Can stores really compete with online shopping?

Can stores compete with online shopping?
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Facts and figures

Today’s newly released ONS (Office of National Statistics) retail figures show a clear upward trend in the retail market, with an increase of 3.7% compared to February 2013.  Increasingly customers are more confident in spending their money and inflation in stores is at an all time low. As the details in the Office of National Statistics tells us; ‘Year-on- year estimates of the quantity bought in the retail industry showed strong growth for the second consecutive month in January  2014’. The trend for online shopping continues also with year on year growth, increasing by 12.4% since February 2013 – fabulous news of course for the retail market.

Can stores compete?

So how can retailers stay on top and make sure that customers get into their stores and spend with them?  One such way is to give customers what they want, when they want it.  Consumers expect everything fast.

You would think that online shopping has the advantage – one click from the comfort of the sofa and it’s done.  However, there is a problem with online shopping giving customers what they want when they want it – because online purchases need to be delivered, which presents a problem. Graham Charlton at E-consultancy undertook a MultiChannel Retail Survey last year. They found that a ‘fixed day delivery’ is the winning formula, being the thing that would most likely make someone buy online. 50% of survey respondents said that they had abandoned a purchase because of unsatisfactory delivery options.  Not all online retailers are failing at this. ASOS showed us a new and innovative way to shop by becoming the first big retailer to offer same day delivery outside of London.

So in-store retailers can definitely compete by providing a pleasant environment when people can ‘touch and feel’ the items they want to purchase. They also allow people to try on items and get advice there and then, but also on the grounds that they can instantly take purchases home.

How can WiFi help?

WiFi provides an additional way to compete by giving people a reason to shop in store, making it a more fun and enjoyable experience.

Providing in store WiFi can give much more than just free access to the internet, it can be a platform for many other exciting tools to make shopping a better experience. Asking just a few customers to connect to the WiFi (which gives them handy tools, and today’s in-store voucher code offers for example) creates a snowball effect, with more and more customers visiting the store.

Examples of how WiFi can improve a shopping experience:

1. You may have a reluctant partner or children with you who get easily bored. Let them hook up to the WiFi

2. Real-time voucher codes – delivered to the device at the moment you happen to be looking at the item

3. In store stock checker – avoid the queues and quickly find out if something is available in store

4. Caught short in the shopping centre? Use the wayfinding tool to locate the nearest toilet!

5. A bit bored? Perhaps some of your Facebook connections are nearby – use the WiFi to find out

Additionally retailers can track usage of each subscriber should they wish to allow it. Invaluable data can then be collected such as email, location, gender and age. The data means that subscribed customers can be further rewarded with the coupons and vouchers best suited to them.

Examples of how retail venues can benefit from WiFi analytics:

1. Hook up the profiles of people logging on to your customer database. Are people browsing online and coming in to buy? How can you encourage that? Perhaps offer an in store only voucher code?

2. Wondering why there is a difference in purchases of male and female sections of the store?  Maybe men only browse near the store entrance points.  So make things easier and create a layout where the menswear level has quick and easy access.

3. Are there times when there are vast amounts of shoppers in store, yet purchases aren’t being made? Upon investigation it’s a lack of staff on the shop floor at those times, increasing staffing will increase sales.

4. It can be used to assess how local changes are changing levels of sales. For example, a new shopping centre could be drawing footfall away from the traditional high street, or a change in local transport (such as roadworks) might prevent customers from visiting as often.

5. Rewarding loyal customers who visit often can create a more personal aspect to a retailer as the business shows they understand the offers their customers want.

So does a social login add anything for retailers?

Take for example the Facebook ‘like’ that you send to all your friends when connecting to a Social WiFi platform.  Customers make recommendations to the business themselves – 87% of customers make purchases based on the recommendations of their friends. ‘Friends’ can then re-post the store’s offers.  Through the social media platforms this helps customers see where others are shopping, what vouchers of the day are on offer and actually get them out into the shops. A Facebook Like does increase footfall!

So it seems Social WiFi is really living up to its name, with shoppers back in stores and socialising. Just don’t forget to pop into a cafe offering Free Social WiFi, as you might end up getting a free cuppa with one of your in store shopping voucher codes.

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