Edmund Chua, Analytics Specialist, Logicalis Asia looks at some of the issues and opportunities that are driving more and more shopping malls, and individual retailers, to offer consumers free Wi-Fi connectivity.
More and more malls in Singapore are offering the convenience of Wi-Fi access. For example, Suntec Shopping Mall provides unlimited free Wi-Fi mall-wide. At Ion Orchard, shoppers can request and enjoy 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi. Shopping malls run by CapitaLand Malls Asia offer public shoppers free Wi-Fi for an hour while members of their shopping club will enjoy unlimited access.
Of course, this trend is not limited to Singapore. A 2014 poll by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a global non-profit organisation that promotes Wi-Fi technology and certifies Wi-Fi products, found that 47% of shoppers in US and UK today would choose to visit one store over another if that store offered Wi-Fi. In addition, more than a quarter of shoppers would stay longer in a store with Wi-Fi access, and crucially a majority are more likely to leave stores empty handed if no Wi-Fi is on offer.
The driver? New mobile device defined behaviours that require a data connection – the Wi-Fi Alliance poll, for example, reveals that while shopping in a store, 40% of shoppers used their mobile phones to look for product coupons, 36% looked up product reviews and 16% accessed the store’s customer service website.
But there are two sides to the coin. Yes, retailers and malls are responding to demand, but providing Wi-Fi connectivity is also about seizing opportunity.
That is, retailers are capitalising on consumer demand for public Wi-Fi to create a new channel through which to deliver personalised promotions and information to consumers – and some of these tactics have proven very powerful indeed.
Food and beverage chain Subway, for example, is using Wi-Fi to offer promotions such as free beverages and sandwiches for guests connecting to its Wi-Fi networks in North Ontario. While the programme aims to increase customer frequency, Subway has gained valuable information about its customers, such as the length of time they stay in its stores, walk-by conversation rates and demographic information. In turn, this information can be used to more closely target future marketing activity.
Successful though they have been, however, initiatives like Subway’s are still only scratching the surface. Wi-Fi can open up a goldmine of information, enabling marketers to enhance their location-based offerings, improve inventory management and improve the relationships with their customers.
Indeed, as consumers become more Internet and mobile-savvy, Wi-Fi offers tremendous potential for marketers and retailers. They will be able to use the insights it delivers to innovate in areas such as 3D in-location navigation, product and service offerings access, product promotions and omni-channel ordering.
With more and more people using mobile technology every day, and consumers looking to engage with their preferred brands online, Wi-Fi is the marketing tool that few retailers can offer to ignore.