your store’s Wi-Fi should not block your competitors’ websites. Consumers are using their mobile devices to comparison shop; if you attempt to thwart customer behavior, your customers will leave your store to become your competitors’ customers. Third, your store’s Wi-Fi should be used as a promotional vehicle. As your consumers are already in-store, try to do what you can to motivate a purchase with fast-acting discounts, additional perks (e.g., free shipping), and consumer reviews.
About the Author
AnnaMaria Turano is a brand strategist with an emphasis on development and execution of strong customer value propositions. As a founder and Executive Director with MCAworks, she has led client engagements across a diverse set of industries including financial services, food/beverage, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and software. She has created and implemented strategic plans as well as identify opportunities for growth via new products, new targets, and new geographies for companies such as MasterCard, Development Bank of Singapore, Sage Software, Pfizer, Takeda, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, and Verizon. AnnaMaria is co-author of Stopwatch Marketing (Portfolio: 2008), chosen by the Toronto Globe and Mail as one of the ten best business books of 2008. She is also a featured contributing author to Shopper Marketing (Kogan: 2010) and speaks frequently on consumer insights and shopper marketing topics.
She is also a regular blogger at http://www.retailcustomerexperience.com/