By Moe Raslan, Regional Sales Director for Ruckus Networks in the Middle East and Africa
In just a few years, free public Wi-Fi has rapidly become an expectation, especially in cities, for today’s mobile-wielding consumers. Consumers expect to be able to connect everywhere – from shops and restaurants to parks and museums. This has led to an increased provision of free, public Wi-Fi. The increased variety and use of personal devices, coupled with the rise of social media, means that everyone expects to stay connected wherever they go. This requirement for free Wi-Fi is only set to grow as the Internet of Things continues to gain traction. Businesses are also seeing an opportunity too and are increasingly making sure that their customers can connect.
As well as just getting customers online, free Wi-Fi offers a number of opportunities to boost sales. For example, visitors to a store can benefit from a personalized shopping experience thanks to wireless internet being used to send tailored discounts in-store. Beyond this, however, providing free in-store Wi-Fi can be hugely beneficial for retailers seeking to engage its customers, using wireless technology to deeply enhance the shopping experience. And this isn’t just for tech-savvy millennials, who will soon have the greatest purchasing power, but also for the older generations, whose desire for digital engagement is continuing to grow rapidly.
Digitising the visitor experience
The lines between online and in-store retail experiences have become blurred in recent years, and this trend is continuing. Free Wi-Fi provides a way to continue the digital experience in-store, or vice-versa. The digitization of the in-store experience, using technology like mobile payments and digital signage, allows retailers to integrate their in-store and online business models to create one seamless shopping experience. Although the phrase “bricks and clicks” seems a little outdated in the digital era, this is actually exactly what consumers want. They appreciate being able to switch seamlessly between shopping on their devices and visiting a physical store.
Wi-Fi can also boost digital engagement of visitors to hotels, restaurants or tourist venues like museums. Equipping staff with Wi-Fi enabled tablets is just one way to do this. It gives staff a new way to open up a dialogue with visitors, for example by using the visual and interactive support of the tablet to discuss offerings and make recommendations. It enables staff to carry out searches based on what the customer is looking for – for instance, if a hotel guest asks for a restaurant recommendation, staff can use the tablet to bring up a list of suggestions and menus. Many businesses are already using tablets for a variety of purposes like customer loyalty schemes (asking people to provide their email addresses when they pay, for example, then sending promotions to these addresses).
Venues like sports stadiums or cinemas can use Wi-Fi to boost revenue – for example, Wi-Fi log-in pages can be configured to include vouchers to entitle the user a discount on food or drinks. The data that is collected from these log-in pages can also help venue managers to understand their customers better, which can, in turn, help them to serve their needs more effectively. In the hospitality industry, a fast and reliable connection is key to ensure guests engage with the business via social media – for example, by uploading photos or posting to Twitter while they are on the premises.
As the trend towards digitalization continues, businesses are likely to significantly increase their investment in connected devices and applications. Beacons, for example, are likely to become more commonplace. These send personalized and targeted push notifications to drive footfall. For example, a customer walking in the vicinity of a shop or restaurant may receive a message detailing promotions and customer rewards that match their profile. This type of technology is helping businesses to engage with customers that are glued to their devices, encouraging them to visit as part of the decision to purchase.
A lot of businesses are exploring the use of digital signage, which pushes adverts and price changes to store in real-time. This technology can improve engagement with customers by ensuring information supplied to them is as up-to-date as it can be. Similarly, retailers can further enhance the customer experience by using smart shelves to automatically track deliveries and monitor stocks. This technology tackles one of the largest sources of customer frustration: items being unavailable. Having access to real-time updates helps staff to provide better customer service by giving them the ability to answer stock queries more effectively.
Free Wi-Fi can help staff in the retail and hospitality industries to provide a smarter personal service, by tracking customer statistics such as times visited and past purchase information. From this, they can build profiles to identify VIP customers and alert management or concierge services when they are in store.
Wi-Fi and connected devices
Robust and reliable Wi-Fi is the backbone infrastructure for all other connectivity technologies, acting as the foundation for digital transformation. As IoT advances and brings with it increased deployment of smart technologies, the interconnectedness between people, places, and things continues to grow and become commonplace. As a result, consumers everywhere expect to see smart technology and digital interaction as standard. High-performance Wi-Fi provides the foundation for this, so is essential for businesses seeking to benefit from the enhanced efficiency and engagement that IoT can offer. Now is the time to cash in on the connected customer, by providing fast wireless connectivity that will allow businesses everywhere to connect with their customers in real time.